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Cover image for [On-Demand Talk] Redefining Your Programming Purpose
Tracy Holmes for CodeLand 2022

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[On-Demand Talk] Redefining Your Programming Purpose

About this talk

I'm ancient in tech years - many would've given up. There are those who are just starting and discovering what they want is not where they need to be. I pride myself on being candid - not only with myself, but also with others. So, speaking about how/why I believed I failed instead of initially embracing something I genuinely liked doing? I felt it was something I needed to do.

Adjacency really isn't an easy pill to swallow...until you realize that pill makes you feel complete. Not landing in software engineering weighed heavily on me and contributed to an unhealthy mindset. My goal for this talk is to help solve the issue of engineers or coders who feel as though they've failed because they aren't doing EXACTLY what they set out to do.

Talk Recording

Slides

🌈 Comment below and ask me questions — I might just answer them during my live speaker discussion!


About me

Hi! I'm Tracy P Holmes. I consider myself a "Jackie of All Trades" and a mistress of being myself. I work as a Technical Community Advocate at Isovalent where I focus on sharing my love of Cilium, eBPF, and Anxiety Driven Development. When I'm not leveling up my programming skills or helping others have "lightbulb" moments, I like baking, hanging with my pup, and learning something new to help me along my career. I'm active in the open source community and believe that open source is like gardening — pay attention to your conditions, and water only when needed.


This on-demand talk is part of CodeLand 2022 — a virtual conference brought to you by CodeNewbie & DEV on June 16 & 17, 2022.

Discussion (49)

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tsbrun profile image
Anya Brun

You mentioned that you’re “a horrible introvert”—a sentiment I definitely relate to. While I do think being an introvert is a great thing, it doesn’t always feel like that when it comes to networking and presenting yourself in an interview. What suggestions / recommendations do you have for those of us who are naturally quiet and reserved? How have you overcome your anxiety to be able to share your personality with other people in a professional setting (or otherwise)?

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tracypholmes profile image
Tracy Holmes Author

I hope this helps, if not let me know!

I haven't overcome it! I just cope and make sure I set certain boundaries (which was a learning process let me tell ya.) If it's at work, I make sure I block off time (repeating weekly) on my calendar to exhale. It also took me a while, but I identified the time of day when I'm most exhausted, tend to get sleepy, etc. and made that a block also. When I took a bit of charge over my calendar, it helped.

The other thing is this - I realized a good portion of people I'm networking or interviewing with are ALSO anxious. If I'm networking, jumping in with a group of people at work, or anything similar - I try to ask more questions than I'm answering lol. It helps to give me a good read on ppl, and it also helps to break the ice at times!

Outside of that? I just...am myself. Recordings, presentations, livestreams - they can be edited or redone. For meetings, I usually have a person I'm messaging on Slack that can let me quickly vent or get out a bit of anxiety around certain things. For conferences, I let it be known that I WILL disappear (especially after a full day and/or a talk) so exhale and breathe.

TL;DR

  • have a person you either already trust, or it appears you can befriend when in new situations.
  • protect your time because you're also protecting your mental health by doing so
  • be yourself.
  • give yourself a reasonable goal to get you a bit out of your comfort zone, but make sure to take small steps.
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tsbrun profile image
Anya Brun

Thank you for taking the time to write out such a detailed response! I’ll try to apply your suggestions. I especially like the point about protecting your time and setting boundaries. Definitely applicable to all areas of life, including work.

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essbee808 profile image
Sheena

"Use the crap you go through as fertilizer...to grow something beautiful." - Tracy P Holmes

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Jessica D

I've only heard of the role "developer advocate" a couple of times and haven't done too much research into it, but what would you say are some of the best parts of your role?

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tracypholmes profile image
Tracy Holmes Author

I think I answered this live. Did I answer your question pretty well?

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jayda15 profile image
Jessica D

Hi there Tracy,
Yes, you did answer it live and very well!
I appreciate the feedback :)

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Kit Fenrir Amreik

I love the slide design! So excited to hear this! :]

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Michael Tharrington

Thank you for this informative and inspiring talk! I'm wondering if you can tell me how you managed to surround yourself with those people who could sense what you needed to learn and what kind of support you needed? Was some of it luck? Basically, I'm wondering how you went about finding such a great community of mentors?

