SARON: Welcome to the CodeNewbie podcast, where we
talk to people on their coding journey
in hopes of helping you on yours. I’m your
host, Saron. Today on the show I’m so
excited to have Chiu-Ki Chan, independent
Android developer and creator of
Technically Speaking. Chiu-Ki, you want to say hi?

CHIU-KI: Hello!

SARON: So you do a lot of stuff, but the main
thing that I know about you, and the thing
that people keep telling me about, is
this thing called Technically Speaking.
so tell us about what that is.

CHIU-KI: Technically Speaking is a newsletter
about public speaking, and it’s mostly
targeted for people who want to speak at
technical conferences, which is why
“Technically Speaking.” I was pretty
proud of the name.

SARON: It’s a name.

CHIU-KI: Actually yeah,
when I thought, I was like “Oh, but, but – maybe it’s too generic.
And it’s OK. I think people got what
I’m trying to get at.

SARON: Yeah.

CHIU-KI: And it actually
got started when I was at a conference with
my friend, Cate Huston, and we were
talking about how it is very difficult
to break into the speaking scene, but once
you get started, it’s actually not too
difficult to keep going as a speaker. So
we want to try to help people who are
interested or just have an inkling that
oh, maybe this is something that they
want to do because it’s good for their
career or because that’s something that
they see other people do and they thought
it’s neat. Whatever reason it is, we
just want to have a way for people to
get started. And then we decided on a
newsletter because we figured that
if we have a website, we’ll probably just
forget to update it. A lot of the speaking stuff is very timely, right?
A particular conferences is looking for people, and then you put it there, and
then two years later people come back and look and say,
“You know, this site is dead.” So we didn’t want
that, which is why we went for the
newsletter format.

SORAN: So what was the
mission? Who are you trying to help? What are
you trying to accomplish with this

CHIU-KI: That’s an interesting question, because
the way it started out, we were just saying
that, oh, you know, just people who are
interested in speaking at conferences.
But because both of us are women and we
wanted to see more women on stage, we
make it a point to include 50%
that is either about women or
generated by women. And that ended up
somehow branding us as something
targeted for women, which is very
interesting because we were not aiming
for women; we were just aiming for balance.


CHIU-KI: I guess our is so tilted
towards men that having something 50-50
automatically gets you the label “Wow, it’s
for women.”

SARON: Isn’t that so interesting, how it works out that way?

CHIU-KI: Yeah.

SARON: That’s
not the point, but…

CHIU-KI: We never marketed ourselves as “Ooh, it’s for technical
women,” but it ended up being that way.
People look at us that way, which I
mean, I don’t mind, but I just find it
very fascinating.

SARON: It’s very telling of
the industry more so than it is, you know,
you and your product. It’s an interesting

CHIU-KI: Yeah.

SARON: So one of the
things that I love about this is
a lot of times when you hear about
a CFP, like you said, it’s very timely, right?
You just so happen to have heard
about it at the right time and the right
and hopefully you have an idea
to submit. And if you don’t know about it,
then you kind of miss your opportunity. So
you’re making it more accessible
to a lot of people, and I’m really
excited and I’m really hoping that a lot of new
speakers and new developers really take
advantage of a lot of the legwork that
you’ve already done. Every week in
my inbox, I get a list of upcoming talks,
and now I have no excuse to not speak
and not submit. So have you seen people
who wouldn’t ordinarily speak, the
people who are not regular speakers? Have
you seen them take advantage of this

CHIU-KI: Oh yeah, definitely. So actually last year –
so the newsletter started in November 2014,
so last November we celebrated our one-year

SARON: Congratulations.

CHIU-KI: Thank you. And as part of the celebration,
what we wanted to do was have people
essentially submit their stories
about – actually, no, I got it wrong.
Let’s take it back. That was our six-month
anniversary. So I’m going to talk about both.
The six-month anniversary, what we wanted to
do is for people to write in and tell
us what action, what concrete action
they took as a result of the newsletter.
So some of them wrote blog posts, some of them
posted a tweet, and there are definitely
people who told us that “Hey, I just gave
my first conference talk. Thank you so
much for just making it happen.” Part
of it just is something that you think –
you know, you have to be an expert, you
have to be someone that just knows
everything. And having that newsletter,
reading stories about what other
people did, really removed that mystery of like,
how do you become a speaker? A lot of people were
more courageous to step, to take the first step.
And then for our first year we did something
slightly different, which is we did one-on-one
. So if you wrote a list
of essentially your 2016 goals, like what do
you want to do in terms of public
speaking, and post it somewhere public,
then we pair you up with someone who
are already speaking and try to come
up with a game plan with you.
So that we don’t know yet, because this just
happened two months ago, so we don’t have
any – well, we should follow up and
ask people, “So, what happened
after the one-on-one sessions?” Yeah, so I’m
definitely seeing action coming off
the newsletter, which is really, really

SARON: So what do you think are some
of the advantages of speaking?

