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Joe Karlsson

Developer Advocate SingleStoreDB

Joe's career has taken him from building out database best practices and demos for MongoDB, architecting and building one largest eCommerce websites in North America at Best Buy, and teaching at one of the most highly-rated software development boot camps on Earth. Joe is also a TEDx Speaker, film buff, and avid TikToker and Tweeter.


In this episode, we talk about making databases fun and approachable with Joe Karlsson, Senior Developer Advocate at Single Store DB. Joe talks about going from hating coding to loving it, the relationship between databases and backend work, and how people can bring creativity and fun into their learning and their work in databases.

Show Notes


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[00:00:05] SY: Welcome to the CodeNewbie Podcast where we talk to people on their coding journey in hopes of helping you on yours. I’m your host, Saron. And today, we’re talking about making databases fun and approachable with Joe Karlsson, Senior Developer Advocate at SingleStore DB.

[00:00:21] JK: I think everyone could acknowledge that the data on their web apps is one of the most important things. It’s one of the things that lives the longest. Front-end frameworks come and go data. Data generally doesn’t.

[00:00:32] SY: Joe talks about going from hating coding to loving it, the relationship between databases and back-end work and how people can bring creativity and fun into their learning and their work in databases after this.


[00:00:56] SY: Thanks so much for being here.

[00:00:58] JK: Thanks for having me. Oh my gosh! I'm a big fan of the show. First-time caller!

[00:01:03] SY: First-time caller. Nice! So what was your earliest interaction with coding?

[00:01:09] JK: Okay. I’m sure you hear about this stuff all the time. I'm not one of the people who like started programming when they’re five-year olds. I know people would have those like dream origin stories. They are like programming at five years old and like making like a protocol droid, like Anakin Skywalker or something like that. No. No. No. I started going to school during one of the many recessions and I out of fear started studying programming because I didn’t know if I was going to get a job with that.

[00:01:35] SY: Fear is a powerful motivator. I respect that. Okay. So eventually, even if it started with fear, you ended up doing coding. So at some point something resonated with you. When did that happen and what resonated with you about coding?

[00:01:49] JK: I hated programming for so long. I was very bad at it. I didn’t care.

[00:01:52] SY: Really?

[00:01:53] JK: My first shot at the school was like doing Microsoft consulting works. It was very boring. And this was like during the Steve Ballmer years, like pre-Microsoft being cool again. It wasn’t till like I moved down to Honolulu, Hawaii, and then I started meeting people who are doing coding for fun, like doing art projects and building projects and like doing hackathons. And I was like, “Oh, actually coding can be a fun way to make friends and I can make things that aren’t boring.” You know what I mean? In school and my jobs, I didn’t see that and it was until I saw people doing cool stuff. I was like, “Oh!” I got interested in that and I started getting good at it. It took like seven years though.

[00:02:31] SY: Wow!

[00:02:32] JK: I think a lot of people feel like I just did a bootcamp and I don’t like programming. I must not be able to do it. I stuck it out for probably way too long until I realized I liked it and got good at it.

[00:02:42] SY: Why did you stick it out for so long? That’s a long time.

[00:02:45] JK: I know. Yeah. It may not have been six years. It’s probably like three or four, honestly, but like that’s a long time.

[00:02:51] SY: Yeah.

[00:02:52] JK: I don’t know. I mean, the money was good. I paid off my student loans. It was like fine. I don’t really have any other skills coming out of school for a computer science degree. So it’s like, “Okay, I guess this is what I do.” And I want to say that there’s nothing wrong with doing that either, working to work is fine, but once I started getting into art and community and programming, I was like, “Oh, there’s a lot more here than I love.” This is making me enjoy it more than I did before.

[00:03:15] SY: Tell me a little bit more about what you didn’t like about it, especially when you were in school and studying it in college. What was it that turns you off and just made you not really into it?

[00:03:27] JK: It’s very abstract. A lot of like theories. I learned a lot of like graph theory and linear algebra, which I also didn’t care about and don’t use very often currently in my job. So it’s weird. I have a computer science degree. I did it. I still consider myself a self-taught engineer though. So I feel like once I graduated, I was like, “Oh, I know the theory, but now I need to actually learn how to be a software engineer.”

[00:03:47] SY: Right.

