Purpose: What I Learned from Stepping Down as Team Lead Twice

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I know developers feel doubts of choosing the IC role over a manager or vice versa. I'll tell about my own road how to find own purpose doing things I like.

8 min
09 Mar, 2023

Video Summary and Transcription

The Talk discusses the importance of finding purpose and learning from past experiences in software development. It emphasizes the need to test different areas and reflect on experiences to find direction. Understanding one's purpose and the value it brings is crucial. Mistakes are seen as valuable insights for improvement.

Available in Español

1. Introduction to Purpose and Learning

Short description:

Hello, thank you for coming. Today I will talk about purpose and what I learned from stepping down as team lead twice. I started in childhood with C, C++ and PHP for web development. Does my work make me fun? What things I need to remove, change, or add? Let's try short-term directions. My directions will approach brand-senior engineer experience and, with some knowledge, go into team lead position, and then engineer position, and then team lead position again.

Hello, thank you for coming. My name is Alex Ptahin and I'm a software engineer at Presto Tech. Today I will talk about purpose and what I learned from stepping down as team lead twice.

A few words about me. Half of the experience engineer. Half of the experience team leader. Sometimes I ask myself what am I now after this experience.

Let's go to the beginning. We have different routes to Tech. I started in childhood many years ago with C, C++ and PHP for web development. Why was it so interesting? Because it was a play. Why do children play? It's fun. When I grew up, I lost fun because now I am an adult. I should be severe and considerate serious and respectable man. Also, we are on a fast-changing world and although human psyche has a large margin of safety, it isn't elementary to do long-term things without fun.

Less fun, less learning. Less fun, less happiness. I started to think. Does my work make me fun? What things I need to remove, change, or add? What can lead me to do things without fun? And I used to be driven by long-term goals. I want to be the CTO in 5 years. Accomplishing this goal can be as good as very bad. Reaching the big goal was very exhausting and I had no idea if it will be better. Finally, will it make me happier? All is the things I wanted. Or did I want only some part of being the CTO picture? Long-term goals can play a cruel joke on us. Let's try short-term directions. Consider them as experiments and adaptation. No focus now of achieving requirements. We can change the direction if we understand things going the wrong way. My directions will approach brand-senior engineer experience and, with some knowledge, go into team lead position, and then engineer position, and then team lead position again. Then engineering stuff also.

2. Finding Direction and Understanding Purpose

Short description:

Currently, my direction is more defined, but it can change. How can we help ourselves find a direction? Test different areas like architecture and design, try being a team leader, or explore mental engineering. Understanding our purpose is crucial. It's the meaning that is important and valuable to us. Reflect on our experiences, both the new ones and the ones we've forgotten. Mistakes can provide valuable insights into what works and how to improve.

Currently, my direction is more defined, but it can change again and again. Will. Will. So, how we can help us to get any direction? Let's help people get what is your direction now. Want to test more architecture and design things? Say about it. Want to try to be the team leader? Say about it. Want to mental engineer? Start doing it and say about it. What should we ask ourselves in this case? It is considered more understanding of purpose, but it is another philosophical word. What is it? Oxford dictionary gives us a couple of definitions, but interesting for us it is the last one. It is meaning that is important and valuable to us. But what is essential? Some things are new from my experience, some not. I see this experience as a picture of British Canyon in Utah. Other people can say it is amazing, but I see mistakes and this is also mine and I almost forgot about this. These very subjective picture of mistakes didn't help me understand what was good and what my advantage is and how to improve other things.

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Second, don't be afraid to ask questions. If you try your best to solve a problem or answer a question you have, but you can't figure it out after a reasonable amount of time, ask a team member or mentor for help.
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My team always has Fika, a traditional Swedish coffee break, scheduled every afternoon. Every couple of Fridays, we have team games planned to release some stress. 
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My current favorite Spotify playlist is Brand New Chill: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX6uQnoHESB3u?si=380263b3c853442e
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What's the single best practice everyone who writes code should follow?
Remember that while you are technically writing code for computers, you're also writing it for humans. Your code should be readable and have as little complexity as possible without sacrificing accessibility or performance.
In addition to the book, you co-host the Ladybug Podcast. What inspired you to enter this field, and what are the podcast's main topics?
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***
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What things in the React universe are you excited about right now?
React version 18 is coming out soon. The experimental version is out there, and it's fun to play with. I'm just really thrilled that it's no longer a concurrent mode but concurrent features that you can opt into. Cool things like that will enable React server components in the future. 
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You already said that teaching is an integral part of the learning process, and you stand your word since you're also a full-time educator. What inspired you to enter this field?
I have been a teacher for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a church where you talk in front of your peers from a very young age, and my mom was an elementary school teacher, so teaching has just always been a part of me. 
I really just enjoy sharing what I'm learning with others. As far as teaching technical topics, I gave my first workshop when I was still a student at Brigham Young University. With my fellow, we taught how to use AngularJS, and I got Firebase to sponsor pizza so they would show up, and that was pretty fun.
Then I started teaching on the side at egghead.io right after I'd graduated. That was when I first got a paycheck for teaching. And I realized that teaching could be quite lucrative and support my family and me as a full-time endeavor. So I did it — I quit my job. I'm a very risk-averse person, so I'd done teaching as a side hustle for four years just to verify that I could make this work.
When TestingJavaScript was released, and I got that paycheck, I realized that I didn't need my PayPal salary anymore. I could just focus my daytime on teaching and give my evenings back to my family, which was a nice trait.


Apart from that, how has teaching impacted your career? 
Earlier I mentioned that pretty much all of my jobs came because I was perceived as an expert. After the first job, where I was an intern and then converted into full-time, I never applied to another. I worked for four different companies, and they wouldn't have recruited me if they didn't know who I was and what I was doing. My content is how they knew who I was — I just made it easy for them to find me. Teaching made that impact. It made my career. 
We talked about React and Remix. Are there any other open-source projects that you'd recommend keeping an eye on or contributing to?
I have some myself. React Testing Library is probably the biggest one that people are familiar with. And if React isn't your jam, then other framework versions of the testing library. 
React Query is also really popular. If you're using Remix, you don't need it, but if you're not, I strongly advise using React Query cause it's a stellar, fantastic library, and Tanner Linsley, the creator, is a stellar and fantastic person. 
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There are things that I've built at other companies that are still in use, and I'm proud of those cause they've stood the test of time, at least these last few years. But of everything, I think Epic React has made the biggest impact.
***
Follow Kent on Twitter and listen to his favorite Spotify playlist
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