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Part One: Chris Castiglione (@castig)

Published 4/13/2016

In today's episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Castiglione (@castig), one of the cofounders of One Month (onemonth.com).

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode, I start my interview with Chris Castiglione. Chris is the co-founder of one month. One month actually happens to have been the very first sponsor of Developer Tea. So we have to thank them for being there with us since the very beginning. This episode is not sponsored by one month nor is it sponsored by anything that Chris is a part of. So anything you hear is just our opinions on the show today. Thank you so much to Chris. By the way, make sure you thank Chris. If you have a Twitter account, you can reach out to him on Twitter at @Castig. That's at C-A-S-T-I-G. Make sure you reach out to Chris and thank him for being on Developer Tea. And let him know what helped you in today's episode. Of course, this is a two-part interview as usual. And in this first part, we're going to be talking a lot about learning. Of course, one month is all about learning. And Chris has some interesting insights to the learning process. So I'm really impressed by him. I think you will be as well. Today's episode is sponsored by Rollbar. With Rollbar, you can put errors in their place. We will talk more about what Rollbar does and what they are offering you as a listener of Developer Tea. Later on in today's episode, but first I want to jump straight into the interview with Chris Castiglion. Those of you who have listened to the show since the beginning and probably people who have picked up in the middle of the show even, you've heard me say this over and over and over. And that is that learning is a fundamental skill. It's not only that you're picking up new skills when you're learning, but learning itself is a skill. And it's really it's important that you learn how to learn. That's kind of a difficult subject to talk about because science is really split on this in a lot of ways. Not every question has been answered and not enough research has been done really to to say there's one specific way that works you know for everyone. And this is the space that Chris is working in pretty much all the time. Would you say that's accurate Chris? Yeah, I'm a pretty big geek. There's a couple of different things Chris that you're doing around this space of learning. You have your podcast which we've already talked about on books. And then your creating courses. You as one of the founders of one month, you still are creating courses. You're also considered the Dean, right? Yeah. I am the Dean. And then you know beyond that you're innovating in the space of how online learning even works. For example, you mentioned and we'll talk about this later on in the show. But you mentioned this the different class sizes. So you're you're doing what you call live courses coming up at one month. And playing with that format about you know most online courses, for example, they can scale up to thousands thousands of people and they can all take them at different times. Maybe you're a part of a university where you take classes and there's other people that are going through that same class with you. But this is you know live courses is another example of this format being experimented with. And I'm really excited about that for one month because I think that concept is really strong. I think it's a really exciting prospect especially for people who are looking to learn how to code. Yeah, I'm really excited about it. And when I say live, we actually were we're using the word I think we're using the word premium courses here only because live tense I use that word because it's live because I'm in the course every day. But live people tend to feel like oh they have to show up at a certain time. And they're restricted to that time. And the thing that I am really excited about is you know how can the student, how can you listening right now learn at your own pace right. But also not feel like you're left behind and you're on your own. So this idea of the live courses is that I am there every day. We have a slack community for each of the courses and it's going to be less than 100 students you know and every day not all 100 are showing up. But I'm there as the teacher I have TAs and we are there like live available at some point Monday through Friday to help you with the first part is motivation you know like for sometimes just like showing up. You hugely important. It's so I mean and I've seen that because I've I've talked for years in person at workshops and universities and I've seen that first hand just showing up and looking around and having oh there's other people in this with me you know that accountability. And so that's when I say live that's what I mean is like yeah there's like live people with you taking this and there's accountability we're taking attendance we're looking at your progress and there's deadlines. So it's you know I think whereas a lot of the people use there are mooks to mean the big kind of you take a video you just put it online and then it's a little over the wild wild west of quality and accountability. Yeah you never really know. This was you know this is kind of the opposite in a way it's like this isn't available for everybody this is a smaller group of people and you know as far as like the teacher just disappearing it's like no the teacher is going to be there with you. So it's yeah I could talk about it for a while I'm really really excited to do these. Well and this is something that obviously Chris you are passionate about because you and I both we've gone through the things that the people who are going to be joining this course have gone through to some extent you've gone through some different stuff than I've gone through obviously right. Sure. I work in an agency style environment and you work in a more like a startup a product environment right which there's there's some specific differences there but I'd love to kind of take a step back and go back to before before one month existed before you know mooks existed. How did you learn what you know today and more specifically what were your methods early on to learn how to code. Yeah so everything I know like in my head everything I feel like I've learned over the years has always seemed to come from a frustration or a problem that I wanted to solve. I never wanted to be a developer. I thought it was so not cool like there was never there was never point at any point before I was 20 that I was like I might be a developer one day like I was playing music every day I was a music major but I have this problem that I wanted to solve and I got it really started to bother me and it was how do I share my music online with you know a lot of people and this was and this was um this is like maybe 2001 