There's a lot of A's in this episode — Amsterdam, Android, and Annyce Davis! As the software team lead for ZOLA Electric, Annyce has helped the company become the leading renewable energy brand in Africa. Apart from this, Annyce is an international conference speaker and author, and shares her knowledge with developers all over the world. Our conversation started off with a look at a typical day at ZOLA Electric, and Annyce talked about what drew her to the Android ecosystem (and to the world of software development in general). She also shared what it's like to live in Amsterdam, spoke about how public speaking has helped her career, and gave some great advice for anyone looking to work abroad. Annyce is proof that being visible and being an advocate for yourself really pays off!
There's a lot of A's in this episode — Amsterdam, Android, and Annyce Davis! As the software team lead for ZOLA Electric, Annyce has helped the company become the leading renewable energy brand in Africa. Apart from this, Annyce is an international conference speaker and author, and shares her knowledge with developers all over the world.
Our conversation started off with a look at a typical day at ZOLA Electric, and Annyce talked about what drew her to the Android ecosystem (and to the world of software development in general). She also shared what it's like to live in Amsterdam, spoke about how public speaking has helped her career, and gave some great advice for anyone looking to work abroad. Annyce is proof that being visible and being an advocate for yourself really pays off!
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Maurice Cherry: All right. So tell us who you are and what you do.
Annyce Davis: Well, I'm Annyce and I'm a software team lead. I work at a startup that does solar energy in Africa. And my primary responsibility is focused on our mobile products. So, it's like our in-house Android application, as well as our upcoming consumer products.
MC: Wow. Are these two separate companies? Or, this is all under the same company?
AD: It's all under the same company. So, the way that my company is structured, ZOLA Electric, is we have a fairly decent size, maybe around a thousand people who are part of our sales and service force, who go to the homes in Africa and help people understand what solar energy is all about, collect that information for our systems. And then also, we do service for people who have solar panel issues, et cetera. And we use an Android application in order to handle that responsibility. So, I'm responsible for that Android application. And then we're also starting to expand into more consumer-facing products, and I'll also be responsible for ... that's gonna be Android and IOS.
MC: Oh, nice. Where in Africa are these, I guess where you're bringing the solar energy, where in Africa are you going?
AD: Well, right now we're in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, and Tanzania. And we're expanding into Nigeria.
MC: Nice! That is really dope! It's really interesting to hear that an Android app is kind of what's helping with the, I guess, the distribution and the maintenance and installation and everything of all of this. That's pretty dope.
AD: It's really fun and it's surprising because, in the States, I think iOS is so dominant that we don't realize that in the rest of the world, actually, Android is king.
AD: And pretty much everyone else has Android phones. So, it just makes sense to support Android when we're doing work in Africa.
MC: I hope more people listening to this recognize that, 'cause I clowned a lot for still having a Android phone. 'Cause most of my friends here in the US have iPhone XYZ whatever.
AD: Oh, I know.
MC: I guess, from being an Android developer and of course being in another country, why is Android so popular everywhere else except...I'm not saying it's not popular in the US but, why is Android so prevalent everywhere else?
AD: It's about the price point. I mean, the Android phones, for the most part, except for like, say, the Google Pixel and things are so much cheaper to get. And then also, in Africa, there are custom Android devices. So, people have devices that you've never heard of. Just all kinds of off-brand names. They're running Android. So, that's why it's so prevalent because you can get a really cheap phone. Like a TecnO phone, for example, I had never heard of it until I started working for this company but, it's extremely popular in various parts of Africa.
MC: Yeah. I know that this is in the past on the blog, as well as in some other places where I've written, I've seen and talked about some of those phones that you're mentioning. It's like a different brand name but the hardware is pretty much similar to what we have with smartphones and it's running Android and that's what's out in the market there.
MC: How did you first get started with Android development?
AD: So, it's been a while actually. I've been doing Android now about eight years. And it started with me just getting my very first Android phone. And I was so interested in the fact that I could potentially make an app for something that I carry around in my pocket every day. That I just started playing around, learning it on my own. And then, I made an app for work and I showed my boss, I'm like, "Look. This is actually connecting to our APIs and it's running Android." And that's basically how I became an Android developer. It was just such../it was the right time. It was so early in the Android ecosystem and it was just like the right place, right time.
