Ever thought about presenting your work to others? Talking in a meetup or a conference?
In the past I couldn’t even think about it, I thought that it’s not for me and I won’t get any benefit from it at all. In the last year and a half, things have started to change.
In the following post I will share how the will for continuous improvement took me out of my comfort zone, and put me in places and scenarios I never imagined.
I started my journey in the software development world 8 years ago.
I had some knowledge, and almost no experience. I studied industrial engineering and didn’t think I would practice software development. But things changed and I found my first role as a manual QA engineer, then QA automation engineer, automation developer, and in the last 5 years DevOps / Release engineer.
I was always curious and looking for how to improve as an engineer, so I did what most of us do: read tutorials, posts and watch technical videos. Still, since I came from a different background from most engineers, I felt like I had a knowledge gap that blocked me in many ways.
I wanted to improve, but how?
It bothered me being a level behind everyone. I wanted to improve, learn and practice new tools and technologies. Then I remembered that one of the best methods I had used to understand something better at university, was to explain it to others.
When you explain a solution to others, you look at it differently. To provide a good explanation you need to fill all the gaps and assumptions in the solution, so it can be easily understood.
I thought about explaining to or helping others, but I was afraid of giving lectures, so I started small. I opened stackoverflow and started to read some questions and answers – then I posted some answers to questions I knew.
As I progressed, I found questions that I didn’t immediately know the answers to. So first I had to find a solution and then post it online. My benefit was in a number of aspects:
I improved my knowledge in those areas, my stackoverflow score started to rise, and so did my confidence.
Getting my toes wet
My next step involved a few other platforms: meetups, conferences and Twitter.
I had the chance to go to the Jenkins World and DevOpsDays conferences, and met some interesting people. I also attended meetups, and strengthened my technical skills as I was exposed to new material and ideas. At that time I only had about 10 tweets in my twitter account, but I figured that most of those people that were talking at those conferences and meetups also tweet and share additional knowledge.
So I jumped at the opportunity, and followed anyone who seemed interesting. From here to there, I also started tweeting. Most of my tweets were articles and videos that I had read or watched, but from time to time I also tweeted about my ideas, opinions, personal stuff.
Being active on Twitter has definitely improved my confidence, which I believe makes me a better engineer….but then I encountered the following tweet:
The biggest boost for my career the past five years wasn't working at Facebook or being a manager, it was developing public speaking skills.
— Charity Majors (@mipsytipsy) September 24, 2017
It made me start thinking about talking in public…
Diving into the lecturing world
By a weird coincidence, I was offered to talk at the Tel Aviv Jenkins Area meetup by one of its organizers (thank you Anton!). I didn’t say yes right away, but I also didn’t say no.
I had two things in my mind: continuous improvement and the tweet above.
I thought about it for a while, accepted the challenge and the meetup was scheduled. My talk was about Jenkins, JVM and garbage collector. Those were topics that I knew, but to be able to explain them easily I had to drill down a lot more. I was ready, I gave a good talk (I think 🙂 ), and I felt that I could do it again. My improvement from this talk was obvious, I understood the JVM and GC much better than before, and I could come up with new solutions for related problems at my work.
It took me a while…but I gave another meetup talk, this time about software delivery processes. A short while after, I was invited to do my third talk at fiverr offices, and I did that as well.
Not surprisingly, guess what happened?
Each time I learned new things that I skipped before, like new aspects of the different topics, my confidence kept increasing, and now I’m looking forward to my next talks.
The journey continues
I still feel that I can and want to improve much more. As I get more experienced at my job, I also have new things to present. My plan is to do talks more frequently, and although I am still a bit afraid of talking on big stages, I believe it will happen in the near future.
My comfort zone has already changed, it’s no longer my desk – so why wouldn’t I change it more and take it to the main stage?
There are different ways to improve yourself as an engineer.
For me talks and discussions on social networks proved to be very successful. I truly think that any engineer has something that he or she can teach others.
Will you take that step and embrace the challenge? I would be happy to listen…