CHIU-KI: There are multiple. One is that I don’t know
about you, but when I go attend a conference,
I really don’t like the “networking,” the small talk.
Like, you’re in a big room and you go around and
you have to put yourself out there to
introduce yourself. Because you know, right? You are at
a conference to meet people, and there
are a lot of good things that come out
of meeting people. But just doing that
little small talk, saying “Hey, my name is
Chiu-Ki, I’m an Android developer” – for
me, I don’t like doing that. But if you’re
a speaker, you in a way introduce
yourself in broadcast on stage, right? So you
went on stage, you talked about a particular
topic that, well, you have enough to talk
about for 15 minutes or 50 minutes. So after
that, when you run into people during
coffee breaks or lunch or any of the
social events, people will come up to you and
say, “Hey, I went to your talk. It was really
great, and I have a little bit of follow-up
discussion that I want to have with you.”
So to skip all that, for me,
annoying small talk and jump right into
the interesting part – that’s huge. In a
way – I mean I am not in any way an
introvert; I am still afraid of doing
small talk, and I have also heard people
who told me that. Like they’d
rather go hide in a corner
than put themselves out there. But doing that one lump of
“Whoa, I’m so scared. I put myself out there,” and give a
talk – that, you can reap the benefits afterwards
for the whole conference.

SARON: That is
so interesting. I never thought of it
that way. I never thought of it as a
solution to, you know, to not…

CHIU-KI: Just get it done once and
for all, right? Rather than repeat it 15 times.

SARON: Right. And, when you get it
done once and for all, it’s scripted.
You get to prepare for it, you have your slides, you know
exactly what you’re going to say, when you’re going
to say it. You don’t have to respond
spontaneously to different people and
react. So I can definitely see that as being a
solution to small talk. That’s a really great
way to look at it. I like that, yeah.

CHIU-KI: Yeah, so
for me that was almost a side benefit. Actually,
I didn’t start
public speaking because I wanted to solve
the small talk problem. I just noticed that
once I started doing this, I was like “Oh hey,
this is really nice! I don’t have to
bother with going around the room and
trying to introduce myself, because people
come to me.” So when I started – and this is
true, still – what I wanted to do is
essentially make a name for myself. I mean, that sounds really

SHARON: No, good for you. Make that name.

CHIU-KI: Yeah, because
I’m an independent developer, so I go
around and I have to go tell clients to
hire me to write Android apps for them. And
having some recorded talks out there and
just saying “Hey look, I know what I’m
talking about. Like, I literally know what
I’m talking about. I talked about it for
an hour” – that is really helpful. It’s
really concrete. Because a lot of the
times – well, I guess sure,
you look for a job with resumes, but
resume in a way for me is keyword
You just put things in there, hoping that it catches someone’s attention.

SARON: Right,
something clicks.

CHIU-KI: Right. But if you are giving a full lecture on the topic, that
really tells a lot about you
as not just a developer. So you
have to know your technology, but you
also have to know how to communicate, how
to express yourself, how to explain
complex concepts. And they see
more of you than just the two-
dimensional you on a piece of paper.
So for me, that was the initial goal.
I wanted to be able to have essentially a
living resume, almost. Like, “Hey,
this is me. Look, you can watch me explain
what I do.” And that for me was really
helpful for my career, but not in that
sense – I don’t know if you noticed a theme,
a lot of things I started doing and
then I saw the side effect and I liked
the side effect better. So I didn’t
actually get any direct – what do you call it, leads
out of speaking. I ended up having a lot of
my clients as friends of friends, so not
necessarily strangers that watch my talk.
But by speaking I get to meet a lot of
people at conferences and also I get to
essentially share what I know.
That helped establish myself as “Hey, she
knows her Android things.” So I think
indirectly when I get hired by my
clients, they know that “Oh OK, I think we
can give her the benefit of the doubt that
she can do what she claims she can do.”

like that. I like that a lot. I love the idea of speaking as
your living resume.

CHIU-KI: I just came up with
that, by the way.

SARON: Genius. So one of the things that you said
a little bit earlier really stuck out to me, where
you said “I want to do this to
make a name for myself,” and then you
followed up by saying “Not to
sound too egotistical.” And I think that
that feeling, that feeling of “I
want to advance my career, I want to put
myself out there, I want to build
recognition and expertise… but at the
same time, I’m hesitant to be a
self-promoter, I’m hesitant to feel
braggy” – and it sounds like something that
you’ve dealt with too.

CHIU-KI: I think
part of it is, I’m not sure if it’s
something specific to my upbringing or
everybody faced that problem, but I grew
up in Hong Kong, and our culture is a lot
about don’t stand out. Like for example,
when I was in school, I remember I
was maybe in 8th grade, and – I mean, it’s
kind of a Hermoine moment. As the teacher
asked a question, I know the answer, so I
raise my hand
and answer the question. It sounds
straightforward. But one of my really
good friends pulled me aside one day and told me,
“Look, even if you know the
answer, you should not answer all the
questions because people don’t like it.
People don’t like people who show off.”
And at that point I didn’t even realize that it’s
a problem. I guess I was just naive. But
then after that, I was like “Oh, OK.
This is something that people will view
negatively if you are showing off,
essentially.” Also, the Chinese culture is a little bit
different. We have very intricate
protocols about – like basically you praise
someone and then they say “No,
it’s nothing,” and then you praise
again. So it’s not very easy to
just come out and say, “I am the best.” You don’t
do that, pretty much. And I guess
I have carried that with me even though
now I’m in America, which is a little
bit different. At least when I was going
through in my job, every six months or year
or so you have to do a performance
review and you have to write about the great
thing you did for the company, and
that is really uncomfortable that you
have to list out all your
accomplishments. So yeah, I mean, that’s
kind of my explanation why I feel that I
should not brag. That
other people don’t like it, basically.