[00:03:47] JK: Honestly, I quit my job and moved to Hawaii. I was trying to get a job and I couldn’t. I was a pretty bad programmer, just sort of freelancing just to survive and make some money. And that’s when I was like, “Oh, I got to learn this stuff,” and I started learning about practical stuff in business and marketing and trying to market myself as a freelancer. And then like actually having to deliver on that was like a whole other thing, like selling yourself is one thing. But then like, “Okay, great. Now I got a project lined up. I need to actually execute on that.” So it’s trying to figure out how to do that. And then I got really involved with the programming community down in Honolulu, and it’s a very small community, but it’s super active. It was really great.

[00:04:22] SY: Nice!

[00:04:22] JK: And I got involved with the local bootcamps and then became one of the lead technical instructors with one of the best developer bootcamps in the world. DevLeague was really a great experience, awesome students, instructors are really great. I don’t know. For me teaching is such a great way to learn and just being around smart people and teaching all the time just exploded my knowledge around software engineering.

[00:04:43] SY: Tell me about some of the creative things that you saw people do with code that kind of changed your opinion of what coding could be.

[00:04:53] JK: Yeah. We can get to some specifics too, but I just want to preface it all by saying like the projects that people were working on for me were less important than like them exploring things with code that they liked. Doing hackathons is really helpful too, just like making fun, goofy projects. I actually started a hackathon down there called the Stupid Shit & Terrible Ideas Hackathon.

[00:05:13] SY: Nice!

[00:05:15] JK: Which is really fun. The whole idea is I feel like a lot of hackathons are very corporate influence inspired and you're developing some corporate API and the best use of it, which is like stupid. So I want to do the hackathon where the whole idea was to make things that weren’t useful. So you just make things with friends and it kind of lowered the barrier to get in. There was a big cash prize. It was just like we’re doing things to make things with people just because we like it.

[00:05:42] SY: What kinds of things do people make?

[00:05:44] JK: People making things like someone made a six-foot fidget cube.

[00:05:47] SY: Wow!

[00:05:48] JK: Someone made a camera app that only takes photos when you shake it. So it only takes blurry photos. Someone made a Chrome extension that texts your mom every single website you go to when you’re in private incognito mode. I don’t know. The whole thing was like inspiring and fun because I feel like the best projects, the one that kind of ride that line between just being so stupid that no one thought of it, but also like a little genius. But planning the hackathon was so fun. It’s like everyone inspired other people to make things just for fun and to do with other people was the whole point of the thing. Honestly, that’s been my whole point of my career ever since. I want to inspire people to make stuff, even if it’s just dumb and just for them and there’s no reason or purpose for it. It’s just to explore it.

[00:06:34] SY: So how does that translate into your own coding? Did you take that and do some creative artsy projects yourself? Or how did that work?

[00:06:44] JK: Yeah. There’s this whole field of programming called Digital Humanities, which I feel like not a lot of people in tech really know about, but I’m like very into. It’s the mixing of humanities, which is like liberal artsy, English philosophy, media studies and tech. One of the first big projects I did was It’s still up. Basically you submit a movie script. We determine whether that movie script passes the Bechdel test or not. And for people who are listening who have never heard of the Bechdel test, it’s a film test as three rules. One, the film has two or more named female characters that, two, have a conversation with each other about, three, something that’s not a man or men. So like trying to determine the gender of the people speaking and then the subject matter of what they’re speaking about. And then doing gender analytics on that. My sister is working on her PhD, but she did a research paper based on the project and we published that all up there too. But doing a mass analysis of movie scripts and determining how many female characters are there, how many conversations are there, what are the conversations about.

[00:07:46] SY: So I do find it interesting that you kind of started computer science, doing a lot of math stuff, wasn’t really into it, wasn’t really good at it. Then you found the creative artsy side of coding and you’re like, “Oh, so many cool things you can do with it.” And then now you work in databases, which is…

[00:08:04] JK: Well, the least fun part about web programming.

[00:08:06] SY: Not exactly I would describe as artsy and creative. So how did that happen? How did we go from a six-foot cube and all that stuff to working in databases?