MC: Yeah. It's amazing seeing how much Android has really grown and changed over the years. I remember the first...what was the first Android phone I had? I think it was the G1. It came out through T-Mobile, it was like the Google...it was a Google phone but, it was a G1 and the screen kinda slid over like a SideKick and there was a keyboard underneath it. Do you know which phone I'm talking about?
AD: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember those.
MC: Yeah. Funny story. I recorded the very first episode of Revision Path on that phone.
MC: Which goes to show how long this podcast has been around! But, yeah. I've always been an Android faithful person 'cause it's very extensible, it's customizable. And, I guess the price-point also is sort of a good thing. I've always been able to get Android phones at a pretty reasonable price, as opposed to...although now, I guess with the way the market is in the US, that's not really so much the case. If you wanna get a decent Android phone, it's about the same as an iPhone.
AD: Yeah. You're gonna have to pay now. But I still...I have had Android phones, yeah, for like the past eight or nine years. And I just could never see myself not using an Android.
MC: Yeah, and people have...I know there's like common misconceptions. And not to turn this into an Android fancast or whatever, but I know there are misconceptions that people have about Android as it relates to, I guess, I feel like it's more about hardware than software if that makes any sense. Whenever I see people talking about the differences between Android and iOS, it tends to boil down to the camera for some reason. I don't really understand that, but.
AD: Yeah. I think it's the whole, you know, "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" thing. It's just people identify with their products and the brand in a certain way. So, it doesn't matter, it could be exactly the same thing but, they just identify with Apple and iOS and what that brand stands for. So they'll stick with it.
MC: Yeah. That's so weird. I know I use a combination of PC and Mac, Android and iOS. I'm on a PC right now but, there's an iPad mini mounted to my desk and then I have my Android phone next to me. I've got an iPad Pro but, you know, to me it's not...I don't know, I guess people kinda get locked into one thing and then that's just what they do, I suppose.
MC: Was tech a big part of your childhood?
AD: I wouldn't say it was a big part of my childhood. But, I do remember, pretty early on, maybe like around fifth grade or so, that's when I decided, "okay I'm gonna be a programmer." And ever since then, I just always stayed in science, math, technology. I went to a special science and technology high school. So, I just sort of always stayed in that focus from pretty early on.
MC: And you majored in it in college as well?
AD: Yeah, I did computer engineering, which is interesting because it's a mix of computer science and electrical engineering. And about halfway through, I realized that I pretty much hated electrical engineering but, I'm one of those people that's like, "well, I said I'm gonna do computer engineering so I'm just gonna see it through." And I ended up getting a degree in computer engineering, but I started putting more and more computer science classes in. So, at the end of it, I knew, "okay yes, I'm gonna be a programmer." This electrical engineering piece, it was nice to know, but you know, [I'm] not gonna use it in life.
MC: Yeah. I think there's also something to be said too, about how much curriculum has kind of changed over the years. I know when I got in college I started out with computer science and computer engineering because I wanted to learn how to make websites. This was...what year was this? This was '99 when this happened. And I remember my advisor telling me point blank that the Web is a fad, the Internet is just a fad and that "if this is something that you really wanna study, then you should change your major." Which I ended up doing because the only thing that we were learning in...not the only thing, but what we were learning in the computer science/computer engineering program was C++ and I was understanding it but, it wasn't clicking, I guess for me. And I wanted to know like, "when are we gonna start learning HTML."
And the professor would just laugh like "oh, we don't do that here." And now, I feel like with curriculum the way it is now, you can go to a lot of different schools and get, I feel, like a pretty good solid education in web stuff, but also engineering and things like that. So, I know curriculum sometimes can be slow to change with colleges 'cause they're just these big archaic institutions, but we've also got places like General Assembly, you've got courses like Lynda — you have two Lynda courses, you know. You have courses like that where people can kinda supplement that knowledge with more recent things that are happening out in the field.
AD: I mean, I definitely...there's always this debate in the tech community about Bootcamp graduates versus people who follow the more traditional approach getting their degree in computer science, et cetera. And ultimately, it's about the experience, it's about your experience. So, as someone who hires people, I'm always looking for the experience. I'm looking for someone who's eager to learn new things, is a self-starter, can be independent and all that. So, I don't know, I feel like colleges will have to adjust to the fact that employers are no longer saying this is a hard requirement for someone to work for me and do technical things.
