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Interview w/ Trevor Hinesley (Part 1)

Published 10/8/2018

Today we have an awesome guest that I met outside of his profession. Today's guest is Trevor Hinesley, who is the CTO of Soundstripe, and in part 1 of this two-part interview with Trevor, we talk about the path we took to get to a leadership role.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. Today we have an awesome guest on the show. This is a friend of mine that actually I've known since before I was a programmer. And we actually go all the way back to our teenage years where we grew up in the same hometown. And in fact I actually had the chance to meet this individual outside of the context of anything related to professional development of any kind. And we'll talk a little bit about that on the show. Today's guest is Trevor Hinesley, the CTO of Soundstripe. We'll talk a little bit about what Trevor does and what Soundstripe is at the very beginning of today's episode. But we do have two episodes for this interview. I encourage you if you don't want to miss out on the second part to go ahead and subscribe while you're listening to this episode to Developer Tea whatever podcasting up you are currently using. Thank you so much for listening. Let's jump into the interview with Trevor Hinesley. Trevor, welcome to the show. Hey man, thanks for having me. Of course. So I guess we should go ahead and get this part out of the way. We know each other. We've known each other for many years. In fact, we knew each other before either of us was writing any kind of code. I'm pretty sure. Is that right? That's exactly right. Yeah, long time ago. Yeah. So we grew up in the same town, had some similar hobbies and just have a long history. And we were friends a long time before we we started programming. And then we both picked up some very similar tools. It's kind of a weird parallel path that we took. But we'll get into some of that in just a little bit. I'd love for you to kind of share your backstory. Kind of explain, you know, first of all, what you do today with SoundStripe as the CTO. And then also kind of how you got there. What are you doing now that really reflects your kind of the path that you took to get there? Yeah, sure. Well, as you said, I'm the CTO of a company called SoundStripe. And we're essentially a subscription based music licensing platform. And the way I kind of came about that is a long and winding trail. But to start with, really, I had been in music my whole life funny enough. You top make guitar. So that was pretty much how we met. I think, pretty sure. Yeah, I think that's right. I think that's true. Yeah, too funny. So yeah, I started as a guitar player at a young age. Actually, I was based first, then I moved the guitar. And I just developed a passion for that and knew that like all I wanted to do was tour and make music. But my parents were like, you need to get a college degree. You need to do that first, you know, that whole thing. So I found out from a friend of mine whose sister was a songwriting major at Belmont University in Nashville that Belmont existed. He told me about it. And so I was like, great, looked it up. They had an audio engineering program. And I was like, okay, cool. Well, I'll just have my fallback to music be a different type of music thing. So yeah, applied, got in, went to Belmont for audio engineering. And then my first or second semester there, my roommate, good friend from high school, who was the only person I knew in Nashville when we moved up there. He was like, I was trying to, I think fill a math credit. And he was like, you can take this, you know, computer science one or whatever the class was. And it'll it'll take care of your math credit. And I was like, awesome, I love computers. So I took it and I had immediately fill in love with programming. I was like, this is awesome. And turns out it paid really well. So I was definitely interested in, you know, long story short wound up adding it as a second major. When I graduated, I actually the day of my college graduation rehearsal, I got a call that that I had gotten into this band that I had just met the members not too long prior to that. And I was really excited about it. And it was going to be a full time touring thing. And so straight out of college, I was going to, so I double majored in audio engineering and computer science. And straight out of college, when I got that call, I was going to go straight into touring. But I knew that in the meantime, we had some development to do with our label. So I wanted to get a job in development. And easier said than done when you're telling your employers, you're going to go on tour. Pretty sick. So yeah, that was a little rough. But I eventually landed a job with a guy named Rob Humphries. He's an incredible person. We're still friends to this day. He basically told me that I want to help you pursue both dreams. So he gave me a job, took a chance on me. And then about a year, year and a half later, I went to tour and he let me work remotely and keep my job. So, you know, moving into that space, I kind of got into this rhythm of going on tour, working while I was there, getting home, going into the office. And it was like a strange combo of remote and in office work. But I fell in love with startups, you know, and I love the life. And I learned that through my best