podcast August 11, 2020

Podcast 259: from web comics to React core with Rachel Nabors

From a manga punk Drupal site to herding the cats of the React community.
Avatar for Ben Popper
Director of Content

Rachel Nabors is a veteran goose wrangler and one of the React community leads at Facebook. She got into web development as a way to share the comics and zines she was creating and to build a community for fellow manga and anime lovers. Since then she has worked at tech companies large and small, with a passion for creating and nurturing digital communities always at the core of her efforts.

EPISODE NOTES

You can read our story on Rachel and the work she is doing with the React community here.

Nabors’ is the author of Animation at Work, which you can find on A Book Apart.

If you want to get a feel for an animated web project Rachel worked on, check out DevToolsChallenger, an interactive site she helped create for Mozilla. 

Nabors’ has digitized a lot of her work, signal boosting members of the React community at Reactjs.org/stories

TRANSCRIPT

Paul Ford Rachel, when is when is the last time you were forced to interact with a goose in a hostile environment? 

Rachel Nabors Last year!

PF  That’s why, it sounded like something that doesn’t, it’s not just part of your childhood. 

RN Well, it’s a part of my life. I consider myself a goose wrangler on the React team right now.

[INTRO MUSIC]

Ben Popper Nothing’s more important than a great customer experience. But sometimes services get disrupted. xMatters helps teams resolve issues fast before they impact customers. Learn why millions trust xMatters to keep their digital services up and running at xmatters.com/stack. 

BP Hello, everybody! Welcome to the Stack Overflow Podcast completely remote edition. I am Ben Popper, Director of content here at Stack Overflow. Everybody else on the line, introduce yourself. 

Sara Chipps Hi, I’m Sara Chipps, coming at you from Brooklyn, New York. 

PF I’m Paul Ford. 

RN And I am Rachel Nabors, coming to you from London!

BP Rachel, I got the chance to chat with you. We’re doing a nice profile of you for the blog. But for folks who don’t know you, let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how it is that you made this journey for being interested in Egyptology and cartooning, to web design to working on React at the very core of the whole thing. 

RN Alright, so Hi, I’m Rachel Nabors. It’s the worst spelling of my last name, N-A-B-O-R-S, spelled with as few letters as possible. My ancestors weren’t too good at spelling, apparently. But yeah, it’s been a long journey. I was raised on a mountain in the forests of Virginia. I started life as a biology nerd. I only got access to the internet like a decade after everybody else did. Thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They had this huge grant that went out to libraries all over rural America that provided them with computers and with internet access. And so slowly, I remember this period of my life where

My interactions shifted from living outdoors and wrangling geese to you know, oh my god, I spent three hours on a forum today. We had forums back in those days.

SC Basically the same. It’s the geese. 

BP Ah, yes. 

RN It is actually.

BP Wrangling the internet cats, as they say.

RN Well, there’s cat herding and there’s goose wrangling. The difference between cat herding and goose wrangling is that goose can break your your arm.

SC Wow! I didn’t know that! Terrifying!

PF Before we get to React, like what do we do when dealing with hostile geese?

RN So first off, you have to remember it might look like a flock of geese are attacking you. But at any given time, you’re only going to be attacked by one goose. Typically, geese are very slithering. They like to operate in pair bonds. So usually it’s a boy goose defending his lady love. He’s sort of like I must defend your honor. And most people can’t read goose body language, but they’ll position themselves sort of horizontally between you and their, their, the woman, the woman folk that they’re protecting, and at as you approach they will slowly turn to face you and as you as they turn to face you, she’ll start backing off. This is her making the escape and he’ll start moving toward you and spreading his wings. And this is his way of being like back it up, buddy.

PF Now is there honking? Are we hearing a lot of honking right now or are they quiet? 

RN They get quiet when they spread their wings open, you might hear hissing at this point, they honk when they’re warning you. But then when they start spreading their wings and approaching you, they’re not being friendly. You should back away just like just slowly take a few steps, big steps back and kind of spread your arms wide, because they will see that as a sign of you are larger than they are. And that if they really want to duke it out, you will totally win that. And you just have to remember that the geese are very, they’re not mean they just they’re really designed to protect their family. They will do this when their goslings are at risk. They will do this when their significant others are at risk but they only do it to protect their family. Not someone else’s goose family, not their friend, just their wife and children. 