MC: Yeah. I think earlier this year, both Google and Apple were saying that they were kind of getting rid of the college requirement for people that applied there. So, it's becoming, I guess, less and less of a mandatory requirement but, it's more about, like you said, your experience and the other skills that you bring to the table.
MC: So, with what you're doing right now, you're in management. This is actually a question from our audience. And he wanted to know, this persons name is Cornelius, he wanted to know, so now that you're in management, do you think that you'd ever go back to being primarily a solo contributor?
AD: I don't think that I would now, because when you're just taking the individual contributor track, the amount of influence that you can have on the final product, is somewhat limited. And also, in many companies, the impact that you can have on other developers is somewhat limited. So, now that I've started moving towards more management tracks, I can influence people in a different way. So, I'm having one-on-ones with people and I'm not just talking about coding standards, I'm talking about professionalism, how you can communicate, working in a distributed team. How does that differ when you're collocated? All these things I feel, actually help people ultimately to move in whatever direction they want with their career and you're more likely to do those things when you're going towards a more management track versus individual contributor.
MC: I feel you. That makes a lot of sense too because, like you say, when you're just sort of one person on the team, it's hard to make that big of an impact throughout the company. And I guess it may depend on how the company is structured but, yeah, once you get to that management level, you're influencing a team, you're really kind of overseeing the work as opposed to getting in there with [inaudible 00:11:48] and getting your hands dirty too much, I guess.
AD: Yeah. I mean, since I work at a startup, obviously I'm still coding a lot. It's a small team, we're moving fast, things are always changing. So, it's not like, oh no, I'm just gonna stop coding now. I can't see myself not coding.
AD: Yeah. I just can't see myself not coding, even if I was like CTO of a company, I would probably have some side projects that I was hacking on all the time because I really enjoy it. I just enjoy doing that.
MC: And it helps to kinda keep your skills sharp too.
AD: Yeah, definitely.
MC: I have a friend, he's a senior ... Yeah, he actually has been on the show, Husani Oakley at Deutsch. And he has a team that he oversees but, he will stay late at the office and pull in long hours coding, getting stuff in. And I think, for him, it's important to show his team that like, I'm not just the talking head at the top, I'm here with you, I'm working and doing the same kind of work that you're doing, so don't ... I don't know, it's something that I'm ... I also work at sort of a startup, Glitch is kind of a startup, although we've been around for 18 years, so not really a startup.
AD: [inaudible 00:13:05].
MC: But we've changed and grown so much just within the past few years, and I know what you mean about it, you kinda can't really divorce yourself that much from doing the work of getting in there and really kind of tackling thing hands on.
MC: I get that, I'm the same way. I feel like I have to still have my hand on something working on it, in order for me to feel like I'm making an impact.
AD: Yeah. It's definitely different also because when you start doing more management things, I think it's really easy to feel, well, I haven't don't anything productive. Because when you're coding, you know, I checked in these lines of code. I closed this [inaudible 00:13:45] ticket, I reviewed this [inaudible 00:13:47] request. There's these very discreet, somewhat quantitative items that you can point to and say, "Yes, I did this, this and that. And I'm productive." But when you're doing management, you have to try to think of it from, well how am I helping other people to be productive? How did I unblock this person? Okay, I helped this other person to understand the importance of having this ability to the work that they're doing. And that has this long-term effect. It definitely takes a different way of thinking to feel a similar level of contentment.
MC: Absolutely. I totally get where you're coming from there. Let's go back to Off-Grid, which is the startup that you work for. What's a typical day like for you there? I mean, we've kinda mentioned already, you're doing one-on-ones and stuff but, on an average day, what kind of work are you doing?
AD: So, on a average day what I'll do is, I go in the office three days a week. So let's say, let's pick one of the office days.
AD: I head in the office and the first thing I've already started doing is responding to emails. Since the company is distributed, we have people who are in the states, people in Russia who've already been working for two hours. And then we have the team in Amsterdam, and people in Africa. So, the one thing I try to do is make sure that I've unblocked anyone who's in Russia 'cause they've already started working and if they've sent me messages, I just try to deal with it and handle it. So that's it, like kinda unblocking people, step one. Then the next thing I do is look at my schedule and see where I have chunks of meetings. So, I try to chunk my meetings because I like to work uninterrupted. And I'll say, "Okay, great. I have a meeting in two hours."
