Developer, writer, creator, says the headline of Lee’s site, a front-end developer with 10k YouTube subscribers and 5k newsletter followers. Today an internationally recognized speaker and author of extensive courses on React and Next.js, he says he owes his success to sharing what he was learning online. "The best time to start with content creation was yesterday!" he exclaims.
What led you to software engineering?
I've always enjoyed creative work, especially building things from scratch. I have roots in design and photography, which ultimately led to a perfect match for front-end development. And how did I go from a designer to a developer? I wrote an extensive post about my journey on my blog.
What is the most impactful thing you ever did to boost your career?
Hands down, writing online. Sharing what I was learning online led to new connections and opportunities I couldn't have imagined. It's helped me generate passive income, land new jobs, and make some great friends. The best time to start was yesterday! And if you need a tip or two on how to kickstart your content creation, I wrote a short article that will help you make heads and tails of the whole process.
What would be your three tips for engineers to level up their career?
First, leave the code in a better place than you found it.
Second, work on improving your written and verbal communication.
And third, write documentation. You'll be the developer everyone loves.
What are you working on right now?
I'm entirely focused on leading developer relations at Vercel and Next.js but have been entertaining making another programming course as a side project. I'm also considering rebuilding my personal site — for the 10th time!
Do you have some rituals that keep you focused and goal-oriented?
I try to stay active, get plenty of sleep, and focus on long-term goals. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, so I frequently try to think about what I want to achieve in the long run. If I'm not making progress towards a better future, then it's time to change something. As for staying focused, it's incredibly important I'm working on something I truly believe in. Otherwise, I would likely get bored very quickly. I'm bullish on Next.js, Vercel, and our mission of building a better web.
Apart from your job, you also maintain a very successful content platform. Why did you start, and how did you grow it to 80k blog post views, 10k YouTube subscribers, and 5k newsletter followers?
My golden rule is being helpful online. At the end of the day, if I'm consistently helping people in a positive way, all the metrics will go up and to the right over time. I started writing online about seven years ago and haven't looked back since.
I didn't set out to create programming courses but ultimately ended up creating the resources I wished I had earlier in my career. Most of my content creation was solving problems that "past Lee" faced. For Next.js specifically, when I started creating content, it was still relatively new and hadn't reached critical adoption. I believe that helped with the growth of my courses and audience. After some time, I ended up making both free for everyone. Money wasn't the main incentive for me, but rather helping other people — and past Lee.
Are you working on a new personal project at the moment?
Not now. But I'm leading a team of content creators at Vercel, so there's a lot in the works here now! My team is made up of some wonderful people, and this has been an exciting transition in my career.
What open-source projects would you recommend keeping an eye on or contributing to?
I've been very interested in Rust lately, with Next.js investing more into using Rust (through SWC) to optimize compiling and bundling. Check out SWC and expect more educational material on Rust in the future from our team.
What pieces of your work are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of the students who have taken my courses and ultimately landed jobs or created their own products. It's very fulfilling for me and the reason I love being a content creator.