[00:08:19] JK: You know, I was doing more programming and got a bigger, bigger work, started teaching more. I mentioned I started working for bigger companies and working on bigger projects. I worked for a big top 10 e-commerce sites after that teaching job and did some re-architecting work on that and then started doing public speaking, Twitch streaming, writing, dumb videos online, and that’s when I got kind of involved with the developer advocacy world and I got pulled in. So the first company I worked for was MongoDB. And that was a great fit for like my front-end kind of JavaScript role because I could do a lot of like how to integrate databases on the front end, that sort of thing too. I think you’re right, databases are not the part you tend to show your friends and family that you built. If you build a web app or something like that, you don’t show off the database. It’s very abstract. It looks like an Excel spreadsheet. But I think everyone could acknowledge that the data on their web apps is one of the most important things. It’s one of the things that lives the longest. Front-end frameworks come and go. Data generally doesn’t, generally it’s set forever. And if there’s a data outage, that is way more catastrophic than if there is a front-end outage or whatever. You lose customer data or it gets corrupted. Let’s say you have orders or financial transactions, right? That’s a big deal. For me, understanding that data is important and then trying to make that more approachable and fun has been like a big part of my job. My goal was to make data easier to use, more approachable and just more fun, kind of using the ways that I’ve used to explore and have fun with programming but now in the data universe.

[00:10:00] SY: So how would you describe the work of working with databases? What does that look like on an average?

[00:10:09] JK: My job is weird because I'm a developer advocate. So I'm just making cool, fun and engaging content for people, but let’s break it down. If you’re someone who’s thinking about wanting to get more into the data space, what does that look like? And there’s a lot more roles in this right now, but there are four big ones out there right now. It’s data scientists, data engineers, machine learning engineers, and maybe a machine learning scientists. Data scientists and data engineers are basically people like clean up data and like make sense of data running some sort of analysis for business or research or whatever. Machine learning professionals are training models based on large datasets to start providing some datasets or insights into a data. But it’s a lot of the time programming. I was doing a lot of time Python or R, probably spending some time with SQL, you’re probably transferring data around. I will say if someone’s looking to get into the data world, machine learning and data sciences are the cool buzzword topics. We’re seeing that 80% of open job titles are actually in data engineering roles right now. So if you’re thinking about going to becoming a data person, for sure, give data engineers at Google and basically what those people do is that they’re responsible for making sure that datasets are clean for data models. And the reason why those are so big and more companies are hiring for those is because like machine learning models or like TensorFlow is making running models on datasets super easy. But the problem is that most companies don’t have clean data and that requires a human being to clean that up before it gets fed into a tool. And that’s why most companies now are hiring massively for data engineers. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon either.

[00:11:45] SY: So tell me about the relationship between databases and back-end development, back-end work. I know that databases usually are pretty central to that back-end experience. Would you say they’re interchangeable? Is there a world of databases that’s independent of back-end work? How would you kind of describe those two things?

[00:12:09] JK: That’s a good question. We’re seeing a big microservices kind of approach. The team kind of owns a microservice and I know microservices are supposed to be stateless, but usually they’re not and usually to maintain a decentralized distributed microservice, you have a centralized database. It could be a lot different things with like cache or queue or a relational database or a NoSQL database. But I do see a lot of people, if you’re doing back-end services like that, you’re probably maintaining your own stateful database on there too. It is possible to have like a full-time database person, especially working for a massive company. It’s probably on the more rare side, depending on where you’re looking now. So yeah, if you’re doing back-end work, you’re probably touching a database at some point. You’re probably going to be spending one up and kind of meeting in that or inheriting someone else’s database.

[00:12:59] SY: So you mentioned that as a developer advocate, a big part of your job is making databases fun and approachable. How are you doing that? How are you kind of bringing that creative artsy side from your past into the world of databases today?

[00:13:13] JK: For me, that’s about a lot of aspirational type content. So making projects that show what’s possible with datasets because everyone has different interests. I’m not saying you have to like the same things I like, but I want to make something that clicks with you that makes you understand what’s possible with that and that makes it feel like you can do that. And that it’s possible for you to do that. It’s like whether that’s showing you how to analyze like cancer data and how to make insights from that data or maybe you live in California and you’re nervous about fires this summer. We could show you how to do fire predictions using datasets.

[00:13:56] SY: That’s cool. Yeah.