AD: So, that gives me two hours of uninterrupted work. And then I'll take the next high priority issue that needs to be addressed, I gotta put my headphones on and I listen to sort of like brain-wave music. And I just focus for that whole two-hours on what needs to be done. And I sort of pop back out, do meetings, unblock more people, and then do it again. So, I'll typically have maybe one to two really strong focus hours to work on architecture or coding, most days.
MC: I need to do that with my meetings.
AD: ... coding [inaudible 00:16:03].
MC: I need to do that with my meetings, 'cause my meetings often are like spread out. I'll either have like a chunk in the morning and then there's like a huge gap of time and then I've got maybe one or two at the end of the day. That makes sense to kind of try to ... if I could I'd get them all on maybe one or two days, but I don't have that luxury yet.
AD: Yeah, I mean that is, I'm telling you that is a game changer. So as much as possible, I try not to have any meetings on Wednesdays so like no meeting Wednesdays. This gives you a whole day to do focus work, catch up on things, just block and tackle Wednesdays. And then if someone tries to like drop a meeting on my schedule that's maybe in between some other meetings and I ask them please can you chunk it with this other meeting that I have or can we reschedule for another day where I have this block of meeting time. Because otherwise I feel very distracted, like okay 30 minutes I can try to get into the head space of something that I need to work on and then whoops, meeting.
AD: It's so ineffective and unproductive for developers to constantly have their day broken up by meetings.
MC: I hear that. I hope folks that are listening take that advice to mind. Is this the first time that you've worked on a distributing team?
AD: No, actually before coming to Off Grid, I was working for the Washington Post for a long time. I was there for about seven years and part of our backing team was based in Russia as well. So I did have some interaction with them and I think I had maybe one person in Boston and I was in the Washington DC area, but nothing to the extent where it is now where it's like people all over the place, all kinds of time zones. So definitely was a big adjustment.
MC: Speaking of big adjustments, you're in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, we've had a few folks on the show recently who are kind of I guess ex pats to new countries in Europe, so we've had at the top of the year we had Abimbola Idowu who's in Berlin, but he's originally from Legos. We've had Courtney Pinter who is in Zurich and she's originally from Chicago. How long have you been in the Amsterdam area?
AD: I moved first thing of the year, so January and then yeah, it's been almost a whole year, I can't believe it, but yeah almost a whole year I've been here.
MC: Wow. What has been the biggest change for you so far?
AD: I think the biggest change is how the Dutch communicate. It's just very different from how we communicate in the states, at least in my area. I tend to think of myself as a direct person, so when I was moving to Amsterdam people re like oh yes the Dutch are so direct, it's almost rude. I'm like well look I'm direct, I can handle it, I'm ready. Drop me in. And it's just on another level of directness that you're not necessarily prepared for. Because as Americans we do tend to be like good morning, hi, excuse me, oops pardon me, you know. We tend to do all those things. But they don't necessarily feel the need to engage in those niceties. So you won't have that. Someone might just bump into you and keep walking.
MC: Oh wow.
AD: Yeah. So if you're from the DMV it's like whoa.
MC: Oh oh yeah, okay, yeah absolutely. You can't ... yeah.
AD: But it's like wait okay, if you bump into someone, they don't do anything you just keep walking.
AD: So it's just a different mindset where you're like okay. They just bumped into me, didn't say excuse me and we're all okay with this. All right, let's just wrap your head around. You know, it's just different things like that where you're not necessarily used to it. If we're in a meeting, like let's say we're at work and we're in meetings, they tend to be like very frank, very honest about things. They don't sugarcoat anything. They say no, that's no a good idea, that won't work. Whereas maybe in America we'd say hm, that's an interesting idea, can we try to break down how we think that might work? Ultimately we don't think it will work either, but we don't just come out and say it.
MC: Interesting. I guess that wouldn't be tolerated, but certainly people would think you're being rude or being very sharp with people when instead it's like I'm just trying to get to the point of what it is we need or what we don't need without all the kind of like flowery other stuff around it.
AD: Yeah. There's this great book on it called The Culture Map and it just breaks down all these different dimensions of how people communicate in business based on their country or origin and it's so fascinating to read it and to compare myself, American, to Dutch person and how we communicate in business and to see those gaps in alignment, it helps me to bring things into perspective. Because you can't go into someone's country, their world and expect them to change.
AD: You have to go in and say okay, what can I change especially with your viewpoint so that I can make the most of this experience.