SARON: And I don’t
think that’s just you. I know lots of
people, a lot of friends of mine who
I’ll talk to and I’ll say,
“You should really put that on
your profile, share that, tweet that, go on
stage, talk,” whatever it is, and
there’s a lot of “Oh, I just, you
know, I don’t want to be too promote-y.”
This idea of self-promotion is being
seen as negative. So coming from a
culture where that’s how it is, how have
you countered that? How have you dealt with
those feelings of discomfort and still
going out and speaking and making sure
that people know about your work?

CHIU-KI: Well, I
guess it comes in two stages. The
first stage is, like I said, during
company performance review, I feel like
this is something I need to do. It’s not a
choice. I don’t get to choose
to write about my achievement or not.
Because I don’t want the
company to view me as someone who is
useless and just fire me either.

SARON: That’s true.

the first stage is I read a lot of self-help books. All the books about how to
advance your career, how to speak up, how to
toot your own horn without bragging.
I think that’s an actual title of a book; I’m not 100% sure.
So I went through a big phase of just
prepping myself and getting excited
about telling other people how great I am.
That worked to a certain extent. I wouldn’t say
that that was – I mean, that got the
thought planted that it’s okay.

SARON: It helps, yeah.

CHIU-KI: It’s like, this is a big enough topic that
there is a whole bookshelf of books
about this, so it’s something that I need to do
and I’m not comfortable doing it. It’s fine.
It’s something I need to learn. And I think that’s
a good way of putting it, is it’s a skill that
you need to learn, much like programming,
much like learning to write almost.
It’s not natural. Nobody just knows how to
tell others about the good works that
they do. So once I got comfortable with
the idea, then there’s the execution.
What exactly do you do? And that kind of
came after I became independent.
For some reason, once I left a corporate job
and I know that I have to fend for
myself in terms of just demonstrating
“Hey, I am good. You should hire me,” then
I’m much more comfortable in just
writing on my blog or being visible on
Twitter and just trying – I feel like once
I make it a goal, then it’s OK. Rather than
I did something and then as a second
thought “I should promote it,” I make it
really, really forefront of what
I’m doing. I write code, but I also tell
people what I wrote about. So that,
I feel like it’s almost a mind trick. I just
told myself that, “Look, this is something you
do now, so just go do it.”

SARON: This is who you are, yes.

CHIU-KI: And also, one thing I realized is that when I
first started, nobody’s reading my blog. I have no Twitter
followers. So I can brag all I want; it’s not like anybody is
listening. That’s a very comforting thought.
So that helped a lot, actually.
I will try to post – I’ll write a blog post and post it
on my Twitter, which then my friends
will come and like it, and I’m like “thank you!” But
it’s not really braggy, I feel
like, because I felt like I’m just
yelling in the air; there’s
nobody there, really, to judge me I guess.

SARON: That is so interesting, because I’ve
heard from so many people that the
reason why they don’t want to blog and
they don’t want to tweet and they don’t want to do that
is because they say, “What’s the point?
No one’s going to read it anyway.” And instead,
what you’re saying is, “Great! I’m so happy
no one is reading it because that gives
me the freedom to put myself out there
and to self-promote without worrying
about people judging me as much.”
I really like the different take on that situation. Yeah.

CHIU-KI: For some reason, people are really afraid of
people throwing rocks at them, almost, right?
Because if I write a blog post about
some technical topic and I’m wrong,
oh, the horrors! There will be hoards of people coming after me
and telling me that I’m wrong.
But the truth is there’s no one reading your blog.

SARON: So it’s
OK. It doesn’t matter.

CHIU-KI: I’m sorry to tell you, but there will
not be hoards of people to tell you that
you’re wrong. I mean sure, it’s
sad that you are just yelling in the air, but on the
other hand, it’s a great chance to

SARON: Yeah.

CHIU-KI: Just do something, write something,
and then if some posts end up being read,
great! Then you’ll end up building your audience. And if
not, well, try something different. There’s, like I
said, no one there to critique you.

SARON: I think another
problem that I’ve heard in our community
is this idea that the thing they did or
accomplished isn’t worth promoting.
You learn something, and especially if
you’re at the very beginning of your
journey, you go “Well everyone else already knows
that, so what is there to
celebrate?” Have you had those feelings before?

CHIU-KI: Hmm, that’s interesting. Personally,
when I first started doing all this
blogging and tweeting and stuff, I
do have – not necessarily that “Oh,
whatever I have to say, somebody else
already knows,” but more like “I don’t have
anything to say period.” It’s not like I come
up with something to say and then I
silence myself because I feel like it’s
not worth saying. I feel like somehow I nip the idea
even earlier, you know what I mean? And usually, by the
time I come up with an idea, like I have
invested enough time in it, then I
will just go for it. So in a way it’s a
mindset. That’s
my personal experience. It’s not like, “Oh, let’s talk about X”
and then my left hand says, “No, don’t do that! That’s stupid! Nobody wants
to hear about that!” It’s not like that. It stops even earlier than that. I don’t even
come to the idea generation phase. I would
just sit back and say,
“Why bother?”