PF See, this is a great piece of advice for the post apocalyptic environment we’re headed into or just wild flocks of geese are roaming city streets. This is very…

BP Yeah, mostly ruling. Most cities will be ruled.

PF That’s pretty much why worry about JavaScript at this point? [Ben laughs]

BP But Rachel, yeah, you grew up in a fairly rural environment. And you said that once this Bill and Melinda Gates thing happened, you were able to internet access and that was at your home or you would go to a library or how would you get the internet access? 

RN I went to a library for 30 minutes every other week when my mother was picking up groceries. And while I was there, the main driver for me to get online was Sailor Moon. This is a part of girl nerd culture that often goes overlooked. Like we could be talking about Power Rangers or Xmen right now. And I’m sure a lot of the audience would be like, Oh, yeah, I know those but if you’d haven’t heard of Sailor Moon, you need to go to Wikipedia and school yourself because your girl nerd friends know all about it. You got to get on the same wavelength here because this is some iconic nerdom right here. 

SC Yes! [Ben laughs]

PF This is real though, I will say like a universal set of sub 40 above 25 women programmers have Sailor Moon, like they’re connected to that narrative in their life. 

RN So what happened was Sailor Moon was released one and a half seasons in the United States. And it didn’t do that great. I mean, it really took off with young women, obviously. But corporate executives were like, the Sailor Moon stuff from Japan, I don’t know. And they didn’t bother to translate the last half of the second season. It ended on a cliffhanger and you’re genuinely like, Well what happens next? So if you are an obsessive nerd, what do you do? Obviously you get on the internet you go track down every issue of the manga was based on that hasn’t been translated, ordering order books on Japanese, you study Japanese, you go to Japanese fan sites for Sailor Moon, and you learn before Google translate all you can about how that season ended because you need to know. 

SC Yeah, I feel like there’s just something about the way that characters are drawn and the iconic way that it’s just a group of very powerful women. That just really draws us. 

RN And I just love that they, like I’ve read Xmen, and I was big fan of the Xmen cartoons growing up as well. Don’t get me wrong, Xmen was great. And I later learned about Xmen evolution, which was even greater, but they didn’t tell the stories of the women characters. And then when I saw Sailor Moon, I was like, Wait, you mean there can be superheroes who are women, and we can just talk about school and boys. And I mean, it wasn’t one to one, there were quite a few marriage fantasies the main character had and I was like totally clocking out on those because like, it was not my dream. But it was so nice to see that and it inspired me to make my own comics. 

BP And so comics were kind of the stepping stone for you to get into a little bit of web graphics and design, right?

RN Well, if you make art, you got to share it with people. And so I set up my own little geocity site, I bought a scanner and learned how to do digital pre press so that I could make my art things that good on the web, and put up a little profile and portfolio. And I ended up in a really lucky position where a really cool kind of anti authoritarian women’s site for young women, it was called girl Gurl.com. 

SC Great! 

RN And it’s kind of like the Teen Vogue of its time, they picked up my comics, and that was what allowed me to, to actually leave the middle of nowhere and move to a, like a nice city with a bus and kick off my life. It took a while, but I got there. 

BP So one thing you tell me, which I thought was fascinating was you were making the decision about where to move. I think you said at one point you had 400,000 young women sort of tuning in every time you released a comic. And if this had been the era of maybe Patreon that could have been you whole business but you were sort of not really driving a ton of revenue through that. And so you had to move in. You chose a city with a bus so you didn’t have to get a car so you could buy a laptop right? 