MC: And you said it's called The Culture Map, is what it's called?
AD: Yes. Yes it's called The Culture Map.
MC: Yeah, I'm gonna have to check that out 'cause like at Glitch we're a distributor team, so the company is based in New York, I'm in Atlanta, we have people throughout the US, I think we have one or two people in Canada we've got someone in the UK, in Italy, we just brought on someone in Ireland someone in Denmark, so I know that we're expanding out, certainly we've always kind of been distributed in that way but certainly as we bring on new people and they're from different countries, it's like getting those different communication styles together and how does that work with meetings and things like that. And even as I'm thinking about as I build out my team, I think my team is mostly gonna be in New York, but if we happen to branch out past there, that's something that I will need to be considerate of. I mean I even think about it when I talk to people here on the show you know. I talk to people from all over and I definitely can tell a difference from when I talk to someone who is in another country or from another country than from someone here in the states. It's just different. I don't know, a different level of directness.
MC: That's not necessarily rude, it's just more to the point of what it is they're trying to say.
AD: Yeah, and then you'll have the flip side, in some countries they just do not get to the point. So you're still waiting like okay ... And the point is?
AD: So yeah definitely would recommend that book. It helps you to have a proper perspective and to realize that people are just different. It's not better, it's not worse, it's just different.
MC: Yeah. So we're talking about speaking, you do a lot of public speaking. I know we have some folks in our audience who definitely want to speak at conferences, they want to speak at events. Talk about how you got started as a public speaker.
AD: Okay. My first talk was about three years ago at a conference, and initially I wasn't gonna apply and then one of my Twitter friends reached out to me and said like hey, a bunch of us are gonna apply to speak at this conference, I've read your blog, I know you have something that you can talk about, you should apply to speak. And I thought about it and thought about it, and I'm like okay, let's give it a shot. So I applied to speak and then the first round of acceptance went out to everyone so people are like oh, I'm speaking yay, yay, yay, and I didn't get accepted.
AD: And I was so down and then I thought about it no, I belong at that conference. I have something important to share and I want to speak there. So I started creating a draft of my slides with what I wanted to share, and I emailed one of the conference organizers and just said hey, I noticed I didn't make it in the first round, but I just wanna let you know, I'm so excited to speak at your conference, this is what I have to offer and here's a draft of my slides. And then like the next day I got accepted. So that is my first conference talk story.
MC: Wow, nice. That's good. So you won them over with your talk.
AD: Yes, so be persistent. That's my first little piece of advice is be persistent. Sometimes you just need to say like hey look this is what I can offer your conference and that may sway the vote in your favor. So that's what happened at my first conference talk and honestly it went really well, I was so excited. A couple of people from the Android community were in the audience and they tweeted out support for it and I think it was just all uphill, downhill from there. So then once you sort of build up your reputation, conferences reach out to you directly and just say hey we're having this event coming up, we would love if you would be able to speak, are you interested. That's how you can get going and you're basically in this like circuit of speakers and you know can pick your poison.
MC: Nice and I mean you're speaking on a very specialized subject about Android development so I would imagine that makes you even more in demand.
AD: Yeah, there are a lot of Android conferences and more and more popping up all over the world. So it's really up to you to say okay, what do you want to be known for.
MC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
AD: So that you're not known for everything, I guess, you know like pick something that's like special for you and then be known for that thing. And I think that's also another key to doing well in the conference circuit.
MC: How has speaking helped your career?
AD: Oh wow, I think so some concrete things. That first talk that I gave three years ago, someone from O'Reilly Media saw the talk and said oh, we'd love for you to do a course for O'Reilly based on this talk content. And I thought to myself, hm, okay, I never really thought about doing online courses, all right, let's give it a shot. And that's when I did my first course for them, and then after that it was more people saying like hey, I'm also doing some online content, would you be interested in creating something for us? Sure. And it all started from speaking at a conference. Even the fact that I work here at Off Grid Electric, it's from someone that I met in the conference circuit. They reached out to me and said hey look we're hiring for this position, we'd love for you to come join our team, let me know if you're interested. So all of these different things started out from just taking a chance, being persistent, and speaking at a conference.