SARON: Do you feel like that results in you
possibly dismissing good ideas before
you really give yourself a chance?”

CHIU-KI: I feel
like it’s so internalized. I didn’t
even get a chance to have that internal
dialogue, like “Ooh, let’s write about this.” “No,
don’t do that, that’s stupid.” That just
played itself without manifesting in
concrete ideas in my head. Just, my
brain just stifled itself, like “No, don’t
even bother thinking about it.” Of course,
you know this is all
looking back in three years, I would say. I
started blogging about three years ago. And it’s
almost like going to the gym: just keep
doing it until it’s like, “Hey, you know what?
I can lift a lot more now.”
Which by the way I don’t go to the gym.
Just a metaphor. But for my blog, I
definitely feel that way. In the beginning,
in a way I was just forcing myself to go
write this thing, and then it seems very
clumsy, and I don’t want to read it
myself. But nowadays I actually enjoy my own reading, which is crazy

SARON: That’s awesome.

CHIU-KI: I am so trained to not praise myself and
not say anything good about myself that
I feel embarrassed about telling you
that I enjoy my own reading. I like the
way I structure my articles. I have my
own little formulas; I chunk
things up into smaller paragraphs so that
they are easier for me to write, but also
easier to read. So I have my own bag of
by now, like building up. But
you know, three years, is that a long time?
I don’t think so. It didn’t feel
like “Wow, it took me 20 years to come
here from the beginning.” I think I went
from “Oh, I have nothing to say” to oh, OK, now I
a pretty good idea of how to structure a
blog post. And when I’m coding, I’m
actually paying attention to like, “Ooh,
that could be something that is
interesting to talk about.” So it is
really for me a mindset. Just
switching from “Oh no, who am I? Why would I
blog about anything?” to now I have a blog, I
have a few articles out there; let me pay
more attention. And it’s not even
intentional that I’m paying attention to
things that I’m doing, always mining
for opportunities to tweet or blog, but it’s more
like since I started doing that,
my subconscious is just like “Oh OK boss,
that’s what you do, huh? I’ll pay
attention now.” Which is cool.

SARON: That is cool.

CHIU-KI: I don’t
understand how the human mind works, but at least that’s how it works
for me, is once I started doing that, then
I see things differently.

SARON: It sounds
like a large part of you blogging
consistently and speaking and doing all
these things is not so much about being
comfortable, it’s not about wanting to do
it and necessarily being excited about
doing it; it’s about recognizing that
it’s important and just being disciplined
about doing it anyway and trusting that
as long as you get in this rhythm and
have a consistent process of just doing it,
that eventually you’ll be proud of it
and you’ll be able to self-promote
without it feeling so squeamish.

CHIU-KI: Yeah.
I think a large part is telling
myself that it’s about the quantity, not about the
quality. Just write it. Write something; it
doesn’t really matter. Just do it. I mean, some
people are even more vigorous than that.
They actually keep a schedule. I don’t. I
think in the beginning maybe I did.
I don’t even remember. Because I have this vague
notion that I should blog more if I
want to be an independent and be known
for my work. But even now, I
will go sometimes to look at my blog and say “Oh, I
didn’t write at all last month. Oh well, too
bad. I guess it was Christmas.” I don’t give
myself a hard time not writing because
I know that I am writing “enough,”
whatever that means. But when I first
started, there were definitely moments when
I’m like, “OK, this thing that seems remotely
interesting, maybe I should write about it… ugh,
are you kidding me? Do I have to do this?” There’s
definitely moments where you know what? Just
go through the motion, figure out, type it up.
And usually once I type it up and I’m reading it again, I’m like
“You know what? This is not half bad. Let’s just hit that submit button
already.” So convincing myself to do it.


CHIU-KI: Usually once it comes out, then I look at it and say
“that wasn’t too bad.” So I just really have to
convince myself that, just do it.
I actually sometimes tell myself, “If it’s not good,
throw it away.” It never happened. Once I
committed myself – I’m all about
committing device. If I need
to go exercise, I sign up for a class. Once
I’m committed, I do it. So once I’m
committed to writing it and I get
started, then I will keep doing it.
That has worked pretty well for me.

SARON: Yeah. So we talked about blogging, we
talked about speaking; what are some
other ways that you’ve been able to make
your work more visible?