RN When I was 17. I had saved some cash from well waitressing. You don’t make a lot waitressing. You really don’t in the middle of nowhere and I’d saved it up. And most of my peers this age, were going to high school and had an actual need to drive a car I had the luxury of being homeschooled, so I didn’t critically need a car to get to school yet. I chose rather than buying a pickup truck or a little thing to get me to a community college, I bought a laptop and convinced my mom to invest in internet access for us. It was probably the better investment because it was with that laptop, I was able to increase my velocity. So I wasn’t just working on my site with for half an hour every two weeks. I was able to work on my site wherever I was and just connect to the internet and I started building bigger sites. I built a Drupal community to nonnect other young women from around the world was called mangapunk.com from around the world, we would come together trade comic-ing tips for how to do art better. We would promote each other’s work review anime together. It was, it was amazing. I still have friends and still hear from people who joined that community. And I think that for me, my whole journey professionally has always been about community. It’s a core value to everything that I do. Because even now that I work at Facebook, I’m still totally, I believe in the community portion of the work that I do, I believe in bringing the React community together. But also I love the things that people build with react to help steward their own communities in the wild. 

SC I run into a lot of other people that are homeschooled, that are turned out to be programmers and I think about how, you know a lot of people think of homeschooling as your mom standing in the front of the room and with a chalkboard, but it’s a lot of self driven learning that at least that was my experience. Do you think that prepares you for a life of constant self driven learning? 

RN I would say so. I mean, it’s interesting for me because I’m one of the few homeschooled people I know in the London office here. And we have so much onboarding to, you know, make sure that people go directly from college to their new job. There’s so much like adjustment made and and every time I see this, it’s so foreign to me that people would need these resources. And I mean, I can totally see how helpful it is to adjust from school culture to work culture. But I’ve always existed in work, work culture, I was essentially just on my own in the woods with a stack of books for the longest time. If you don’t know something, you go, you figure it out and very autonomous in that regard. So it’s not the autonomy I have trouble learning. For me. It’s more about getting into the rhythm of Oh, yeah, there are other people in this room. They might like to know what I’m working on. We might want to work together on some things. I should pull on the same mindset I used to steward communities and bring that to the table.

BP And Sara has talked before about something that I thought was really interesting, which is eustress you know, the opposite of distress, which is like, you’re working on a problem and you know that you’re going to be able to find the solution or you feel that you can. And there’s almost an excitement to that, that pushes you through it. And I feel like you’re learning on your own without, you know, a friend next to you who you can whisper in your ear or a teacher who’s gonna, you know, like, sort of help you along. If you’re falling behind, you get really good at cultivating that talent. And then that I think really pays off when it comes to programming, which can often be a very solitary, you know, pursuit. 

RN It can be.

PF There’s a paradox here, right, which is that autodidacts, you get good at just learning things and being good at them and sort of setting goals for yourself. And then you also have, you know, the large part of your career is educating and supporting and helping people come into and understand standards and platforms. Talk a little bit about that, because that’s a that’s a pretty big, to go from I’m going to figure this out because I want to figure it out, to I’m going to help people understanding become empowered with these technologies is actually a very big jump. 

RN You’re absolutely right. In fact, I can see that in my tech career as well. I went from being, you know, production web designer during the recession, to sort of table flipping my way out of being underemployed and just traveling the world giving talks, showing off all the cool creative things I could do with some API’s and some CSS. And I loved that. But you reach a certain point in your life, eventually. Not everybody does, but a lot of us do, where you’ve done all the cool things. It’s not as gratifying. It’s hard to put it. It’s like I know, I know. I do cool things and I don’t need people patting me on the head saying that’s a really cool thing anymore. I actually get a lot more out of seeing the cool things other people make. And I’m more interested in watching their talks, then getting up on stage and sharing my talks. And that’s gets to the same sort of feeling I had back when I was building those sites for people to come together on, you know, with Drupal, that community that I’d stewarded It was not let’s have a Rachel party. It was let’s have a together party. I loved that. And I did teach people how to draw better. I did give people feedback and reviews and we work together to build better things. So, yeah, for a good deal of my career, I did love traveling and talking and being the individual contributor. But as I got older, and I met more people and more, more people that come up from behind, you know, like, there’s new people coming onto the speaking circuit and doing amazing new things with code every single week. And you kind of sometimes you look back and you’re like, I don’t think I have anything left to say, but they really do. So I’ve transitioned more into that teacher role, make room on the stage or make another place at the table.