2002 so I mean before soundcloud and all that and I just felt like oh I need to figure out how to make a website I need to figure out how to share my music and I taught myself by just like going up against a problem it made me curious to ask questions and all the stuff and um and I'd say that's how I started and I'd say I had I had a few different levels of my expertise I mean I became a full-time I worked at an agency for a while I made websites for Toyota and the Black Eyed P's yeah like these big campaigns and it's a great place to learn actually oh you meet so many you meet so many different people and also you learn really good people skills there as well because at an agency as opposed to a startup at an agency you have to have a lot of communication and meetings with people your clients who often know nothing about technology so I found myself in these situations having to take these you know um why is the server down or what you know why didn't this get done on time and you need to figure out a way on the spot a lot like improv like well here's what happened and um I found that that was a great skill for learning and kind of talk about some of these programming concepts uh that kind of that kind of time oh yeah yeah and and a lot of the people who are listening to this show right now and those of you who are kind of often to the future you're thinking about learning how to code or maybe you're going to take a course on one month or maybe you're going to teach yourself or you know what what ever path you take agency is is a very common uh job space for developers um probably because it really allows you to work with many many clients right and it doesn't it doesn't revolve around you for example getting funding uh it's more about you solving an existing problem for someone who already has a business and the cash flow is it's just different right uh so agency world is really important and I think it breeds really great programmers um people who are fast on their feet and uh it also breeds a lot of really good ideas because you happen to be you know talking to business people all the time and they bring you problems all the time that they need solved and a lot of the time that kind of gives you free ideas for new businesses whether you're solving that problem for just that client or maybe you want to solve it kind of for the world that's what a startup is a startup is like solving a problem for the world yeah the good ones are yeah and you know it's funny because I mean there's definitely this kind of in the atmosphere of oh I need to have a startup and you to do my own thing I need to be free and raise capital uh it seems like these are very trendy ideas nowadays sure um it's fair to say and um and I think there is a I think there is a lot of you can there is a lot of like power and then there is a lot of creative potential in having a startup but I think the ability to learn at a startup it's just a different it's not better or worse but it's just a different beast and what I mean by that is oftentimes when I've had in one month there are different startups that I've worked with in the past the teams are a lot smaller and oftentimes you're on your own maybe you're the only developer on a team of you know a different a barcoder and a founder or something like that so the agency for me um because people talk smack about agency sometimes you know of course they do right and that's that's why I'm like defending it that's where this is coming from occasionally listening and you're like why but um for me it was such it was such like uh I feel like I got a lot of my confidence from from having to just talk and learn from people who were smarter than me and and um being out being around just you know dozens of smart people every day it really it really was monumental I think yeah I totally agree with that and you can say something bad about both sides and you can say something good about both sides yeah yeah that's true for almost anything right like any any good job also has its downsides and that's because you can't do it all you can't mean some some agencies end up doing product creation that's a lot of the time that's kind of the end the end goal for an agency is to get into the product space but really I mean there's there's positives and negatives on both sides of the fence and it kind of depends on you know what style of learner you want to be and what kind of work you want to do I've made this comparison in the past um if you're working in an agency environment then typically you're you're going to be a little bit wider spread you're going to be a little bit more of a generalist most likely unless your agency is very very large and and you're going to be kind of like the triathlete right like like you can do everything pretty well you're not like super good at the long jump but you can do everything pretty well right and and if you're working in an agency maybe you're more like a polevolter or something like you do one thing really really well yep today's episode of Developer Tea is sponsored by roll bar with roll bar you get the context insights and control you need to find and fix bugs faster you know the deal is uh dealing with errors sucks right you rely on users to report the errors to you through some ticketing software and then you have to look through your logs to try to debug those issues based on their ticket and then you're emailing back and forth and you're trying to um work through slack to figure out what's going on roll bar works with all major languages and frameworks so you can start tracking production errors and deployments in eight minutes or less you can integrate roll bar into existing development workflows you can send the alerts to those places where you're already working like for example slack or hip chat or you can create issues in get hub uh or a sonner pivot old tracker and any of these things that you're already using now on a recent episode of Developer Teawe said a large part of the job for a developer is tracking down bugs and knowing what things look like when they're working well and this is what roll bar does for you it helps you understand when things go out of line the moment they happen uh some of their customers they include Heroku, Twilio, Kayak, Instacart, Zendesk, Twitch these are huge huge customers that are relying on roll bar and roll bar has a very specific and special offer for Developer Tealisteners and they're offering it to some other spec shows as well they're a huge sponsor of the network and of Developer Teaso the offer is the bootstrap plan for free for 90 days that's 300,000 errors that you can track for free 300,000 errors that you can track for free with roll bar and the way you get that deal is by going to rollbar.com slash Developer Teago now if you are looking for something to help you deal with your errors thanks again to roll bar for sponsoring today's episode of course that