30 days of cozy: lessons from a grilled cheese

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to code as well as I cook.

And that wondering often turns to worrying that I won’t, or worse, can’t.

Recently my friend Owen shared on Twitter how he just couldn’t get the hang of making a grilled cheese in his cast iron pan.

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I saw his tweet and instantly responded:

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I did so with total confidence that my advice was sound and useful. I have decades of experience probing the routine and edge cases of cast iron and know well its charms and idiosyncrasies.

If someone were to pop up and say “yeah low and slow, but also this” it wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest.

Or even if they had said “low and slow? pah. what you really need is…” I’d read it and consider it, and move on. But I wouldn’t doubt my advice.

I have a level of experience and familiarity with my craft that that makes me, well, confident!

Confidence does not, however, mean I that I am especially proud of my fearlessness in the kitchen. It’s not something I examine or reflect on or question. It just…is. I have become a cook who is adventurous and unafraid and willing to try all kinds of stuff. It is who I am.

So why is it so painfully obvious to me when I don’t have it—for example, with coding?

When I’ve mastered something, I take it for granted. It “just is“.

When I struggle, I grind on myself. I make it about a lack of character: I’m not committed enough or clever enough or ___ enough. Subtext: I’m not enough.

But this is a fraught path.

I didn’t become a cook because I was especially anything. I just was. Already fully enough, I started cooking daily. I chopped onions, made roux, tried different spices, read cookbooks.

I took action, over and over and over again, and with time, it became second nature.

Low and slow, friend.

When I start to wonder, and then worry, that I’ll never code as well as I cook, I remind myself of the path of daily practice.

I am not so little or lacking that I cannot improve with practice. My current state is not due to a fundamental flaw, and my path to greatness is ordinary.

Like a well-toasted grilled cheeze: what a comfort!


No thank you note required

My friend Jesse shared a recording of a talk he gave recently called “When generosity turns to rage, and what to do about it.” You can listen here.

It’s about how we can intend to be generous and then become angry at the way someone responds to our gift. It’s a call to treat others compassionately and offer welcome without expectation of reward, and how to deal productively with your feelings when the ugly stuff surfaces anyway (as it often will).

It is an important message.

Many of us struggle with finding balance between caring for ourselves so we can be effective and making ourselves available to others because we value giving and sharing. So, when we do prioritize helping someone, and we don’t feel appreciated, it can be painful.

Jesse’s talk was a good reminder that so much of the negativity that roils in our minds is our own making. Yes, we should trust our inner teacher to surface for us when we’re truly being taken advantage of. It’s a nasty feeling that tends to make itself known readily after repeated interactions with someone with ill will.

But we must remember and respect that different people express gratitude differently.

For example, while it may be my practice to write a florid thank you note after being invited to give a conference talk, it’s not a standard, and it certainly doesn’t mean that other ways of expressing thanks are not legitimate and valuable.

It may be that the best way a person thinks they can thank you for an opportunity to speak is by pouring themselves into preparing for the talk by dedicating hours to writing the clearest version of what they want to say, by rehearsing it so it is delivered powerfully, and by ultimately giving the talk.

After all, that’s what you asked for, right? Not the note.

Now, I am concerned about the incivility I hear daily. Our connectedness makes it as easy for poisonous words to spread as compassionate ones, and the poison often gets a lot of play. Name-calling and body-shaming and othering have become heartbreakingly de rigueur.

And I do happen to have a regular practice of writing thank you notes and reaching out privately to individuals who have given me opportunities.

It is a core hope that we might all value expressing gratitude to the people who have helped us.

But that is with the strong caveat that humans express gratitude differently, and with an understanding that it’s useless for me to judge another person’s expression. There is so much I cannot see. Gratitude can be expressed privately because of the personality of the giver or the preferences of the recipient.

And ultimately, I take Jesse’s words to heart: remember my intention. I didn’t do the kind thing because I wanted praise or expected gratitude in a certain form. The expression of gratitude is lagniappe–a precious extra gift that makes the world a little softer and gentler.

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them… but when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

As far as we can tell, this was originally intended as clear direction about the particular act of almsgiving to some of Christ’s early followers. I’m not very religious, but since childhood, I’ve cherished these words.