PF What makes a good student?

RN Okay, this one I can answer because I have to remind myself of this all the time, as a student, the best thing you can bring to the table is curiosity and a lack of shame. And I know that sounds weird. But you want to be curious, if you’re not curious about what you’re learning, you can’t learn it, you’re just not going to be interested. If you’re not curious about something, don’t force it, walk away, go find something you are curious about, or maybe come back later. Or try to find something that will hook you into it. Like, if you love Sailor Moon, but you’re not that interested in React. How can you make an app that hooks you up with your ideal sailor scout based on your birthday and blood type? You know, try to find a hook for it.

PF That’s a very specific example. That is amazing. 

BP Yeah, Rachel, I think what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. I’m a big jujitsu player. And so I spent a lot of time doing that. And the way I’ve always described it is the same except I use the word ego in place of shame but you know, if you are able to make it about continuously learning so every time you lose use that you’re like, why did I lose that way? Or like, can you show me that thing that you did that, you know, I couldn’t get out of. Then the ego part being like, if you leave every day feeling, you know, depressed about it, it’s hard to go back the next day. But if you can just be like, Look, there’s always gonna be people who are better than me worse than me equal to me and I should be rolling with all three of those types if I want to get the most out of it, you know?

RN Yeah, exactly. And I mean, I have to do that here. I’m working with the people who build React. That’s they’re job. You know, they’re, they’re top of the line engineers. They’re smart. They know more about computer science than I do, or will, most likely, and I have to just accept that some days, someone’s going to point something out and be like, Rachel, this is super obvious to everyone else in the room. And I’m gonna be like, Oh, no, oh, you totally found the thing that I don’t know. I’m humiliated and I could go cry in a corner about it. Or I could just say thank you. I appreciate your pointing that out to me and tuck it into my notebook and remember it for the future. Nobody is as hung up on it as I am. At least not on the team I’m on. During the recession I was on on a team where people made me feel bad for not knowing things, and I felt like I had to know everything inside and out so that when I would say something I would be unassailable, so that they could never say Rachel doesn’t know her shit. And that is a really toxic mindset. I mean, it makes a lot of sense. And a lot of women and people from minoritized groups come into the industry feeling that way. And feeling so terrified that someone’s going to call them out and say, basically, you’re fake. You don’t belong here. You’re not good enough. And sometimes that happens, and it’s very traumatizing. But fortunately, as we get older, I’ve learned that the trick is not to, how do I put this the trick isn’t how I have to learn everything about this so that I’m unassailable. And I’m the expert. That is a really, really exhausting way to go about your career or your life. It’s far better to find people who say, That’s okay. None of us are experts at anything really anyway, or we’re only experts about a few things but all together we make up expertise. You want to find a team, a group of people that has a healthy, positive approach to learning and never shames you for it. And I think you’ll go further and farther in your career if you can do that.

BP Rachel, tell us a little bit about your experience during the recession. I think that was a pretty formative time for you. It certainly was for me as a journalist working out of my parents basement and emailing anybody I could think of to try to take my writing. Tell us a little bit about that. And then how you made the transition to working at you know, sort of the big tech companies from there.

