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Cover image for Kelsey Hightower's Codeland22 Keynote: My 5 Takeaways on Building Meaningful Careers
Nitya Narasimhan for Microsoft U.S. Developer

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Kelsey Hightower's Codeland22 Keynote: My 5 Takeaways on Building Meaningful Careers

Attending Codeland 2022

Last week, I had the pleasure and privilege of supporting the Microsoft Developer team as a patron sponsor for CodelandConf for the third year in a row. You can visit the Microsoft Virtual Booth to explore various beginner-friendly learning resources and get a copy of the slides from my lightning talk on jumpstarting your journey into Cloud and AI development.

Fireside Chat: Day 1

But the highlight of my attendance was definitely the talks from the keynote speakers and attendees, starting with the opening keynote - a Fireside chat between Codeland founder Saron Yitbarek - and well-respected technologist Kelsey Hightower, a Principal Software Engineer at Google. I wanted to share three resources that I hope will help you appreciate this talk as much as I did!

1. Video: Watch The Replay!!

While my notes were pretty detailed, they don't hold a candle to actually watching the conversation and understanding the nuances of this discussion. Take 30 minutes from your day and watch the video first. Saron asks some hard-hitting questions and the thoughtful responses from Kelsey are a lesson in storytelling and communicating with intent! And don't forget to visit the Fireside Chat page to read comments and leave your own thoughts and feedback.

2. Review: My Visual Guide

I take notes for two reasons - writing things down helps improve my recall, and I am a visual-spatial learner who likes to see the big picture before I dive into details. Because this talk was so rich in content, I had to adapt to fit everything on the page. Once you watch the video, I hope the visual guide gives you those "a-ha" moments to revisit and reflect on key aspects of the conversation.

Download the high resolution image from this repository

Sketchnote of Codeland Keynote with Kelsey Hightower and Saron Yitbarek

3. Read: My 5 Takeaways

Kelsey has had a unique career journey and perspective that is particularly empowering to anyone starting their journey in tech today. He talks about his early journey (starting his own business, skilling himself up with certifications and self-study, dealing with perceptions due to race, and embracing his growing platform with a sense of personal resposibility.

Here are five things I learned, that resonated deeply:

3.1 Submerge Yourself.

Asked how someone starting in tech today would navigate various options (from bootcamps and online courses, to traditional colleges), his advice was to jump in and do it all. Don't worry about it - just immerse yourself in the learning process, learn to ask questions, find your community and create networks that will help you later.

3.2 Wardley Maps And You!

Asked how someone should navigate the fast changing tech landscape, he used the analogy of Wardley Maps - which map out the competitive landscape for business. His approach - use that idea to map out your personal career strategy and how competitive you are in the job market.
Ask three questions:

  • (Past) What "old but stable" tech is widely used today? Get familiar with it - it's not going away.
  • (Present) What "am I paid to work on" and how can I excel? Be the best you can be with this - it's your job
  • (Future) What "do I want to see happen" - think of strategic bets you can make to skill up or be an early adopter

3.3 Go Deep!

How should we decide what to learn next - how do you create the curriculum for you?. The advice here is to know your fundamentals first, and then go deep by learning everything you can in a single domain, instead of chasing after every new technology that comes up (out of a fear of missing out). The advantage of going deep in one language, framework, or domain - is that knowledge is transferable making it easier for you to skill up on the next one.

3.4 Responsibility & Balance

What is our responsibility as technologists (individuals) that work for companies or on technologies that may be perceived as controversial? Where do we stand on issues. The simple advice I heard was "Do something tangible that lets you respect yourself in the morning" - but at the same time know your constraints. You can't solve everything and you must be aware of your own emotional bandwidth limitations. It's okay to let others lead and take a back seat if you need to, so you don't burn out. That balance is something you figure out as you go.

3.5 Be Yourself

When asked "what advice do you give someone who wants to follow your footsteps and have this decades-long career" - Kelsey had 2 words: Be Yourself. As clichΓ© as that sounds, the lesson underneath is that we are the product of our lived experiences and it is that personality and individual journey that makes us unique and worthy of someone's interest and investment. So while there may be a perceived penalty for not always following the defaults in the short term, it will pay off in the long term.

Watch Codeland Talk Replays!!

All the Codeland talks are now available online - you can check out the portal to see the schedule and visit each talk's dedicated portal page for the video replay. Or you can watch the conference in its entirety right now*

Top comments (2)

taurist profile image
Tauri StClaire • Edited

@nitya Wow, I love how your brain works! Listening to Kelsey Hightower talk was refreshing, grounded, and advice-ladden. Both your visual map and your concise list of the salient points encapsulate it perfectly, but also amazing that you are able to express yourself so diversely. πŸ’š

gracie profile image
Gracie Gregory (she/her)

Amazing, amazing work, @nitya!