There is so much that I do to help others that the public is not aware of, and, to my preference, it never will be. Like Jesse, I give a lot of my time and money away to help strangers in specific and actionable ways–as a mentor, sponsor, counsel, and advocate.

Sure, I’ll always appreciate a thank you note or a public announcement that something I’ve done has made a real difference in your life. Your specificity helps me quiet my very real, daily inner harasser that insists I’m not good enough and don’t deserve to be here.

We are all poor in some way, seeking the company and counsel and charity of others to move towards wholeness.

But ultimately, I seek to give away some of my power in supporting you because I believe in your message and the way you personally can make a lasting difference in our shared world. As long as you and I live under the same sun, anything you do to promote peace and understanding and compassion and justice will benefit me. So go on and keep doing that, please, and know that I’ll feel it somehow.

No thank you note required.


30 days of cozy

My friend MeShell inspired me to share a little more about myself and how I’m taking care this month with a “30 Days of Cozy” theme.

Most people know me from my work and involvement in lots of different open source communities. But like another dev friend insisted to me recently, I’m a people too! I have lots of interests outside code & documentation, although those are certainly favorites.

Recently I got some feedback that while I’m making a hugely positive difference at my day job as Director of Engineering (running sprints, 1:1s, promoting positive management culture, subduing JIRA), I need to remember to take care of myself and celebrate my successes. This month, at least, can be about that first one. (The second one? The challenge of a lifetime!)

So here goes. Tonight cozy looks like this:


There are a lot of cozy elements here. To start, I love sending mail, and this desk is clearly ready for some quality letter-writing. The Nashville card will go to a Postcrosser in China. After, I’ll write and decorate and carefully stamp cards to my penpal Danielle, grandmother, and friends Lars and Paul.

I’ve also got a cup of tea in a mug made for me by Michelle at Utilitarian Pottery, a gift from my penpal, on a coaster knit by that penpal! The tea is a chamomile blend, purchased in Copenhagen at a small Danish natural foods store ’round the corner from a friend of a friend’s flat where I stayed for a week. Of course this brings up happy memories. The candle is lavender: clearly, I am trying to relax.

Here’s the after:


A messy desk and a happy one, and a happy me. 💕💌💕💌


Help run DjangoCon!

Headed to DjangoCon this year? Do I have a terrific opportunity for you!

The organizing committee is looking for folks to serve as session chairs and session runners.

I love these volunteer opportunities because they allow you to make a huge difference for the conference, speakers, and attendees, while doing relatively little work. After all, you were probably going to attend a few talks anyway, right? 

Read on

Session runners and session chairs work together as gatekeepers of a terrific DjangoCon experience. You’ll help foster a supportive environment by welcoming guests, introducing speakers, and making sure folks get to where they need to be.

Session runners are the shepherds of the speaker room. Your job starts in the Green Room fifteen minutes before each talk, where you’ll meet your speaker and help them get ready by testing their laptop and briefing them on what to expect. Five minutes before their talk, you’ll walk with them to their session room and help them get their laptop set up. You’ll hand the speaker off to the session chair, and then relax and enjoy the talkYour job is done until 15 minutes before the next talk!

Session chairs are the moderators of the session. You’ll arrive in the speaker room 10 minutes before the talk starts. Meet your speaker and find out a few things: how do you pronounce your name? Do you want to take questions? How do you want us to count down time? At showtime, you’ll introduce the speaker to the audience, keeping it simple — their name, where they’re from, and talk title. During the talk, watch the clock and let the speaker know when it’s time to stop for questions. Mediate questions (if any), and let speaker and attendees know when it’s time to wrap it all up. After that, help the speaker disconnect the microphone and make any announcements.

Pretty cool, huh?

Sign up here!

If you’re on the fence, consider what I said earlier. You were probably going to attend a few talks anyway, right? Why not make a huge difference while you’re there? Thanks 🎉

I’ll be available on Twitter this week to answer any questions about session chairing and running this week, and am happy to help at the conference. (Yep, I love it so much I help run sessions, too!) Looking forward to seeing you there.


A new adventure

Yesterday was a great day. It was my first day at Juice Analytics, where I joined the team as Director of Engineering.

That’s right — I got a new job!

In my last post about leaving Emma, I talked about my journey from passionate customer advocate to empathetic software engineer.