RN Well, that was quite the story. So I was an award winning cartoonists with 400 thousand of teenage girls reading my comics around the world every week, was very fulfilling. I was getting emails every day from young women say thank you. Your comics helped me through a hard time. I still get these actually. It’s really cool. It’s like getting the gang back together again. But it was so fulfilling, right. But there is a problem. Even award winning cartoonists in the United States. I don’t make enough to rise above the poverty line. I needed surgery and jaw surgery specifically, and I didn’t have health insurance because this was before Obamacare made that a thing that everybody could and should have. And I was like, oh, man, I got to do something differently. What of my skills would somebody pay me to do and it turns out all the work I’d done with the comics online, the Drupal site, the OS commerce, shopping cart, the tin can PHP newsletter, all this stuff that I was doing to support my my comics and my community. People would pay me a lot more to do that in an advertising agency or a small website, chop shop. So I ended up taking a very small job, the very, like right before the recession. I was a web designer because they looked at my portfolio and they didn’t look at the code. They looked at the art. They were like, she is an arter. And I joined and I look back and I’m like, What the heck are they doing putting you knew as much PHP as the people starting at Facebook. [Ben laughs] You’re a developer, but they made a very specific judgment call on my skills and I didn’t know better. They saw a woman, they saw art, they assumed designer. And I actually hated designing. I hate it to this day. I hate it because there’s no objectivity in it. Anybody with no expertise or background can show up, look over your shoulder and say, I don’t like that color, or that fonts a little small, don’t you think? And I can’t show them a study. I can’t show them a report or graph and say Shut up and get out of my work. So I really liked CSS and cut into CSS because it was something nobody could see. But they could see the results and far better designers than me would throw me a Photoshop document. And I would just work on turning that into something interactive and beautiful. I wasn’t having the greatest time at that job. And then the recession hit, and I’m actually really happy that it went the way it did. I lost my first job three months in because the recession hit. And I determined that I was going to become the best front end developer in my area. And I proceeded to live up to that dream and I took over the local front end developer meetup and wrangle a bunch of really amazing organizers to carry it was it was the start of a new era for Rachel. I still mourned not being an award winning cartoonist anymore. And I felt like I’d left behind my whole community and everything. I wish I’d slow down and looked around and realized that I was still building a community and I was making new friends and a lot of the things that I did with cartooning and comics and graphics, they really gave me an advantage when it came to taking new API’s like the web animations API, or CSS animations and transitions and doing things with them that a lot of the developers and in my circles just couldn’t dream of doing because they didn’t have that 10,000 hours worth of creative work under their belt. The downside was that because I started my career, during the recession I started at over ridiculously low salary, guess how much I made?

BP Alright. I was a blogger at the New York Observer in 2010. And I made less than $32,000. So I’m just gonna throw that out there.

RN Okay. I went from making 16,500 per year as an award winning cartoonist, which was a lot for a waitress in the forest to 24,000 per year as a junior web designer. So I remember as the years turned over, I went on to work at different places. And it was so hard just to get people to get me up to 50 grand. Eventually, as I was speaking and traveling and like countries, like you know, I was getting these invitations to speak in Balogna in Italy, in Barcelona in Spain, to teach at a university in Denmark for the summer, I was getting all these great opportunities. I love travel. I just looked at these jobs where people were fighting me on just giving me a MacBook Pro to take home at night. And I was like, You know what, I don’t need to do this anymore. And the things you’re giving me to do are boring and not creative. And I’m very bored. And I’m not being paid very well. And we all know it. I’m going to just go be somewhere else. And thus began my attempt to do web animation as a service. Don’t do that. I mean, it’s like making award winning comics. It just doesn’t pay that well. But it did allow me to travel all over the world. I got to work at the W3C as an invited expert. I did some collaborations with Mozilla on the web animations API. Well, at MDN. I did all the documentation and demos for the web animations API. They’re all Alice in Wonderland themed, I did the art. And with Mozilla, we celebrated the launch of their animation tooling with this little thing called devtoolschallenger.com, which is I’m just so proud of it because I used I used The services of an amazing Portland cartoonist I know. And she did all the little deep sea critter illustrations. And that was the first time I got I got my teeth into being like a creative director on a project. And it’s just a beautiful example of what five people can do in five weeks. And I went from that after I was traveling the world and doing all this turns out, I realized, wait, what people can get paid to do things like this, they get paid. Like that’s a developer advocacy thing, what and I had the opportunity to go work at Microsoft on the Edge browser as a program manager for their community team. I did that for 13 months. And then I went to work at Booking in Amsterdam for a third year at that I was like, actually, I don’t want to work on design systems at booking This is to production. I want to go back to building things that empower people to build other things. And I had the opportunity to work on the React team with Facebook. And that was I think this is probably my favorite big tech place to work. I like big tech jobs because they pay really well and I like working for myself. And I like them because I get to work next to a bunch of amazing engineers who are also paid super well. So you know, they’re like, really, really happy engineers. I love that about Microsoft. I got to work with all these comp and rendering people working on the browser. And I just remember my mother had been a systems analyst, but she burned out and she wouldn’t talk about it. She didn’t encourage me to get into game development when I wanted to, etc. She always encouraged me to get into art. I think it’s because she was burned out and she just didn’t want to see me burn out. too late for that Mom! 