[00:13:57] JL: So you know what I mean? Like making content that shows you how it’s done, and for me, it’s a balance between like I don’t want to overly abstract the work I’m doing, so you’re too far away from it, but you also want to keep it simple enough and close enough that you can understand what’s happening. You kind of get your hands on it and make it feel like you can get in there and understand it, but also learn something new or see what’s possible. I mean, there’s a ton of projects like fake news detection, credit card fraud detection, or just spinning up some massive kind of data intensity. If you want to do real-time analysis on a pipeline or like a rough fire hose of Twitter data, whatever. Right? Just like showing what’s possible. And for me, personally, again, I like movies is really fun. I think that’s really approachable. So I love the Bechdel test. There’s like gender analytics on there too, but there’s a ton of movie recommendations or whatever. Right? Making this kind of content and making it approachable to people. And hopefully, not all of them have to click, but hopefully one of them does. That’s cool. Maybe half of one does. That’s all I want.

[00:15:00] SY: Yeah.


[00:15:19] SY: So when I think about working with databases, I guess more broadly just working with data. As you mentioned, things like machine learning and staff and that sort of thing. To me, it feels like there’s a seriousness to it. There’s the security part of making sure your data is actually secure. If we’re dealing with sensitive data, privacy is like an issue that we think about. There’s redundancy, there’s backups, just thinking through different parts of the coding world. It also feels the closest to just math and statistics and that kind of thing, which I know is scary for a lot of people. And then there’s the issue of bias that you have to think about. It feels like there are so many different elements that go into working with databases that feels just kind of more serious, I would say.

[00:16:06] JK: Yeah.

[00:16:07] SY: Yeah. What’s your take on that? How do you kind of look at it?

[00:16:10] JK: Okay. This is like my personal take on it. I’m probably going to have some security professionals freak out at me for saying this.

[00:16:15] SY: Okay.

[00:16:17] JK: Like security is super important and it’s something you should be aware of and like understanding best practices is really important. I do think the tools should guide you through how to make some things really secure. I know a lot of very famous databases have paid the price for making things insecure by default and then seeing proliferation of basically databases that are unsecured online and data being exposed and whatever. But the good news is like most tools can fix those problems and will guide you through setting that up and good managed services these days too for databases. That’s like a database in the cloud. You typically don’t have to worry about running updates or migrations and making sure it’s all available and replicated and all the complicated back-end stuff because at the end of the day, when you’re an engineer and potentially like a new software engineer, the only thing you care about is I want to save some data and I want to get it back quickly.

[00:17:08] SY: Right.

[00:17:09] JK: That’s basically it. And most developers don’t really care much more about it. I’m not saying that stuff is not important. They are. But like as an application developer, if you’re a front-end engineer, you probably just want to save some data and get it back quickly and not have to think about it. I don’t want to maintain it for forever. I don’t have to like freak out about it with massive security things on it. So TLDR, yes, it’s super important. I think most tools guide you through the basics of it. You have to authenticate now and have some basic security on it, but it’s just like front-end development. If a new developer came to me and wanted to learn JavaScript, I’m not going to like get into all the nitty-gritty about all these attacks on the front end that could get in trouble.

[00:17:49] SY: Right. Right.

[00:17:51] JK: Have you ever played a board game with someone who like explains all the rules before you get into it and it’s just a lot? I don’t know about you, Saron, but I just want to leave the room. It makes me not want to play. I know we need to like get people in, we need to protect them, but we also need to kind of guide them through as a set of something important. And as a developer advocate, like developer experience in that regard, that’s part of my job too, like making sure they have a good experience coming in and smoothing those edges out and making sure it’s secure and safe and scalable and easy to use.

[00:18:22] SY: What would you say is the hardest part of getting into the database world and working on data?

[00:18:28] JK: Probably getting a portfolio. I think especially if you’re new, getting experience is really hard. And most people get in through front-end web development. I’m no different. That’s how I started to. I don’t want to say the more experience you get, the more you get on back-end because I think that there’s this really toxic culture of like true programmers or back-end programmers and CSS doesn’t count because CSS is hard and JavaScript and front-end stuff too. But in my personal experience, I ended up just owning more of that stack and then I got more experience with databases and then ended up doing it more often. Yeah. That clicked with me too. I don’t know. There’s been a space though. It clicked. I don’t know. I see the future in data. Data’s not going anywhere. Data demands are only going to be increasing every year and there’s not a lot of people working in the space. So for me, like it made sense to kind of move in this direction because there’s just not a lot of people here. There’s a lot of people helping in the front-end space, but not a lot of people helping kind of make the back-end experience cooler.