friends, named Brian Hood, he's a really talented audio engineer and very impressive businessman. He got me interested in a, I think it was a podcast, actually, that turned me on to more of the business side of startups and I just became obsessed. So you remember what podcast it was? I know the guy's name is Dane Maxwell and he runs a, it's like an accelerator called the foundation. Yeah. Very cool. So my friend Brian turned me on to that podcast and I just found a love for that. And so over time, I developed a passion for it. And then eventually through clients, I was doing freelance development for later. I met who are my two business partners now and we started it. Sounds right. That's an incredible story. For a few reasons, I've got some questions around it because I think there's some people who are going through similar life phases as you were in, both in college and then right after college. And I want to ask you a few questions about it because first of all, I think that there is some kind of unspoken connection between music and software development. There seems to be a strong connection and I'm not really sure exactly what this is. I've talked about it on the show actually numerous times in the past because it seems like a lot of the Developer That I meet are also interested in music. So I think that's kind of a cool connection. But I'm interested to know when you went into that class that computer science kind of 101 class at Belmont, not knowing that you would be interested in programming, what really kind of peaked your interest at that moment? What was what was it about programming that was interesting to you? That's a great question. Honestly, first and foremost, I've been a nerd my whole life. That was a big one. But no, really, I think it was the fact that there really was a creative element to that. It's not just a one side of the brain situation, like architecting software and figuring out the best way to do things. A lot of it just played to both sides of my brain and I love that. Yeah, I think and this is actually the thing that I think connects music, at least for me, they connect music and software development, not necessarily explicitly, but it's more like a, I really enjoy the challenge of finding really elegant solutions, right? And that's true both in musicianship and in software development. I think there's some kind of oval out there. Yeah, I completely agree. So you mentioned this moment of trying to get a job, but also being this touring musician. And I think a lot of people are facing a similar thing, not necessarily becoming touring musicians, but either wanting to go remote or maybe they're a little bit young, or something about what they want their lifestyle to be has a stigma around it. What kind of things would people tell you or what were the concerns that those potential employers had about a touring musician hiring a touring musician to work on their team? You know, that's a good question because I think it really was, I thought about this especially at the time. I kind of felt like I was wrapping my worth up in a job I didn't have yet. So I, it was tough. And I think really where it came from, I don't blame them at all because now being an employer, I totally understand. But really, I think where it came from was whether it be an office culture thing that they were trying to keep intact, or if it was just the fact that I didn't, I didn't have enough experience really to even be remote at that point. So it would have been a big risk on there in. I think there was a few different things that played into it, but overall, yeah, to be honest, I understood where they were coming from. Yeah, it's kind of interesting because now as an employer, you know, you have the opportunity to see what things are important to, you know, to you as an employer. I know I have a remote job, and I know that Soundstripe hires remote people, we actually have another interesting connection there, but just for the record, my wife works at Soundstripe. I think that's important to note here. In any case, what do you think that developers who are looking for jobs because there's certainly people who are listening to this right now, and that's exactly the place they're in, how can they help increase the perceived kind of reliability and help an employer feel at ease if they are in one of those groups that are stigmatized, like for example, remote workers. That's a tough one. Honestly, truthfully, I think the answer to that question really comes down to work ethic because when I was hired on by the guy who wanted to give me a chance, we only had really one connection. Thank God to that connection, a friend of mine named Dennis Monzoic. He, I had worked under him at my only internship in college, which was in the computer science side, not the audio engineering. He knew I was still looking for a job. He did an email intro and a day later, I got coffee with Rob and he offered me a job on the spot. It was very much a situation where I didn't have a huge portfolio to show him. All I had was the fact that I had worked with people who saw my work ethic and my ability to be a team player and had relayed that to Rob. He had a lot of faith in me through others' opinions. Thankfully, I had some people to help where that was concerned, but I do think it boils down to work ethic. Also, if you have the ability, you have time on the side to make