CHIU-KI: Tweeting is a
lightweight way of blogging, in a sense.
And again, tweeting for me was also
actually really, really difficult to pick
up in the beginning. I sign up for an
account and I don’t really have anything
to say. It was kind of funny; like, “I know
Twitter is very useful for connecting
with other people in the industry,” and I
sign up and – it doesn’t work the
same way as blogging, is what I’m trying
to get at. If you want to write an article,
you can sit down, come up with a topic and just do
it. Tweeting is much more nebulous. Like, how do I participate on
Twitter? So for me, the breakthrough was actually going to a
conference and just – usually when you go to a conference,
they have a conference hashtag and
people will post things that are related
to that conference with the hashtag. So I
started following and trying to see what
other people do. I was like, “Oh, this is brilliant.”
I would see people, for example, they will
listen to a lecture and write down some –
not really catchphrases, but
interesting points, and then other people will retweet those.
I was like, “OK, that I can do.”
So I started off with just retweeting
other people’s things when I go to
conferences, so it’s a very, very specific
little niche of how I used Twitter. And then I
started – “Oh OK, this is the kind of thing
that people will report, essentially,
during a conference.” Let me try that too.
So if someone put up a slide that has an
interesting quote, I’ll type that up and put the hashtag in.
So gradually that got me started on Twitter.
Then nowadays, I apply the same
lesson after a conference, or maybe
I will be reading certain articles like, “Ooh,
that’s interesting.” I’ll post a link and
just put the title of the article. I
don’t agonize too much over “Oh, I
need to put something witty in it.” But then
much like blogging, I started
noticing things. Actually, one thing
that was really funny – at least
I thought – so basically nowadays,
tweeting to me is such a habit that I have
tweetable moments in life. One day, it was maybe a year or
two ago, we were at a supermarket and
we were getting a jug of milk, and my
husband said, “Wow, milk is more expensive
than gasoline.”
Any normal person would just laugh,
get the milk, and go on with
life, but me, I was like, “Oh, that’s a tweet! Wait!” So I
stood there, took a picture of the milk jug and the price tag, and then
I posted on Twitter. Actually I think I
phrased it slightly differently; I put
“OH” which is overheard, “I wish we can drink gasoline,”
and then there was just the milk and the price.
But this is not something normal people
do. Normal people will just make a comment to their wife
and continue with life. But kind of going around
the same theme is once you
start doing it, then you pick up certain
tricks and habits and things become much
easier afterwards. So I really like
that. Nowadays I’m pretty active
on Twitter, but I mostly do a lot of
technical tweets. If I read an
interesting article, I will post a link. Or
if I wrote one, I would definitely post it.
That’s actually another reason that I got
more comfortable with promoting my stuff,
is that I feel like I’ve built up my
Twitter feed in such a way that it’s not
just me, me, me, me, me. I share other
people’s stuff. Last night I was cooking
and I was using a cooking thermometer, which
is a very nerdy thing to do, but hey,
I’m a developer; it’s okay. So I posted a picture of the cooking
thermometer in my fish. So it’s not just me talking about things that I do
that is “Oh look at this crazy
technique that I’m using so that my
app is more responsive.” It’s not always
just showing off how cool I am.
I talk about other things. I share other
people’s content. So that helped a lot to
too, just getting a good mix, essentially.
Then I feel I’m just sneaking in my little
braggy stuff among all the other things that I
talk about. Which is life. I mean, that’s how I am. A person.
I don’t walk around talking about what I do
all day long; I talk about other things too.
So I reflect that
in my Twitter presence.

SORAN: Yeah, I like that.
So what advice do you have for people
who are a little bit newer? Because you
learned to code many years ago, and you’ve
been in tech for a while, and I’m wondering
how can people who are just getting
started, who are maybe a year into
coding, hoping to get their
first job – how can they share their
progress and the work they’re doing so
that in the future it helps
them get that job, make those connections,
and really advance their career?

CHIU-KI: I think part of
it is – I mean, even I’m struggling with that, is that
I don’t want to show my weakness, almost.
For example, when I write a blog –
it has evolved. In the beginning I would
only write about my final solution, the
perfect, all shiny “this is how
this is done because I know what I’m
doing.” But nowadays I actually go
through a little bit more storytelling,
almost. So I always start my blog post with like
“This is what I’m trying to do. I tried X,
Y, and Z, and they don’t work, and finally I
tried this other thing and it worked.” So I
feel like getting comfortable with just
telling it as a narrative of “this
is what I am doing” – not necessarily
phrase it as “this is the one and only way to
do it” – that’s very helpful, and I feel
like you could do that whichever stage
you are in your career. In the
beginning, maybe that will be “I have ABCDEFG
and I’ve tried a million things. They all don’t
work” and then your blog post just stops there.
It’s okay. It doesn’t have to be
everything is perfect, even though a lot
of us would like to present ourselves as
flawless and amazing. So I understand.
I tell myself to do that and I can’t
get myself to do that 100% of
the time, so I wouldn’t necessarily say
it’s advice, but it’s something that’s
worth trying. Just let go of the
notion that it has to be perfect before
you put it out to the world.
But the important part is
you’re explaining that “This is what I’m
trying and this doesn’t work because
of this.” It’s not just “Oh OK, I
cannot do anything. Everything just
failed.” Don’t phrase it that way, but it’s more like
“Wow, this thing is more complicated
than I initially thought. I tried this and
that.” So that would be, like I said, not
quite an advice, but I think it’s worth
trying and seeing where that takes you. Maybe
you are super uncomfortable doing that, you don’t
like putting yourself out there, telling
people that “Yeah, I walk into dead ends
all the time.” Which to be honest,
that’s how programming is. I feel like
people will understand. If you’re always
painting a rosy picture, that’s almost
too fake in a way.

SARON: Yeah, people will definitely see right
through that.