[00:19:27] SY: That’s actually an interesting point because you’re kind of going back to your initial reasons for getting into code and kind of sticking it through, even though you didn’t really like it. It sounded like it was very practical. It paid well, job security, that sort of thing. So one thing to consider as newbies breaking into tech is kind of a similar question, right? Where is there maybe a little bit less competition, more job opportunities, less barriers to entry going in? And it sounds like the database world may be a little more intimidating for different reasons, but at the same time, might be an easier opportunity for people.

[00:20:04] JK: I totally agree. I want to say two things about this one. The Web 3 space is attracting a lot of newbies right now and I’m like in the Web 2 world. My personal opinion on it, Web 3 and Web 2 are going to live together. No one’s like replacing anyone, but I’m seeing a lot of newbies get kind of drifted into the space. I’m not saying everyone’s a drifter in that space, but just be careful about it because the hard part too is like understanding opportunity, but also hype too. Yeah. And I think that there’s a lot of growth in there and spaces in that area too. Oh, I was going to say to number two, new developers I think have a big voice in these areas that may be more intimidating too. So I think newbies want to hear from other newbies about their experience with these things. And you’re probably going to need to persist some data. I don’t know about you, but when I was a new developer, I wanted to hear from other new developers what that was like and how was the experience, what they recommended. So if you are new, I’d recommend writing a blog post about trying a new database out there, SQL versus NoSQL or whatever you’re exploring right now.

[00:21:09] SY: I totally agree, like I really wanted to know kind of the inside scoop. I wanted to know, “Okay, well, what’s it really like to learn this technology and to be a first-timer or a newbie?” So yeah, I think that’s great.

[00:21:24] JK: If you’ve just been working two weeks, just say that and just write about it. You’re fine. I think people think they have to have a perfect understanding for something for the jump in. And if you’ve been exploring databases for a week, I want to hear from you. Your peers want to hear from you. Your voice is important. And if it’s scary, cool. There’s probably not that people writing about that. There’s probably an opportunity for you to make a splash.

[00:21:48] SY: So you talked about community being a really important part of your own personal journey. How do you recommend people find the right communities for them to find their own passions, guide their own learning?

[00:22:01] JK: COVID has made it tricky and the way I first got involved with it doesn’t work today.

[00:22:07] SY: Yeah. Because it was so in person.

[00:22:09] JK: Exactly.

[00:22:10] SY: Yeah. That’s a good point. Yeah. That’s a really good point.

[00:22:12] JK: It’s different, but I don’t think it’s impossible. We’re recording this, it’s March. Who knows what’s going to happen in the summer or next fall. Things are looking better right now. Who knows what’s going to happen next winter? So my prediction, who knows, is that like in-person stuff will come back this summer and maybe this fall and winter we may go back to face masks and virtual. But for the moment, we're kind of dealing now, I still recommend like everything’s happening online. And so get on Twitter, get online, like find people. There are virtual hackathons you can do.

[00:22:45] SY: Yup.

[00:22:45] JK: There’s even really great ones too where you can partner with, like a Google engineer, like engineers at big companies, like help you do that. But for me, like working with people at hackathons was like a shortcut for me not having to do whiteboard interviews.

[00:22:58] SY: Nice!

[00:22:59] JK: If I can work to the engineer at a company I liked and they could see the work I was doing, I didn’t have to do a stressful whiteboard interview.

[00:23:05] SY: That’s cool. Oh, what a great hack. Oh, man!

[00:23:08] JK: It’s a life hack for you.

[00:23:10] SY: That is brilliant.

[00:23:11] JK: In fact, when you use it like me, just try to show your ability to code in a less stressful situation. Via getting on Twitter, virtual hackathons, virtual meetups, those are still less useful. I have not seen a virtual meetup go particularly well. Contributing to open source work can build great tools. So you just like make some PR, sort of reach out, ask questions and the issues or whatever, too. Otherwise, I’d recommend too, if you can afford it or if you can get a sponsorship or you can take time off to go to these in-person conferences, the hallway track is where the magic happens.