some projects that can show what you can do, that's going to say a lot, not only about your work ethic, but also your skill, obviously, if they're hiring for a specific position. Sure. I think another thing that you touched on there, just implicitly, is the importance of relying on the people that know your character and being able to have those connections with people who have been able to see what you've done over the course of your career. It doesn't have to be as cheesy as Tune LinkedIn connections, but if that's what gets you a job, then who cares if it's cheesy? That's not really the point of that. The whole point is if you can create those connections with people that can genuinely vouch for you. What that does, it creates the same concept as a review. There's some social proof to what you say about yourself. Everybody, of course, when they're looking for a job interview, or I'm sorry, when they're interviewing for a job, nobody's going to say that they're not suited for the job. Or if they do say that, then it's probably out of fear. But anybody who's reasonably actually in line to get a job is going to present themselves well, but the word of another person who doesn't really have a stake in the outcome, that is so valuable, especially if that person has some level of experience themselves. That's correct. To that same point, I think there's something really important there that I'd like to mention, and that really is the aspect of networking. I'm not going to lie for the longest time, especially coming from the music business. I hated that term because it's a terrible term. It literally is just glorified schmoozing. The truth is, no matter how those started, I mean, I have people that are good friends today that I met through what would be considered networking. My best friend, I met through a Facebook message because I liked his audio work. I basically tried to weasel my way and to come into a studio to meet him because I love this stuff. We talked for four hours and it'd been best friends for seven or eight years now. Another instance of that was a guy who is now a composer for SoundStripe. We hired him in a pop band. I was in in college. We went on tour during the summer and our drummer had left. We hired him to fill in. I only knew him for a couple of weeks when he toured with us, but we became friends. Started going to the gym together. Then a couple of months later, he had gotten a call from a label about this band that was looking for some other members. Long story short, that connection to that one tour I had done with that guy is what got me into the band that gave me my professional career and music to start with. You just never know. I think the two pieces to that are it definitely makes a lot of sense in your own personal life and in your professional life to make meaningful relationships. It's also a very rewarding thing outside of the business aspect. Absolutely. I think it's such an interesting thing to see how different people come from different backgrounds and end up becoming developers. Obviously, it's not only musicians. Certainly, it's not only touring musicians. There are plenty of sources where people come from. I think a lot of people have this wrong belief and this is super important to address, especially for people who are approaching development as a second career. They have this wrong headed belief that your network has to only be developers or start-up companies. Your experience in some of the field is irrelevant and that couldn't be further from the truth. I think you are actually proving that point right on its nose right now. I think that's excellent. Well, I think to your point, it's actually very limiting if you're a one-track mind like that. A million things to be learned and you don't know what you don't know. Let's say you're going to start a start-up. You have to know the industry you're getting into. That would be another side, whatever industry it is. I totally agree with you. I think that that winds up being a detriment more often than not. Today's episode is sponsored by Digital Ocean. With Digital Ocean as a Developer Tea listener, you can get started with a free $100 credit. This is essentially cash value because you can go and use this $100 credit on Digital Ocean services. Head over to DO.co-tea to get started. Digital Ocean provides scalable compute services, flexible configuration sized for any application and industry leading price to performance ratios. They have monitoring and alerting included. Go and check it out. Head over to DO.co-t. That's DO.co-tea to get started today. Remember, you're going to get a $100 credit for free. Thanks again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. I think that's particularly important if you are wanting to build your own thing especially. The interesting thing about your journey into programming was you didn't learn programming to start SoundStripe. You learned it to have a viable career and a backup option because hopefully everybody who's listening to this has some sense that the music industry is somewhat volatile. Strangely, that's kind of the thing that you ended up addressing is the volatility of the music industry. I'd love to talk for a moment about that. I'm going to ask you a question that feels quite broad at first, but hopefully it will end up honing in. That question is, what do you think is your career purpose, not