MC: Wow, all of that just from speaking at conferences. I mean that's good to hear, because I feel like, I mean I don't know if it's difference in the tech sphere, but I know in the design sphere I feel like there's the same six or seven dozen people that end up getting recycled between conferences and events and meet-ups and key notes and stuff. And it's rare that you get to hear from newer voices, from more diverse voices, etc. I feel like in the tech community it's a bit more open to that respect and maybe that's because the conversations around diversity have been more prevalent than they have been in design or at least more public I would say than they've been in design. Do you find now, that even with the speaking that you're doing that you're starting to see like a newer crop of folks coming up and giving talks?
AD: Definitely. From when I first started it's so much more diverse and I know one thing that conferences are doing now, they're doing blind voting where the first rounds all we see is like the talk title and abstract and then there's a committee of people who give it a rating and then afterwards we just take the top few and we go through and then finally we say okay, now who are these people.
MC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
AD: And I think that makes a difference because then you're judging talks based on the merit. Is this title enticing enough? Is the abstract neat enough that people would say oh yes, I wanna learn more about this. That type of thing needs to happen more so that you can have more diverse speakers out there showing the world what they have to offer. And then the other thing that I've seen is I think is it this year, yeah, this year, I offered to review abstracts for people for Joy Con Berlin, which is a huge Android conference and only one woman asked me to review her abstract. Everyone else was men and then some of the people, the title was kind of boring or sort of off, but the abstract looked good. So we just say okay you know what, let me give you just a few ideas, what do you think about these three different titles? Oh, I like this one. And then all of a sudden their talk is a success.
AD: So I think part of it is just people who are speakers being open to say okay look people, I'm willing to help you show me your title, show me your abstract and I'll give you some feedback and yeah, now like you're more likely to be accepted. But as far as women goes, I just think sometimes it has to be a personal invitation by [inaudible 00:30:15] person. I would chose to speak at this conference.
MC: No it's interesting you mention that, I remember I've seen studies and read articles about how that is the case. More so I think broke down around the hiring, like I was seeing things saying that if you wanna have more women apply for certain positions, you'll need to invite them personally because chances are if there's even one woman I guess in like the group of men, maybe just probability speaking here, but that the women won't get chosen for the job or won't get a call back or something to that effect. And I think it's something, you know, granted that is just rampant ugly pervasive sexism that's in the industry. But it also shows that organizers and such need to do just more outreach in general.
MC: So like what you're saying with the blind voting I think that's really great, because then you're able to just look at the ideas for their merit. But then if the person never submits their idea, then it's like, there's kind of only so much you can do. It's an odd sort of ... it's a conundrum I guess. That happens. Like getting more people involved and wanting to talk and share their experience but then also knowing that it's not, I don't know. Is this making any sense? Like if you want to have more women-
AD: No it makes total sense.
MC: Yeah like you wanna have more women submit their ideas, but then of course it goes into this blind voting and it's like oh well we don't really know who we're picking, but we want to make sure that we have diversity. I can see how it could be confusing.
AD: Yeah, no, I've organized a few different events and I struggle with the same things as other conference organizers where I may reach out to a handful of women even in my personal network and it's like oh I'm sorry, I'm busy and this and that, and people are entitled to that, but it's just like ...
AD: Sorry, I'm busy, and this and that. And people are entitled to that, but it's just a lot harder to get as much diversity as you want, even just in the pool of people who [inaudible 00:32:11]
AD: So, yeah. It's definitely a really tricky problem, but I do think blind voting helps, and I think seasoned speakers saying, "Hey, I'm offering my time, and I'm willing to review things," will also help.
MC: Yeah. I think that's a really good thing, that you've got those seasoned speakers that are kind of reaching back to help out the next generation that's coming up.
MC: What do you want to accomplish most in 2019? Do you have a dream project or anything that you'd love to do, or something along those lines?
AD: Well, that's a great question. I think, for me, 2019 will be about finding the proper balance. That's something that I try to aim for every year, pretty much. But, I feel now that I'm here in the Netherlands, I have a chance to be healthier, physically as well, mentally, just a healthier, more-balanced person. And I tend to be go, go, go, go, go, and for 2019, I honestly just want to slow down and give myself time to just be a healthier, more-centered person.
MC: Is Amsterdam a good city for that?
AD: It's ideal for it. First of all, I absolutely love walking. I just love to walk with no purpose. I just walk and clear my head, and all those good things. And it's such a beautiful city, and it has sidewalks everywhere. So, I'll just walk for like an hour and there's sidewalks, and I'm just walking, walking. So, if you're familiar with Maryland at all, there's very few sidewalks, and you cannot just walk aimlessly all around the place-
MC: Oh, I'm in Atlanta. It's a car city, so I know what you mean, in that same respect, yeah.