[00:23:45] SY: And what is the hallway track for people who may not know?

[00:23:47] JK: Yeah. It’s like meeting people in between conference talks. That’s how I got started. I was just chatting with people in real life. It’s pretty effective. But I'm curious, do you have any thoughts on how people can do that in the virtual world? And what do you foresee coming up here and how people get involved?

[00:24:03] SY: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, when I first entered tech, I was working in New York City and so tons of meetups, tons of events, tons of conferences. So I did a lot of my networking in real life and I just went. A lot of the tech companies would host meetups and have free food and that kind of thing. But the thing was I didn’t really make lasting relationships in those environments, to be honest. I met some cool people. I think I made like one friend that I’m still friends with to this day, but for the most part, I got exposure to different ideas and it was great when there’s a fireside chat and interview and you got to hear from different perspectives. But in terms of finding a community, that actually didn’t really work for me. The whole meetup thing, for me, what really worked was really just Twitter. I feel like in a way I kind of cheated because my solution to finding a community was making a community.

[00:25:02] JK: Yeah. Yes. Yeah, for real.

[00:25:04] SY: So I was like, “I’m going to do my own thing. It’s called CodeNewbie.” And through that, I was able to meet a lot of people and do this podcast, which we’ve done for bazillion years and talked to hundreds of people and that sort of thing. But I think the other thing that really helped me find my people is doing tech talks because what happens when you do a tech talk and to be fair, I’ve done some virtual conferences, but I really prefer the in-person conferences. What happens when you speak at a conference versus just attending a conference is that people want to talk to you because they assume you’re important and they assume that you have something valuable to say. And so if you give a talk and it goes even modestly well, doesn’t have to go gray, but even if it goes modestly well, you’ll find that people reach out to you and they’ll DM you or ask you questions afterwards, they’ll follow you on Twitter, and you can start to make genuine relationships. And I think the same goes for blogging too. There was a blog post I wrote maybe five, six years ago at this point. I think it was called, “I Don’t Belong in Tech,” and it was about like my own reflections of the type of person that seemed to be more accepted in technology. And I didn’t really feel like I fit into that type and that really resonated with people. And I got a bunch of emails and DMs and stuff from people looking to connect to say like, “Hey, I’ve been feeling this way for a long time. I never said it out loud.” And that really kind of helped me find my people. So if you don’t want to start a community, business and quit your job and do what I did, I think three ways I would definitely think about are doing talks, especially hopefully if when in-person events become more popular soon, blogging, sharing that and tweeting and saying what’s really on your mind and talking about your struggles as comfortable as you are with that. And you’ll be surprised at how many people will reach out and go, “Man, I’ve been feeling exactly the same way. Here’s my story. Let’s connect.” Those are probably my three ways. Yeah.

[00:27:10] JK: So I just want to second the tech talk. I agree. That’s when things really started changing for me too. Two, I want to acknowledge, I’m a cis white man too. So like I’m in a very different experience, but I love what you said about finding communities because I think it’s a great way to do that if you’re not someone who feels like you fit the stereotype of what a “real” programmer is.

[00:27:28] SY: Yeah.

[00:27:29] JK: Online is a great place to meet people like you.

[00:27:32] SY: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I feel like there are so many great hashtags that really help you kind of narrow down who you’re looking for. There’s Black Tech Twitter. There’s Black Tech Pipeline. There’s Queer. There’s Women in Tech. There are so many hashtags that people really utilize and really leverage to kind of come together that it’s relatively straightforward to kind of find your space and start meeting people. So yeah, I think Twitter is possibly the most powerful career tool that I use that’s really helped me in so many different ways.

[00:28:07] JK: Don’t be afraid. I think the more honest you can be and more upfront about who you are is going to help you connect with people that will help raise you up and make you feel accepted in tech. And yeah, just encourage you to be yourself.