CHIU-KI: Yeah. And then also, like I was saying earlier,
it doesn’t always necessarily have to be
something that you have done.
Like conference is a great example, where
you can report on what has happened.
You can say that “Oh wow, I went to
this talk and I wanted to try this
thing.” You don’t even need to necessarily
try it at that point in time. You can just say “I want to
try it” and just put it out there and
get the conversation going.
I feel like at least that’s how – I think that’s
how I transitioned from “I have nothing to
say” to “Wow, OK, I regularly
have something to say. It’s like I
broadened my sense of what I can
share. Because for some reason, I really
constrained myself in the beginning that it
has to be finished, polished, and perfect
before I show it to the world. But now I
do a lot of “Oh, that thing looks interesting. I
should look into that.” Sometimes I even say I
“should” look into that. I’m not even committing myself to
looking into; I’m just saying that it looks
interesting. And that has value.
Even though maybe all you have is a link
to something that you’ve never seen
before, maybe other people have not seen
that either. So just broadening to
things that you wish you were doing,
things that are half done, things that you
started doing but did not finish because
of various reasons. It’s OK. It’s OK to
document all those things.

SARON: So next let’s move on to some rapid-fire
fill in the blanks. Are you ready?


SARON: Number 1: “Worst advice I’ve ever received is…”

CHIU-KI: This is not specifically directed to me, but it’s more
in general, that you should go find a mentor.

SARON: Ooh, tell me about that.

I picked this kind of on purpose
because its controversial.

SARON: I was going to say, yeah.

CHIU-KI: Yeah. What I mean
is that for some reason there’s this notion that if I
want to advance in my career, what I need
to do is to find that one person, one
special person that will hold my hand
and lead me to my next level or the next
thing I need to do. And I tried that. I
tried that for years and that didn’t bring me anywhere.
There will be companies that have, for example –
it’s all in good intention – they’ll have a
corporate program that pair up people and
have them mentor maybe junior people and help
them. But the problem at least I
personally experienced is that I walk in,
I don’t really know what I want out of it;
the mentor doesn’t know what he or she
should be doing to help me. So in the end,
we meet once a month and then we meet
not really and then nothing happens. So
that’s the worst advice. But there’s
a very easy way to flip that. Basically all you need to do
is find mentors.

SARON: Interesting.

CHIU-KI: Instead of one singular person.
The way I look at it is instead of going
into a fancy restaurant and getting a
chef’s choice and every course is laid
out for you and you can just sit down
and eat them all and be full, you’re going
a la carte, basically. You have to look at
every single aspect of your career and
decide what you want to do and then
find a person that can help you. And it
may be one person; it may be ten people
for ten different things. Because at that
point, then it’s become much more focused.
So maybe you want to start public
and maybe you are an Android developer.
So then you started going to the
different conference websites and see
what people do, and then maybe you’ll find
somebody that seems interesting. At that
point, also mentorship is not a very – for
me, not a very rigid concept. It’s not
necessarily “Oh, let’s meet once a month
and talk about what I need to do next.” I
will consider someone my mentor – actually
I have a lot of mentors that don’t know that they
are my mentor because

SARON: I have a lot of those too.

CHIU-KI: Exactly. When I first started speaking I would go look
for people that I feel like is what I always call 2 years ahead of me, essentially.
They’re 2 years ahead of me, they’re already speaking, and I see
what they do. I follow them on Twitter. It sounds really stalky, sounds kind of creepy.
But what I do is I emulate. I find people that are doing
things that I want to do myself, and I observe what
they do and then I try it. Much like I was
telling you about when I go to
conferences, I see other people tweeting,
I do that. There are a few
people that I am observing very
carefully what they do on Twitter and
try to reverse engineer and figure it out. I
never go to them and say “Hey, will you be
my mentor?” No. But eventually usually what
happened is that then I ended up
replying to their tweets and seeing
them at different events and we become
friends, but I never actually come out and tell them that actually, secretly,
you have been my mentor for all these years. I don’t do that. But I do have many different
people that I consider my mentor in the
sense that OK, I want to figure out how
to do this thing. How do I contribute to
open source maybe. And I’ll find
some project that have people that are really
active and see what they do, and then
I’ll figure it out. And sometimes I do reach out
and specifically ask questions. But
I never use the word “mentor.” I’ll reach out and say
“Hey, I saw that you’ve been doing
this for quite a while, and I want to
get started on it,” and I have a few
really concrete questions that I would
ask them and say maybe something very
specific, like “How does a pull request work?
How do you squash a commit -”
something really super specific.

SARON: Very specific, yeah.

CHIU-KI: Right. That way they know how to help me,
and I want to help them help me, essentially. Which I feel like
when you just have this romantic notion that “if only I had
a mentor, then my career would be all set,”
that is not going to help you.
I mean, I know people that have that in
their life, that they have this one
person that really guided them and helped
them move to the next stage. Great
for them, but I feel like it’s not
something that you can pursue. If it
happens to you, it’s great but I – at least I
tried and that didn’t work, and I feel
like finding multiple people is a much
more reliable way of actually getting
the mentorship that I need.