AD: It's like it doesn't want you to walk. You must drive. But the Netherlands is perfect for it. So, I think, for me, that's just something that I want to try to be more mindful of my own health and things like that.
MC: Do you have a dream project or anything that you'd love to do this year?
AD: What I really want to accomplish next year, is to release a cross-platform application. I've been spending my time learning a lot about Flutter, which Google announced, I think it was, like, 2017, Google I/O. And now, it's stable. It's made a 1.0 version, a couple of weeks ago. And so, I really would like to push Flutter to its limits, and get something real out the door next year.
MC: So, when you say it's cross-platform, so basically, you make the app and it works on iOS and Android? It doesn't have to be two separate versions?
AD: Exactly. So, you're writing code into the Dart programming language, is what it is. And then, you're using the Flutter framework and Flutter widgets, to create your UI, it's programmatic UI. And then, that would be compiled down into native code that can then be created into the separate binaries, one for Android and one for iOS.
MC: Nice! I would love to see more stuff like that. It always bugs me when I see apps come out for iOS, and then it's like, "Android coming soon," which really means, "Android coming when we get more funding," because they just prioritized the iOS version first.
AD: Exactly. And then, it's funny, because then you'll see the reverse in Africa. Like Android is available, iOS maybe, maybe not.
MC: Interesting. Isn't it also almost more expensive, I guess in terms of joining the iOS app store and everything, it's much more expensive to do that than join the Google Play Store, or is it about the same cost? I don't remember.
AD: No, Apple is more expensive.
AD: The last time I checked I think theirs was maybe a hundred bucks to join a year, something like that. And then I think Google is like $25 forever. I mean, yeah, it's a huge difference in price point.
MC: Oh, wow.
AD: But also in the past, when I've done some iOS work, it was such a hassle to work with all the provisioning profiles and things that Apple had going on. And I'm just hoping, I've read a few articles that make it seem as if they streamline the process some, so I'm hoping that's actually true.
MC: Okay. When you look back at your career, I mean you worked at The Washington Post like you said, even as I did my research, and this is something you and I have in common, we both worked at NASA.
AD: Oh, really?
MC: Yeah, you worked at Goddard-
MC: I did two internships, one at Marshall in Alabama, Marshall Space Flight Center, and one at Ames Research Center out in California.
MC: When you look back though at your career, what do you wish you would've known when you first started?
AD: I think for me the major thing I wish I would've known, is that work is not school. You cannot just work really hard, finish all your projects on time, meet all the deadlines, and go to your boss and say, "Ta da!" And expect you're just gonna get an A. Because work is so much more than what you do. It's about what people think you do, it's about what you're bringing to the company, it's about your visibility, it's about how you advocate for yourself, it's office politics, whether you like it or not. Work is just not school. And it took me so long to understand that and to just accept it, whether I liked it or not. That's the fact.
MC: That's a word. You just spoke a word, I must be [inaudible 00:38:13] Oh, my God, my first few jobs, after I graduated college, I definitely was in that same vein of like, "Well, I'm doing all the things, why am I not progressing," or whatever. And part of it was just I was stuck in these dead end jobs that ... I mean I graduated with degree in math and the only thing you could really be at that time was a math teacher, or go to grad school, or become an actuary and none of that really was attracted to me. So I like sold tickets at the Symphony and I was a telemarketer, I was treating work like school. Like, "Oh, if I just show up and just do the work then it's fine." But yeah, like you said, it's so much more than that. Work is a multidimensional experience that I think none of us really understand until we're in it.
AD: Yeah, so true. Yes.
MC: Who keeps you motivated and inspired throughout everything that you're doing? Is there anyone in particular, or any piers, or mentors, or family members? Anyone like that?
AD: Okay, so of course I'll have to say my husband really, he keeps me grounded. So one thing is I tend to overanalyze everything, and I'll say, "Oh, I put this course out there, it's my best work so far. Why doesn't everyone love it?" And he's kind of like, "Okay, why did you create the course?"