[00:28:19] SY: Yes. I feel very lucky. I don’t know if this is because, I mean, honestly, I think it’s because I started CodeNewbie and I was very deliberate about trying to find nice people. That was really the criteria. It was like, “Are you a nice person?” But I ended up kind of getting together a group of people who frankly share my world views of trying to be more equitable and trying to be more inclusive and more accessible on all these values. And so again, with these different hashtags, these different communities online, I feel like there are so many, I don’t know if they like being called tech influencers, but that’s what they are, but there are so many different big names in Tech Twitter that are huge advocates, open advocates, vocal advocates for a quality and safety and community and all these things that I definitely feel like in the last 10 years I think it’s become a more friendly place. At least the corners of the internet that I found not able to plug into, I found to be pretty safe and very kind. So that makes me optimistic.

[00:29:24] JK: I agree. And not all of Tech Twitter is, and be careful who you’re following.

[00:29:28] SY: Yes. Yes.

[00:29:29] JK: I would encourage you to follow a lot of underrepresented folks in tech. So yeah. Be careful who you look at, who you follow. Go forth and make friends.

[00:29:38] SY: Go forth and make friends. Yeah, I like that.

[00:29:41] JK: Yeah, don’t follow assholes.

[00:29:42] SY: Yeah.

[00:29:42] JK: Use your judgment.

[00:29:43] SY: Yeah. Yeah. My favorite moments of my Tech Twitter community is when someone says something controversial or unsavory and they just get smacked down. It makes me so proud. I’m like, “Yes, I’m following the right people.” They get shut down so quickly and they get piled on and it is so much fun to watch and I'm like, “Yes! These are my people.” It is a lot of fun. It is a lot of fun.

[00:30:12] JK: I agree. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. But even so, learning what’s appropriate in tech and not I think it’s happening. I think Twitter's a little ahead of the real world in terms of what's acceptable in tech and what’s not acceptable. The industry isn’t quite worth my bubble of people I'm following on Twitter yet. But I do think that’s the future of tech. I don’t know, but for me too, just learning etiquette in tech has been just by seeing how people are talking in the industry has been really helpful.

[00:30:40] SY: That’s true. Yeah. You kind of learn social best practices in a way, which is how to be professional, how to have civilized discourse. You really just learn how to behave just by being in that space.

[00:30:54] JK: Which I just was reading recently. I think coming back to real person events, like losing your social skills the last two years may or may not have happened. I feel like I live my life on the internet.

[00:31:05] SY: Same.

[00:31:06] JK: Yeah.

[00:31:06] SY: A hundred percent.

[00:31:06] JK: It’s not going to change for me I think, but it’s good practice doing that. You know?

[00:31:11] SY: Yeah.

[00:31:12] JK: So yeah, it can be helpful. Anyway, if you need help with your social skills, just go on Twitter. Try to be on there.

[00:31:17] SY: Yeah. Yeah. I like that. Coming up next, what Joe believes the future of working in databases will look like after this.


[00:31:45] SY: So what about your path, your decisions do you recommend to people, for example, the fact that you stuck with it for so many years without it necessarily being rewarding to you or exciting to you? Is that something that people should do? Do you recommend kind of seeing it through and sticking it out? Or do you wish you’d kind of change strategies or focus a little bit earlier? What lessons can people learn from your journey?

[00:32:11] JK: I wish I had gotten out of the basement sooner and to programming alone less. I was afraid. I felt insecure about my skills, but I grew so much faster once I started doing it in the open and working with other people. I don’t know, I was afraid to ask for help. I wish I had formed that sooner. Admitting I didn’t know something was scary and I wish I had done that too, and like just finding communities of people who are supportive at inspiring me to try new things has been really helpful. And I wish I had done that sooner. I've done a little bit of Googling. I was coding a lot alone and it was very slow, but the things I learned once I started getting involved with other programmers condensed my solo learning journey down. Yeah. So I would encourage people to find their community basically. I think get out and try to be brave and vulnerable. Ask for help and find people.

[00:33:08] SY: So let’s look to the future for a moment. What do you think the future of working in databases is going to be like compared to what it looks like right now?