necessarily your entire lives purpose, but the purpose of your work? Truthfully, the thing I think that it really is my purpose when it comes to business or career, whatever you want to call it, is taking this idea of a four-profit company and doing something meaningful with it. I think a lot of times there are not necessarily a stigma put on four-profit businesses by any means, but there's a disconnect between the idea of a non-profit and a four-profit and non-profit absolutely have their place in the market and they do incredible things. At the same time, though, the truly incredible four-profit businesses in my mind are the ones that use their excess to do good with it. That doesn't necessarily mean donating it all to a charity or whatever. That means taking care of the people who you're employing or who you work with or being wise, a good steward of what you're given and what you've made and those kind of things. For me in particular, that really does kind of sum that up, but at the same time, I think a good example of that. There is an interview that was done recently with Jeff Bezos at the Economic Club in Washington. It's about an hour long, but it is absolutely incredible. He talks about some new things he's funding that are charitable and what's interesting to me because so Bezos in particular has been under scrutiny for his wealth and he has friends such as Warren Buffett who are also very wealthy. I remember seeing an article recently, I can't remember the source, but it basically was talking about how Warren Buffett donates $3 billion to charity while Bezos crosses $150 billion in net worth. Honestly, I was pretty perturbed when I saw that because that's a very shallow view of that and it doesn't take into account the person behind it. Or the fact that you don't know the future or what he's going to do with his money and it's his money. What happened ironically, not long after that, was this interview with the Economic Club and he talks about where he basically, I think he got people to submit business ideas and he wound up donating $2 billion to fund one or many of them. I can't remember. But his whole thing is, he's a very customer focused person and what better way to treat people well than to take care of the ones who are paying you for a service? Yeah, I think you're touching on something really important and kind of the kind of the genesis of this question for the sake of for the sake of soundstrap, I guess. And that is that you're working in an industry that has some notorious flaws, not necessarily to the same degree as something like the medical industry or something like that. But certainly, there's some issues that need to be addressed in the music industry. And we're going to detail all of those on this podcast because it's not this is the music industry podcast. But I'd love to know like your experiences in the music industry, do they often fuel you? I guess fuel at least your kind of care and empathy for these creatives that are working and using your platform? 100%. I think back to this is a true story. So when I was on tour, I actually played at the Georgia dome before it was demolished and there was 38,000 people there. I walked away with a $50 check in my pocket. Wow. And so you got paid $50 for a show that presumably had ticket sales that far eclipse that number. That's exactly right. And it was no one's fault, especially not in my band or anyone related to us. The reality was that is where the music industry was. And if we wanted to play that show, that was basically what was going to happen. So yeah. So they were offering that essentially that amount to the band. Yeah. I mean, we just had it was one of those situations where we had this big opportunity and we had to take it. But at the same time, like we were basically breaking even. Right. Yeah. And that was the reality of the music business. You either it's feast or famine. I mean, you're either you're either outside of there are definitely some outliers that are independent that are doing it well. And I love the new way of things that's happening. But there's definitely still a lack of middle class really in music. You're either a top 40 artist banging out million dollar hits or you're eating ramen. So yeah. Yeah. And once upon a time, I actually thought I was going to be a cream musician as well. And at the time, you know, everybody was telling me there were two messages that I heard. One was there's no money in this because you're not going to be a rock star. And so I thought, okay, well, if I'm not going to be a rock star, what could I be and still make money as a musician? And the other alternative option was, well, you could be a session musician. Right. You can go and play in the studio and get paid for each time that you play in the studio. And the caveat there is you have to be exceptionally good to make a living doing that. So that was kind of the two routes really that anybody would reasonably suggest. Right. And most people would eventually end up doing, you know, something else. If they entered the music industry, they'd travel in Nashville and then they end up getting a job as a waiter at a restaurant. Right. That's exactly right. Funny enough, Nashville, I think, has become a haven for people who do that route. A lot of times though, they wound up kind of coming to this realization that there's got to be a better way, you know, and