BP Sorry. Just to jump in for one second. Microsoft. Obviously people know what is Bookings in Amsterdam? I’m not sure I know what that is.

RN Booking.com in Amsterdam. It was it was a rough time in life. A lot of things happened, so much so that to list them here would really depress the audience and I don’t want to, but we’ll just say that there were a lot of changes and I had the opportunity to go to Amsterdam to work on get this, bringing motion design to the design system that booking.com the travel agency was putting into place. And that just sounded like a perfect bringing together of my skills with motion design and my history and expertise with that with going back into some production work and get this a wonderful European city like everyone should, you know, they love traveling go actually live in a city. It seems like it made a lot of sense at the time. And you know, like I wrote a book on UI animation. It kind of makes sense. Oh, I should plug that book too. You can find it at a bookapart.com. It’s animation at work.

PF What color is it?

RN It’s purple!

PF Ah, it’s the purple one. 

RN Yeah, I chose that color. Because it’s amazing.

PF Very good. 

BP And so yeah, you went over to Facebook, which you found you liked quite a bit. Tell us a little bit about sort of like your entry into the world of React, you know, and then what it is you do now there, why do you think that’s becoming such a popular language for folks and then a little bit about how you do your signal boosting as you travel around, one of my favorite stories from our first interview was the magazine’s, the zines you leave in the ladies room.

RN So there’s a natural connection between my experiences with user interface animation and user interface design. With react. One of the hardest challenges to solve when it comes to animation in interfaces, state management. This was something that I feel like at the W3C, we were never able to really tackle. If you look at the state management libraries today, you’ll see that there are many different approaches. And none of them are really perfect. Native developers, people who are working with Android and iOS actually have a significant advantage when it comes to interface animations and gestures. Because those platforms were built for interaction. Whereas the web is still very much a document model. It’s very much like here’s some text on a page, why have a video you can embed that there’s no handling for gestures, because then you would get into patent law. I’m sure there’s all sorts of things there. Just not in the process of being standardized. So, people, what do developers do when they don’t have access to something they want to do? They build their own version. And so we found that the proliferation of libraries, you know, React and View etc. A lot of them really pay off not just from being able to componentize and standardized designs across the system. This is, you know, design systems really benefit from people using libraries like React, and Ember. But also, they make animations more possible because you can handle state when you’ve got the front end layer, so decoupled from the back end logic, you’re able to handle things like state, you’re able to transition from one state to the next. And it’s really complex and difficult to do that with web standards as they are. And that’s one of the reasons why libraries like these have become so popular and one of the reasons why I’m so curious about them to begin with. I started out playing around with view animations. And I gave a big talk on that at the first few conference in New Orleans. And after that, I started looking at reactive as thinking, you know, View is a great community. They’ve got Sarah Dresner. It’s got all this great animation demos and stuff. I’d love to see the React community have these things too.

SC That’s so neat! What is the React community like, like if you could talk a little bit about how you work together and what you observed about people that work on React?

RN React is an interesting community. There are a fair number of people doing cool things in their spare time, you know, like me five years ago, and there’s also people who are using it all the way from you know, small Gatsby powered personal sites, to gigantic corporate engines that are center-piece for commerce. And when you mix in React Native into the mix, how many companies like Microsoft Windows uses React Native in its own interface? Now it’s right up there with SAML right. So when we think of react, we tend to think of like HTML and CSS and JavaScript. But that’s not what react is. React is an engine for handling user interfaces. You couple it with react DOM and boom, you’re building websites, you’re spitting out HTML. But with React Native, what it does is it spits out views, which are what platforms like iOS and Android use. So it’s kind of this amazing little engine that can go anywhere. There’s react VR for VR headsets, there’s, oh my gosh, there’s multiple companies using react in their interfaces for televisions. So if the possibilities with react are kind of endless, what do you want to build? What’s your platform, and then you can just hook it up. And that’s so exciting. So we have this wide, diverse group. There’s a huge contingent of React Native developers in India. You know, from the outside looking in. When I first came to the React community, I was thinking wow, they’re not as many women in the React community as there are in the view community. But when I got here I started this project called the women at the heart of react seen partly because of this, I realized, Wow, there are so many women in react you just don’t see them because they’re like committing to core or they’re organizing conferences and meetups at or you know, they’re quietly plugging away at their work a day programmers job and, I wanted to highlight some of that. So I put together a little zine to help cast a spotlight on some of the women in the community who have been doing great work all along. 