special link can be found in the show notes at spec.fm. I'm glad that you came from the agency world and went like full swing over to start a start a portal. Yeah yeah it was it was exciting and I think you know it's I imagine a lot of your listeners might be earlier in their career and I think like the one piece of a device I or this this is always just something that really helped me out in my career was I always wanted when once I was going through the agency life I realized oh I really want to go start my own thing you know I want to travel I wanted to work on a laptop in Amsterdam which I did for a while and you know just travel the world like that was like a stage of my life that I wanted to reach and I think the thing that was most monumental toward that was just getting down a few clients in my portfolio like literally like I said that block I'd piece thing I mean it's silly because like I'm not necessarily the biggest fan but I remember what I soon as I put that on my website and I shared it it was all the sudden I started getting all this work and it was like I was so surprised because I was like wait what like you know and it was just it was honestly just the WordPress site you know that was like it wasn't even like the most you know anything like I had to work on way more challenging amazing projects before that but people who don't know code and tech like you know like yeah they don't they don't care that you're right you know you're I don't know all you know all the fancy words that you could drop on your an acronyms that you could drop on your resume just having a big client you know is maybe cheap as it sounds it can actually be really powerful toward getting you career career freedom if you're looking to go independent after agency life yeah I've talked about this on the show in the past as well but the idea that you're above some kind of marketing scheme you'll quickly realize if you're in if you're in the agency world that there's a feeling like a lot of people have this kind of hang up that you want to kind of be pure right like there's some level of integrity that you don't want to lose by over marketing yourself and yeah and that's respect that's respectable certainly right but there's also this thing at the end of the day that you have to have and that's money yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah like you're not gonna no matter how you know respectable you are if you are turning down the possibility of doing more work in the future then you're saying that your your your ideals are you're strong enough to kill your career right yes yes like you're you're not flexible enough to find a way to explain to people hey I actually did work for a big client there's nothing particularly wrong with that but this feeling of purity or maybe it's humility or something that a lot of developers we share this right because we care about you know what is really going on right I don't want to look at the veneer I want to look at the engine I want to look at what's underneath the hood here what is happening what is what is what are you what are you doing that is of real value and using that kind of like that punch line that powerful client on your on your website sometimes that feels like putting up a front right yeah I mean it's funny you know program in in the book or the book hackers and painters he says something that like all developers really just want to work on open some projects they just want to do things and don't get paid for it and make their own hours this is the developers dream and then he's like but to get to that he had to build up company and sell it to Yahoo right and so I think there's a similar kind of parallel where there's like you have to prove yourself yeah yeah or figure out how you're going to check off the commerce thing until you get to the art and I don't know that it's actually so mutually exclusive like you have to do this and then that but I think that's always the kind of thing that's it was always been grappling you're you're saying it's so well because it's like that's been always it's like I don't want to sell out I'm not going to do that yeah you know but that allowed me it was you know it was then during that time that I I became a developer only for 20 hours a week and then I went on the other 20 hours I started teaching storytelling so like a totally totally different thing to which I'm still involved into this day it allowed me I'm definitely more of a generalist where I'm just interested in so many different things and so that gave me the freedom you know for about about a year and a half to go and spend my other half time and doing some other passions so it really just depends like what you're what your version of success is you know there's you have to make your own version I think of what's important to you I totally agree with that and yeah and and for those of you who are listening who are still feeling that like urge to not sell out remember that selling out means something different for everyone right so yeah so so don't don't assume that you have to go and find out like what it means to be of high integrity there there are some things that are universal like being honest for example that's that is kind of a fundamental part of integrity but being true to yourself about what you want to do in your career that's important but sometimes you also have to look a little bit past you know what it looks like today or this year or the next five years and look at 10 years right what what happens in 10 years are you going to be in the same place very unlikely it's a very unlikely they're going to be doing whatever it is that you're doing today in 10 years almost impossible especially if you're in tech right if you're doing something in the tech space there may be elements of what you're doing today in what you're doing in 10 years and particularly if you're coding in Java yeah but but ultimately you know you're probably things are going to change and starting to think more fluidly about your career that's something that if you start doing it today you're going to thank yourself at pretty much every day in the future that you're willing to be flexible and understand hey you know what I wanted yesterday does not have to be what I also want today yeah and and and talking about I'm just going to build on that and talking because we were talking about about goals I mean about learning and different ways that we kind of each you a you and I each approach learning and to me setting goals I set personal goals I'm not saying this is the way you know you have to do it but this is the works for me for the year for the next three years and then I break them down per quarter and it sounds a little bit I don't know anal or whatever but it really just helps me focus on you know am I hitting am I you know am I am I getting closer to the thing and how is it changed and and also I learned that