At Juice, I’ll manage a dynamic engineering team solving interesting problems, and help others in the organization feel connected to the work they do. If you’re curious, you can check out the full position description here. I am thrilled and thankful for this remarkable opportunity!

In the last week, I’ve felt warmly welcomed and embraced by an engineering leadership community that I didn’t even know existed! Folks at all levels have been offering kind, real, and honest words of advice and support.

So, please consider this my invitation to you to drop book recommendations, personal experiences, front line stories, and more about this journey we’re on. Because like the poster next to my old VP’s desk said:

Tie your shoes, pack a good lunch, and remember that we’re all in this together.


PS: Juice has a great blog. Check out my favorite post here (especially if you like role-playing games). 🐉


Thanks, Emma.

This is a post about gratitude…
… and doing hard stuff.

Last week I left my position as Software Engineer at Emma, Inc.

I joined Emma at the beginning of 2016 as a member of their support team. Now, if you know me as a developer, you might wonder: does she mean dev support? Nope. Support — answering the phone and pulling emails out of the queue.

When I interviewed with Emma’s visionary VP of Engineering, I asked to start in Support. He shared how he’d been on the front line in a past life, and how it was a meaningful part of his journey. We connected, because we both care about creating opportunities to feel connected, learn something useful, and provide value.

I also shared how, after six months, I’d want to move to engineering. My goal would be to take what I learned–the extensive product knowledge paired with a crystal clear sense of user experience–and use it to enhance and drive my work as a developer. Having developed close relationships with colleagues across sales, services, and operations, I’d work transparently to strengthen our connection and sense of shared destiny.

I am endlessly thankful that that’s exactly what I got to do.

Good people made my journey possible, and to them I offer thanks:

  • Jason, VP of Engineering, who creates and guards Emma’s inimitable engineering culture
  • Clint, CEO, who I could listen to all day
  • Sarah M., who believed in me as a self-taught “woman in tech”
  • Kyle, my fearless and peerless Director of Support
  • Scott, the Yoda of Client Experience
  • Jean, my compassionate first engineering manager
  • Seth, my model of servant leadership
  • Jason Myers, for welcoming me as a first-time conference speaker at PyTennessee 2015, and for introducing me to the good and special people of Emmarica

I was lucky to get to work on an astonishingly high-performing and close-knit engineering team. We solved interesting problems, delivered real value, and liked each other enough that we played D&D/went on hikes/shared meals after work. Thank you Sarah S., Jackson, Parker, Megan, Kris, Lance, Evan, Adam, Josh C., Josh M., Scot, and Courey. And to all others — thank you. You made a difference.

This was a post about gratitude, and about doing hard stuff — because as much as anything, I want my life to be defined by both.

And on that note… very exciting news about what’s next, coming tomorrow!

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This is the beginning, February 2016

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Remember PokemonGo? July 2016

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That’s a conference room, October 2016

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We had a lot of fun, December 2016

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Letter from the CEO in honor of the anniversary of my hire date, February 2017

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Marketing United with Jackson, April 2017


PyTennessee 2017

Hey y’all!

I’m back at PyTennessee for my third year!

PyTennessee, a regional Python conference, is special to me because it’s where I got my start speaking at tech conferences. In 2015, I was invited to give a talk on my experience learning to code and teaching others to cook, and sharing that very journey on this here blog. A year later I was invited back to give a keynote.

This year I’ll be talking about making the transition from a customer-facing Support team to an engineering role. In From Support to Engineering: Bridging the gap and growing together, I’ll share how working in customer support helps you grow empathy, communication skills, and the ability to troubleshoot. Transitioning to engineering gives you an opportunity to translate that empathy, communication, and troubleshooting.

To “bridge the gap”, I’ve got advice for both sides. In Support, how do you hire (or become) someone the rest of your engineering team can get excited about? I’ll give advice about developing a transition plan that honors the important work done on the customer side while supporting an individual’s longer-term career goals.

And in engineering? Attitude, as they so often say, is everything. I’ll share how elevating support and customer-facing roles in your organization benefits everyone, and give you some tips towards redefining pairing relationships and promoting transparency.

I’m speaking at 11am in Room 100, and I’m looking forward to seeing you!

Check out the rest of the great schedule here.

Now, for a quick FAQ – I have not yet heard if talks will be recorded, but if you’re curious, definitely follow PyTennessee on Twitter for updates.

See you soon!