that's really what sparked the idea for Soundstripe for us because my two business partners also had incredible careers touring as well as even driving tour buses because they were making more money driving tour buses to C.D.L. than they were playing. You know, the idea though, they had owned a studio and had worked with Jingle Houses and kind of had built this catalog of music that, you know, the traditional pitch industry that, you know, what the reason I call it pitch industry, it's essentially sync licensing where you'd have an agent or something and they would notify you and say, hey, you know, Target needs a track by tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. and it could be midnight when you get this email and, you know, they're like, they need this track, it's going to pay 50 grand. But the problem is you and 300 other people got that email. So everyone just stays up all night, making what they think is, you're hoping really is this next commercial song. And if it didn't get picked, you're just stuck with a song that really has no value outside of that commercial. So, you know, they had a hard drive of songs and they were like, look, there's got to be, our friends have to have the same problem because the songs were good. That wasn't the issue. It could be like, you know, well, this has one word that we don't think fits the theme of this commercial or something. So, right. And so, they essentially had had this catalog of music and got their friends together. They had a catalog of music and then, you know, we built this platform to host that. That was the birth of Soundstripe. And eventually, we realized that like, there was a way to provide musicians a way to make a real living in this. So now we have musicians, musicians that we staff. And yeah, they're making a living. They're my favorite part is they're enjoying what they're doing. You know, we're very intentional about making sure they're not feeling burned out or whatever. And like I have seen meetings they've had where, I mean, borderline life changing conversations have happened. And I'm not just saying this because it's my company. I say it because it's very much, it's a real thing. I've seen genuine conversations where people are so thankful for the people that are around them that they're working with. They're able to have this cool collaborative environment. They're able to pay their bills and get a mortgage. And that is just not, and they're able to have to not go seek work for half the year to fill the other half. And you know, as freelance developers, I'm sure many people can relate to that life. Yeah. So yeah, that was that was kind of where our our passion has developed. Just through our history and the music business and and this opportunity that we saw. I think that's so important. And really the passion that you're sharing is exactly the thing. You know, the whole point of this podcast is to help driven developers connect to their career purpose. And that's a perfect example of that to me is something that you've found that you genuinely are so excited about that it sounds like you're trying to, you know, tout your own company. But in fact, that's true excitement, right? It's it's something that you're walking in every day and that excitement fuels you. You're you're ready to do the next thing because it's really changing, you know, not to overstate it, but it's it's changing the way that people see their opportunity, right? And therefore it's changing changing their lives. Well, and it really goes back to the question you asked earlier, you know, what I felt like my purpose in this whole thing is and yeah, that really, I mean, that's what makes my heart happy is seeing like that, that type of thing come to fruition in a for profit business. I love that. Yeah, yeah. And that's that is a cool distinction. And I think, you know, the level of specificity that you have for this is what I want to encourage other people who are listening to this show to develop for themselves because I think a lot of people can develop as kind of their own purpose. And it becomes so fluid that there's nothing actionable there, right? And so it's like, well, what do I do with that? Maybe eventually I can figure out a way that that purpose is met. But it seems that, you know, whether you define that explicitly or not, it seems that you've had the chance to kind of develop those values for yourself. And that's I think that's so important to do. Thanks. I honestly, it feels exactly what you said, not necessarily explicit for a long time. I think recently I've really come to the realization that that's the almost tangible description or the specific description of what it is that I feel like my purpose is. But even, even before knowing how to describe it, I think there was something in me that that really found a passion in that. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Trevor for joining me for this episode and for the next episode, which if you don't want to miss out on that, I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you are using right now. Thank you again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring today's episode. Remember, $100 worth of credit. That's not a trick that is just $100 worth of credit on Digital Ocean services. Head over to dio.co slash t that's dio.co slash t ea. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.