SARON: I like that. Number 2: “My first coding project was

CHIU-KI: I actually started coding very
early. So when I was eight, my mom brought
home a computer that her company didn’t want;
they upgraded to something better. And I
ended up learning BASIC programming,
which is a programming language that is
very close to assembly I would say. So
it’s kind of low-level. So I learned that;
I went to – my mom signed me up for
a community center
course, so I was learning programming. I
don’t think she even knew I was learning
programming; I think she thought it’s a
class to learn how to use the
mouse and type and things like that. But I loved it.
I really like – I was eight, so I really
liked the fact that I can tell the computer
to do something and it will
do it. I think – I mean, I don’t think
that’s the very, very first program that I
wrote, but the very first that I remember was
a hangman program. I gave it an array of words,
and then it renders little dashes and then
you can put letters and it will
show which one you got right. And I was
so excited, and I was forcing my cousin to
play it and she was not interested at all.
But my cousin was also much younger than me.
I was eight; I don’t know how old she was. She was maybe four.
I don’t think a 4-year-old is interested in hangman. Yeah, that’s my very first programming

SARON: Very cool.
Number 3: “One thing I wish I knew
when I first started to code is…”

CHIU-KI: I wish I
knew that it’s okay to ask questions.
I feel like when I’ve – it’s not even when I
first started. I’ve been working for a long
time. But every time I have something that I
want to ask someone about, I will research
extensively. I’m making sure that I have all
grounds covered before I reach out and
ask someone because I don’t want to
waste their time. And what I’ve
discovered is that the process of asking
a question actually helps me clarify
what I’m confused about.


CHIU-KI: So what I have done instead – I don’t
walk up to people and ask questions just
randomly just because that is really
disruptive. What I try to do is try to
write emails. I would start an email, I
would type out basically
what I couldn’t do. “I’m trying to do
this but it doesn’t work.” I have to explain
myself, “I tried this, I tried that, I tried
that.” Usually I’ll be like, “Oh, I didn’t
try that other thing yet.” So I would save that
draft, go try the other thing, come back
and “Oh, OK. That’s how it’s done.” So then I discard the draft.
I didn’t actually even need to send out the
question. So just going through the
motion of asking the question

SARON: The process.

CHIU-KI: Yeah, the process of formulating your question
helped so much. And don’t get me wrong;
that’s maybe 20% of the .
I do actually, the other 80%, do go out
and ask my questions. It is very
intimidating in the sense that once again, you’re
exposing your weakness. You’re
going out there and telling people that “No, I
don’t know what I’m doing.” But actually this
happened just last night. Last night I was
on a Slack channel with some other
Android developers, and I was using some library,
and I could not figure out how to log
the error. I know something went wrong; I
need to debug it. So I was really reluctant.
I was like, “Hm, should I ask this, should I not?” I ended up
asking it. I asked, and yeah, it was a very
obvious answer in the sense that there are two
ways of doing it. I was doing it one
way; it’s the other way that I didn’t try. So
I felt a little bad about doing that. But
then what happened was after that, after
I figured out how to log my error, I went back to the
Slack channel and I posted the error
message, and somebody else was like, “Oh, that!”
It turns out to be a very common problem
that a lot of other people had and is on
the GitHub issue. A lot of people have problems.
It was really funny, because what I
ended up triggering was that the dev
that was on the project actually merged
in a fix for that particular problem
because he was like “So many people had this problem,
I finally got my act together and just
got this into the master.” I was like,
“Oh thank you! I wasn’t expecting that.” And afterwards
I’m so glad that I asked that, even though it’s very intimidating.
Especially since I knew that the dev that is
doing that library is in the channel, so
I would appear very stupid if it is a
very obvious question. So every time I ask a
question, I still waver, like “Should I do
it? Should I not do it?” But I am getting more
and more telling myself that “no, do it.” Because
the times when it was so – basically the number of times that I
have looked back and said “Look, you wasted so many people’s
hours, you were stupid” is zero. That never happened. Usually
what happened is that OK, it was
a quick answer, thank you, bye, life goes on.
Or something like what I described: it
actually ended up opening up
opportunities for other people. So definitely
it’s OK to ask questions. I mean,
it’s scary, but you should do it anyways.

SARON: Next let’s do some shoutouts.
Do you have a couple for us?

CHIU-KI: Yeah. My first one is an Android one. This is an Android developer.
It’s called CodePath. I think what they call
themselves is CodePath Android Cliffnotes. It
is a wiki that is curated by people
who are teaching Android, and it’s really
nice because it gives you a – well, it’s cliffnotes,
so it gives you a one-pager on various topics –
for example, testing or how do you talk to
the internet and things like that. What I like about it is
that most of the time we want to get
the official source. Like, oh, Android is written
by ; I should go to and read
their documentation. But a lot of the times
they are also other libraries out there that are
built by the community, and Google don’t
necessarily want to endorse any
particular one. So this is a third-party
list which gives you, in my mind,
a more holistic review of what’s out there and what
you should try. So I definitely recommend that.

SARON: Cool. What else you got?