AD: "Did you enjoy the process of creating the course? Did it achieve the goals that you wanted?" And I'm like, "Yeah. Okay, yes I did, yeah. Yeah, and it doesn't matter." And it just sort of helps bring me back to reality, so I need that person in my life who listens to every talk, even though he's not in the tech space at all. He doesn't even know about what I'm talking about. He listens to every talk. And I just find that so supportive and he'll say, "Oh, wait. Right there I didn't understand what you were saying, I think you need to add another slide or something and explain that a bit more." And I just really need that.
AD: And then the other thing is, I have people in the Android community who I look to as unofficial mentors. One of them, he told me, I was really down about something, someone had commented on like a blog post or something, and he said, "Look, everything you do in life, you have to think about the rule of third. So a third of the people will support you, a third of the people don't care, and a third of the people will be negative. As soon as you get some sort of feedback into your funnel, you quickly just put it in the bucket where it belongs and you keep it moving." It's like when you dwell on negative feedback, it stops you from being productive. So if I already know, "Okay, this thing came in. Which bucket does it go in?" I put it there and then I can move on. And it honestly has helped me so much to just stay focused on executing and not get caught up in negative people.
MC: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's a good philosophy to have. I like that rule of thirds, that's really good. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What kind of work do you want to be doing at that point?
AD: I see myself in the next five years as maybe a director of technology somewhere or a chief technology officer somewhere. I really want to have a larger impact in companies and I want to be more strategic in what it is that I'm bringing to the table versus just coding or doing things that are more on an individual contributor level.
MC: Do you have any advice that you've got? I mean aside from the rule of thirds, or I guess that might count, but is there any advice that you would give to somebody that wants to follow in your footsteps? They see the work that you're doing, you're overseas, you're working with non-profits and stuff in Africa. What advice would you give to somebody that wants to do what you're doing now?
AD: Save your money. I know that may sound a little silly, but I'm-
MC: No, no, not in this academy, no.
AD: Okay, yeah. So I think that is the best advice, so that you don't have to feel you owe your job something.
MC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
AD: Because I feel that some people they get stuck financially, and then they feel obligated. Like, "Well, no one else is gonna hire me and pay me this same amount of money," or "It's gonna be too hard for me to try to move and handle my financial obligation." But if you can find a way to save up some money, you're more likely to take a risk. You're more likely to say, "You know what, yes I do work at a very stable company. But there is this super exciting startup that I would love to be able to participate in and I'm all in on their mission. Let me take a chance."
AD: And I just feel like a lot of things over the past five years or so have been me just taking a chance and I think that's really important, because you don't know where the next opportunity will come from.
MC: Save your money, that is some real purtenance. I like that, I love that actually. Save your money. I think you might be the first person that has said that. I'm not saying other people don't give great advice, but no one ever says like, "Save your money, because you never know." But yeah, I get that sense of it is harder to take that risk when that's looming over you, because you know that ... how that saying goes where you shouldn't leave a job once you've got another one kind of lined up. It stems from that. Not having that financial cushion, or base, or what have you to allow you to take those kind of leaps and risks without any sort of a downfall.
AD: Yeah, I mean, just think about it. You read these stories of people who are founders of companies and all this stuff, and then they'll tell you, "I just quit my job. And then my dad paid my mortgage for the next year and I went all in, focusing on the mission, and now I'm a billionaire." Or some very extreme thing they did. In one hand they did, they took a chance and it worked out for them. But on the other hand, financially, they were okay, they were able to make it. And I think if you can't do that, then you're not willing to take a chance, you're not willing to say, "You know what, I'm going nowhere at this job. Let me try this other job, maybe I'll make a little less money initially, but I'll learn this new thing that will help me to take my career to the next level." And it's all connected to whether or not you feel financially safe enough to do it.
MC: Save your money, y'all. Save your money in 2019. Let that be your New Years' resolution. So just to kind of wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?
AD: I'm pretty active on Twitter, so you can find me on Twitter @brwngrldev and then also LinkedIn, so feel free to reach out to me there as well.
MC: All right, sounds good. Well, AD:, I want to thank you just so much for coming on the show. Thank you really for just sharing your story. Like you said, and this is before we recorded, you talked about how important it is to be visible and to advocate for yourself and I think certainly with the advice that you've given in this interview as well as just talking about your own personal experience, I hope that the listeners get that and they understand how important that is in order for them to really advance in their career, and just to advance in life and periods. So, thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
AD: Thank you so much for having me. This was awesome.