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tracypholmes profile image
Tracy Holmes Author

Whew LUCK was a BIG part of it. The rubyistas I hung out with were pretty good about figuring out HOW I needed to learn. It was def easier with the Ruby Tuesday meeting. Outside of our Ruby Tuesday meetup, we'd sometimes meet at coffee shops and work and chat, etc.

The person that helped me figure out I was trying to do too much was someone that was less..."clique-ish" and spent some time getting to know me. She's AMAZING. But she was able to figure out my motivations for some of the stuff I was doing (or wanted to do), so would follow-up with me to see how things were going during our Sunday coffee sessions.

The person the fussed at me, knew I needed some big sister butt kicking and made me apply to something I didn't think I was qualified for. Which was the start of a long history of us fussing at each other, but always supporting each other.

In all of these scenarios, I think they all saw I genuinely wanted to learn, was out of my element, and didn't know how to vocalize what I wanted or needed.

But also, something I had in Austin was Meetups. Which didn't really exist in my home state/town. I honestly just started throwing myself at a few things to force me to leave my house and get to know what was going on (though I did stand in the corner quite a bit at those meetups!)

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

So awesome!!

It sounds like you definitely found some really helpful folks and did so by putting yourself out there and building up a personal network of encouraging peeps.

I really enjoyed hearing how ya categorized the different types of help ya had and folks ya learned from. I think I could def use someone to occasionally fuss at me and urge me to step outside my comfort zone as a community manager, haha!

Meetups are such a great tip too for folks looking to build up their personal network, but you're totally right that they are more available in cities. I'm sure online meetups are possible too, but I generally slant toward in-person myself. Nothing quite like hanging out in the real world (i.e offline) with folks who have similar interests.

Thanks again for the awesome talk and now, awesome answer!! 😀

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Chris Withey

Thank you for sharing! What do you think are the most important ways to leave a good impression? Especially from the perspective of a Newbie trying to break in and maybe their coding skill set is at entry level, whatever that is...?

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Vanessa Vun • Edited on

The part where you talk about how your experiences make who you are now really resonated with me since I am in the middle of a career switch. I feel really encouraged by that. Thank you for this honest presentation about your experience!

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astute2011 profile image
Kabir Atobatele

If you can't find your feat in the space, create it...

This really match my style of life.
I'm Jackie too for a while now. I create written and graphic contents, I am a WordPress developer, I am enjoying the learning in data science, I am horning skills in GIS development. I am a serial volunteer at various humanity and good governance movements. I studied water resources management and Sanitation, Geophysics at B.Tech. Now what I picked up most in this presentation is "learning slowly till the goal is attained"

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brian bethencourt

You talked about a really rough patch where you lost your relationship and your grandmother as well as a few other personal obstacles. I'm so sorry you had to go through all of this. I really relate to the feeling of numbness you described when faced with hardships. How did you power through this time and continue learning despite these hard things?

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tracypholmes profile image
Tracy Holmes Author

I'm bad about taking care of myself by taking care of others lol. So, outside of that, I just carved a bit of time out for myself to grieve the way I needed to (LOTS of physical labor, taking care of funeral stuff, etc.), and then once that lessened, I mostly worked on small projects to keep me from being stagnant. The short role I found after all of that, was tech support based. So, I was able to keep learning, refining, picking up things on that job.

And also, tbh? I have a friend that is really in tune with my moods and my brain. She helped me to process some stuff, but also held me accountable (which helped as I'm better at keeping promises to the few friends I have or other people than I am with myself).

Does this help any? Let me know if I need to answer something else or clarify!