lesson that you're talking about how things change so quickly from a teacher of mine in college he he had his assignment where he asked us to write down where we think we'll be in five years and he collected these these little essays and then anyone listening and he give this a try right down right now where you think you'll be in five years location job money all that stuff and then he took these and five years later he he mailed them out to us wow and it was like who I was so wrong I mean so wrong so it was really humbling and since since that lesson I've been like no man like I got to set goals but they also have to be you know malleable enough where it's not it's not going to be what you think it's going to change along the way there's always a need for a plan B and a plan C and even like a plan Z right like something that's totally off the wall but you know that is something that it that you can somehow find a way to be happy in this situation yes yep along those lines this is another exercise that you can do right now if you're listening to this at home for those of you who are listening to the show think about the the goals that you wrote down on January 1st of this year just think about it for a second if you made resolutions and you haven't looked back at them where we are a fourth of the way through the year at the point that we're recording this episode a little bit past a fourth of the way and you made some goals probably if you're like most people you made some kind of resolutions or some kind of goals have you checked back have you looked back at those goals at all and there's a very high possibility that a lot of you have so I'm not I'm not saying that everybody is really bad at this but it's it is very typical to set a goal and then totally forget about it and then go down the year and wait until January 1st the next year to actually do something about those goals that you set last year and so it's a little bit difficult to get that inspiration maybe this episode can actually act as a little bit of inspiration to you since Chris is saying hey you know I plan at the quarter level I plan at the year level at the three year level have you done that planning for your own careers right or or maybe your own personal life this isn't just about learning how to code by the way right this is this is like a holistic thing about life yeah I love that Jonathan do you and the Developer Teanetwork to use that goals January 1st is that something that you you've worked with or you've mentioned before so we actually spec does quarterly meetings and we discuss what is happening we also pretty continuously are setting standards new standards that we're talking on so just episode schedules for example it's another yeah we like to stay at least one week hopefully two weeks out ahead of ourselves right now I'm unfortunately way behind but the deal is I know the standard right like I know that I'm behind and so there's a little bit of pressure for me to to push out a little bit further and get some episodes recorded excellent that's all the cool yeah so and I think companies actually in general are pretty good at good about this and in fact it's it's actually legally required this is probably a little known fact for those of you who are not owners in the company it is legally required that you have a that you have a meeting with the people in in leadership or in ownership of the company kind of like the the board if you will and that you take notes at that meeting so like this is already something that you have to do if you own a business it's something that I I learned since I started developing or you could at least get like fine no I'm I'm the person who has to do this so I know how we had to have a lawyer help me with it the first few times at the board meeting level it's yeah yeah this is like no joke you know what you're talking about this is no joke it's real it sounds silly but it's real yeah like some people probably think we're kidding right now and not at all like you can go look it look this up I'm sure there's a Wikipedia article on it or something but yeah it's it's a real thing it's a great um there's a great I think it's a Stanford podcast where they have a lawyer I could send you the link afterwards if you want to share it but it goes into depth about like anyway maybe it's off top a little bit but it's like yes not at all well goal setting and and knowledge the goals very important sure yeah I mean if you don't have a goal then what do you what are you aiming at right if you don't have even at the daily level right we've again we talk about this all the time and Chris I'm going to talk to you specifically about this because I'm incredibly impressed at this the pace at which you read books so I'm going to ask you in just a minute to kind of divulge to me how that actually happens physically because I I can't seem to find my way through book as fast as as you do so but if you don't have a goal if you have a career and you don't have a goal then what are you working towards maybe you're working towards nothing maybe you're you're happy at kind of the same level that you're at and you're basically just responding to the things that are happening around you and that's um that's okay right like don't let me be the one that pressures you out of that comfortability okay there are a lot of people who are listening to this show who are not comfortable with that idea and if you're not comfortable with that idea the first way that that you can kind of help yourself get out of that situation is start setting a few goals it sounds really stupid simple because it is set a few goals even if it's at the daily level and then move up to the weekly level and then move up to the quarterly level and then so forth yeah yeah i'm into it thanks so much for listening to the first part of my interview with Chris Castiglione of course go and reach out to Chris on twitter it's at Castig that's at c-a-s-t-i-g you can mention Developer Teait's at Developer Teaor you can mention me directly at j Cutrell thank you so much for listening to today's episode of course the second part of the interview will be in the next episode of Developer Teaon friday make sure you subscribe to the show in whatever pie casting app you use so that you don't miss out on any future episodes including the second part of my interview with Chris thank you so much again to roll bar for sponsoring today's episode with roll bar you can put errors in their place just go to spec.fm for the show notes of course the special link which is rollbar.com slash Developer Tearollbar.com slash Developer Teathat'll get you the bootstrap plan free for 90 days it's 300,000 errors tracked for free thank you so much for listening make sure you leave a review for us in iTunes that is the best way to help other developers just like you find Developer Tea. thanks so much for listening until next time enjoy your T