[00:33:18] JK: Okay. I think generally, in programming in general, we’re seeing a rise of that abstraction. I think we’re seeing a rise of machine learning assistance to human programmers. I don’t think that anyone is very afraid of computers replacing human beings. We will always need humans to check the work of machines. And like I said earlier, machines need clean data to work with and that usually requires a human being because the machine can know what is or is not to clean. That’s for them to figure that out. But the rise of machine learning, in particular in the database space, databases I think working with data and you need mass amounts of data to do data science and machine learning. So I’m predicting the rise of abstracting databases away where they’re all in the cloud. You’re not maintaining replication. And then machine learning models are being run to automatically index and de-index, normalize and denormalize all your datasets kind of for you. So you’re just kind of putting data in and taking it out and your database is making recommendations and maybe working on it to make that work. I think we’re going to keep seeing that more and more and it can abstract in other ways more, which honestly that makes my job easier. Like I said, I just want to put data in and get it out quickly. I don’t want to worry about it too much. I think we’re going to see a rise to that. Everything’s going to be in the cloud and I’m predicting data intensity will become an industry KPI, which is kind of a business, but your ability to handle data at scale is to become more important for more businesses online, like real-time predictions and whatever, like handling. And then lastly, I want to say ethical data collection. I think we’re seeing kind of, I don’t know, what’s the word? It’s a backlash against the massive data collection, especially through large well-known tech companies out there. And either we’re going to see legislation around that or some sort of consumer protection around that database as the years go on. Recently, we saw a bunch of people like taking data and security really closely, but I think now we’re going to see ethical customer data collection be taken seriously by everybody, hopefully. The rise of data engineering I think is going to be bigger and bigger and bigger as well too.

[00:35:30] SY: Now at the end of every episode, we ask our guests to fill in the blanks of some very important questions. Joe, are you ready to fill in the blanks?

[00:35:36] JK: Yes. I am.

[00:35:38] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is?

[00:35:41] JK: Worst advice ever received. I’ve been told many times my bad at my job by bosses or told I'm not cut out for the job, which hurts, because I think I know the work I’m doing is great and I think it just didn’t work at the places I was working at and I needed to find a place that like embrace the work I was doing. The lesson I learned from that was just be careful who you’re taking advice from, especially if it’s a boss or your company. They’re trying to maximize the amount of value they can extract from you. And it needs to make sure it fits the business. And sometimes the value of your brain doesn’t always help the place you’re working for. And finding jobs is not always possible too, but I know, yeah, just be careful about that.

[00:36:23] SY: Number two, best advice I’ve ever received is?

[00:36:26] JK: Don’t be an asshole. Yeah. I had a boss that told me that. He doesn’t hire assholes and I’m like, “I love that.” I would rather hire someone on my team, particularly junior or anybody. I’d rather hire a nice mediocre engineer than a genius who’s a total not nice any day at the week. Yeah. So as long as you can code a little bit and you’re nice, probably a good shot of working for me.

[00:36:53] SY: Number three, my first coding project was about?

[00:36:56] JK: Well, the first one I did on my own was a Twitter clone. I feel like every person kind of has to do their own content management system at some point and like cloning a well-known product was something I did. I think that’s pretty common for people.

[00:37:09] SY: Yeah.

[00:37:09] JK: But like I think in school, I mean, all my computer science classes in school were like very math-y. We use a website, which is still up, called Project Euler.

[00:37:17] SY: Yeah.

[00:37:19] JK: Those are like a lot more math-y and a lot less fun and I recommend that for everybody, but those were like the first ones I ever did.

[00:37:26] SY: Number four, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?

[00:37:31] JK: How important it is to work with other people. I overvalued technical skills and undervalued soft skills, or I call them core skills, not soft. They’re so important. Yeah, but being a good team player and being a clear communicator are as important or more important than your technical abilities as a programmer, and I wish I’d seen that sooner.

[00:37:56] SY: Well, thank you again so much for joining us, Joe.

[00:37:58] JK: Thank you. Oh my gosh! Like I said, longtime listener, first-time caller, this has been an absolute dream. This has been so much fun. I just get to talk about myself for an hour. This is my favorite activity and I get to show it with people, which is also my second favorite activity.

[00:38:12] SY: Yay! This show is produced and mixed by Levi Sharpe. You can reach out to us on Twitter at CodeNewbies or send me an email, Join us for our weekly Twitter chats. We’ve got our Wednesday chats at 9 P.M. Eastern Time and our weekly coding check-in every Sunday at 2 P.M. Eastern Time. For more info on the podcast, check out Thanks for listening. See you next week.

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