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itsjudeDW

Thank you so much for taking the time to inspire us! I love the Andre De Shields quote! My mom has always reminded me to take things slow, it really didn't start clicking until my mid 20's! When I was younger, I would get so impatient when attempting to learn new skills. I honestly wouldn't even enjoy the process and eventually I would get burned out and quit. Nowadays I try to focus on taking things day by day and staying consistent rather than hyperfocusing on getting there fast. Whenever I find myself getting impatient about my coding journey, I remind myself that 20 minutes of daily code is 121 hours a year... I can learn a lot in 121 hours!

Loving Codeland 2022! Can't wait for more!

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Tracy Holmes Author

Holy crap, you're right! A lot really can be learned in 121 hours. That's a very positive way to look at things ❤️

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Sarah Rivera

Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

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tsbrun profile image
Anya Brun

I relate to your insatiable thirst for knowledge and not knowing how to narrow down your interests so you can focus and make progress. Thank you so much for your presentation 😊

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merlumina profile image
Liz Wilson

Loved this talk. I really connected with the idea of being a tinkerer - I feel the very same and it's why I finally decided to take the plunge into engineering!

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carolineschettler

How did that mentor of yours help you not hate Python as much?? Asking for a friend 😂

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Tracy Holmes Author

😅 I pretty much just QUIT it for a while. That particular person (if I'm thinking of the correct thing) actually RAN a Python group for a while, so had things broken down into manageable pieces with actual written tutorials. Which works better for me than videos any day of the week!

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infopro247

I appreciated so many of your points, particularly the one about creating the opportunity/job you are not seeing.

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Jolene Kearse

Thanks for the great talk! It's so inspiring to hear how multiple career experience can be an asset!

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timDeHof

Thank you for the presentation! You have a wonderful way of telling stories.

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Tracy Holmes Author

Ah shucks, thank you for that!

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BlasePinkert

Thanks for this great talk and sharing your rough patch. It sounds very similar to my current situation and it was refreshing and enlightening to hear this. Thank you.

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anyanka profile image
Anja

Short but nice and helpful, thank you :)

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Zoe

When would you feel it appropriate to jump into an open source project?

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Tracy Holmes Author

I am BIG on saying "Documentation Counts". I can guarantee the open source project has something missing in the documentation. You can def start there at any point. Or even checking out the "good first issues" the project may have. The other thing is if the project is something you use and you think of a feature or see a bug...submit those issues! I won't say go whole hog on nothing but grammatical errors and misspelled words, but def count those small wins. Seeing something small get accepted or merged is a great bump to the "I did that!!" part of your brain.

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Blare Robinson

Thank you, Tracy!

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hatricia profile image
Hattie

No questions, just a big thanks for sharing your story!

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TJ Phan

Tracy your talk was so heartfelt, thank you!

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Rebecca Z

This was an amazing presentation! The gem you left us with, "if it doesn't exist, create it", is just what I needed to hear today. Thank you!

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Amaraee

Thank you for such an inspiring talk

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Phaveey

Thanks so much for such an inspiring speech!❤️

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Kabir Hossain

Thanks for valuable speech in the codeland.

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chg18

Wow, this woman is amazing ! Thank you for this talk Ms Holmes, it gave me so much energy and hope

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Manon Locht

Loved this talk ! Gave me new things to ponder :)

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fizzybuzzybeezy

Hi Tracey. Thank you for your talk! It sounds like you've gained a lot of hard earned wisdom of owning your expertise. Could you share some tips on pacing your thirst for knowledge and focusing your interests once the time comes to quickly learning a skill for a known upcoming opportunity? Tapping on your network of encouraging colleagues sounds like one of your superpowers.

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fizzybuzzybeezy

Thank you for the detailed answer in the speaker discussion Tracey! I loved the ideas on multiple accountability trustees/mentors for different focuses meeting on semi-frequent basis as well as the punching out the pillow with the language name on the cover! A coping mechanism I was given by a therapist was to write a Dear John letter to my dilemma I was dealing with (I had many) called "Dear Dilemma"! In this case, it could be "Dear Python." Just don't send it to Guido Van Rossum, or do, lol! I loved your talk. Thanks again.

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Tracy Holmes Author

You're welcome! And oooooh "Dear Dilemma" is a good idea!!!