CHIU-KI: The next one is also
Android. I will say the first one is for everybody,
whether you’re a beginner or not; the
second one is a little bit specific
in the sense that I use it daily, almost,
because I do a lot of – well, I write Android apps.
And then what I need to do is I
usually need to take a screenshot, either
to upload it to Google Play or to show
people what I have done. I use this
app called Clean Status Bar. What it
does is that when you activate that, it
will cover up your existing status bar,
and then it will only put the time and
maybe just full wifi signal so that
there’s no clutter on it. Because I don’t
know about your phone, but my phone constantly
has notifications on it. Usually what happens is there’ll be
like a Gmail icon, a little tweet bird on
it, and then I will have a little Bluetooth
icon. It’s just very distracting on top.
And I used to – either I’d be lazy and just post it as-is,
or I would actually take out GIMP and
manually rub out all the icons, which is really tedious.
But this is a really good app
because what you need to do is that you
just activate this app and then you
pick the status bar color – and then
you can even change the time; you can
choose the time that it shows – and then it has
nothing else. It just has the time and the wifi
icon and the status bar. So it still looks real,
but it doesn’t have the clutter. I highly, highly
recommend everybody to do that, because now that
I use it, I cannot tolerate screenshots
with distracting notifications anymore.

SARON: Mmhm. Yeah.

CHIU-KI: Yeah. And then my final pick is
not Android; I figured that I should give a shoutout to
not-Android things as well, even though Android is
a big part of my life. It’s a website
called Paletton. It’s a bit hard to – I’m not
sure how to pronounce it, because I’ve only ever
seen it written in the URL bar. I
guess you’ll put it in the show notes.
What it is is a color site. What you can
do is you can go there and you can give
the site a color – usually I do it by the
hex value; for example, red – and then it will
give you complementary colors. So it will
give you multiple shades of red that is
derived from the red that you gave and
also the complementary color, which I
cannot do on
top of my head, which is why I need the
site. Basically a color that goes
well with it. So for example, maybe you
will have to use the red as your primary
color, and then you will use the secondary
color for your buttons. I really
like it because I have no sense of what
colors go well together, and yet
sometimes I’m doing my own little side
project; I just need to have something
that doesn’t look awful.

SARON: It doesn’t have to be good; just not bad.

CHIU-KI: Right, just not awful. So I’ll go through that site, and I’ll put in one color –
usually purple, because I love purple – and then it will give
me that purple and then a lighter shade and
a darker shade so that I can use – for example, in Android
usually what you do is that you have
your app – the app has a toolbar which
shows your app title that’s a lighter
shade of purple, and then the top status
bar is a darker shade of purple, and they
go well together.
Rather than me randomly picking some color.

SARON: And hoping it
turns out well.

CHIU-KI: Exactly. You still have to pick one color, which
is OK. Maybe you pick green, and then
it will generate a color scheme for
you. I found that really nice. Just takes
the guesswork out of it.

SARON: Yeah, that sounds really helpful. I
have a couple shoutouts of my own. One is –
I actually found this on your blog – is it Laura Hogan
or Lara Hogan?

CHIU-KI: Oh, donuts!

Her donuts post is just amazing. She started –
it looks like it was two years
ago that she first started this. She
started celebrating her career wins with
donuts. And the problem that she was solving is
that she works really hard, she
does a lot of really great stuff, is very
accomplished, but as soon as the good
thing happens, it’s “OK great. That’s
done, now let’s move on to the next thing,”
without really taking the time to
celebrate the accomplishment. And I’m
very, very guilty of this too; as soon as the
thing happens and it’s over, it’s “OK,
what’s next?” and you don’t really get to
appreciate it. And so what she started doing
is buying herself a donut with every small
or big career accomplishment
that she gets, and it’s really, really
amazing – one, because I had
no idea there were these many types of
donuts. The diversity of donuts is
absolutely incredible. But two, because
it’s a really nice, easy, simple, fun way
to reward yourself, to literally treat yourself
and acknowledge the things that you’re doing. And her wins
include speaking gigs and writing books
and chapters and
appearing and doing a bunch of things.
I can definitely see a place for all of
us, no matter how small our wins may feel,
for us to celebrate with a little treat
as well. So I loved that initiative, and you
should all definitely take a look at it and
read it. It’s,
and I’ll post that on the website
as well, so check it out.
And the second, going back to speaking
and Commons proposals – as you heard today,
the first step in speaking is oftentimes
submitting a proposal, and there’s lots
of really good blog posts
out there that talk about how to write a
really good proposal. And one that I
really like, that is incredibly thorough,
is by Sarah Mei, and it’s called What
Your Conference Proposal Is Missing.

Sarah is part of Ruby Central and
organizes RubyConf and RailsConf, and
she’s been reviewing conference
proposals and organizing conferences for
a very long time, and she wrote up this
really, really good summary of the things
you need to make sure that you do, the
things that you should not do. There is
an example of what a good talk proposal
looks like. And she gives a very, very
thorough review of all the things you
should think about for your next proposal. So
if you’re thinking about it, if you’re
trying to figure out what makes a good
pitch and what makes a good submission,
definitely take a look at that blog post.
It’ll give you some really good ideas. If
you want to join the conversation, you
can join us on CodeNewbie Discourse, our online
forum for people excited about code, or you can chat
with us every week on the CodeNewbie Twitter
chat. Just search for #CodeNewbie
and tweet with us every Wednesday
evening at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
You can learn more about that, as well as
show notes on this episode, at
If there’s a topic you want to hear about
or a guest you want to hear from, send us an
email, Thank you again,
Chiu-Ki, so much for joining us.
You want to say goodbye?


SARON: Thanks for listening. See you next week.

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