SC Yeah, how do people get your zine? 

RN So you can read, to get the zine, you like have to know somebody who has a copy of the zine, which is usually me or another conference organizer who I have deputized with a small stack of them. Sometimes you’ll find them in the women’s restrooms at various events, because that seems like a good place to deposit them. Now, of course, I have published all these stories. So if you go to reactJS.org/stories, you can read all of the women in the heart of react stories there. Their interviews with women who’ve committed to core, who organized communities and meetups in their areas. And it’s a very sweet thing. I look forward to continuing to expand the site as we go along. There’s a link at the bottom of each story saying tell us your story. I would love to be able to tell stories about the people who are organizing and creating the face of react around the world. I wanted to make sure that people could actually read the stories without being physically advantaged enough to get a copy of the zine.

BP Let me ask you one more question. You know, for a lot of people, Facebook is obviously a company at the cutting edge of a lot of cool technologies from AI to VR and many others. You know, people assume that it’s intimidating and difficult to get into. It’s one of the biggest technology brands in the world. What was it like getting in there? What’s that experience? You know, how would you describe it to other men and women who might want to you know, apply to work there.

RN Alright. Gonna be totally 100% frank with your audience here and give them the real skinny on how you break into a large tech company.

BP Yeah. How do you ace the interview?

RN Well, you can, you can go get the big Cracking the Coding interview book, if you want, if you want to come in as a software engineer, and, you know, if you have a computer science background, then this book is basically like just cramming before a test. But a lot of people, especially women, I found in my my circles, they were very shy about applying to work at one of these companies. And indeed, when I applied at Microsoft and Facebook, I was very well, we’ll just see if this goes anywhere in in the application process. I really didn’t get my hopes up because I’d heard all the stories and to be honest, I’ve interviewed at Amazon and I have been on a web design interview where they sprung a surprise presentation on me that I’d had no time to prepare for the day of and then I had another interview. Which was supposed to be for a, you know, front end developer. It was supposed to be very CSS heavy. I ended up whiteboarding algorithms. And it was the end of each of these, the recruiters like you were on the wrong loop. Oh, my gosh, I really need to have a better track record. But the point is, there are actually a number of jobs that don’t require you to whiteboard algorithms at these companies. For instance, at Facebook, we hire, you know, essentially, front end developers to be working with user interfaces, designs, you can come in through design. I remember in Seattle, there used to be the saying, if you want to get into Amazon, go in through the soft underbelly apply as a designer because they don’t know good design, and they’ll hire just about anybody. I mean, that was many years ago. But the idea was that if you wanted to get better at the kinds of things they were hiring for, the best way was to take a job that you could do really, really well and then transition once you were in into a job that allows you more time to prepare, because then you get to study what they’re actually using in production. And you can learn from your colleagues. And one of the number one best points about working for companies like this is that you get to be around colleagues who are superlative at their work and sponged information off them. I mean, that’s kind of what I do. So I found that like, there are all kinds of roles if you’re great at teaching, documentation, engineering, or technical writing can be a great path. When I came to Facebook as a technical writer, essentially, we call it a documentation engineer, because you kind of have to be good at code to write about code. But it’s a great place to start. If you’re interested in teaching people. There’s developer advocacy, we are spinning up our developer advocacy team. It’s pretty amazing, hot and heady times. It’s It’s a lovely place to be. I feel like there are so many opportunities for people with different different backgrounds and passions, and don’t let the whiteboarding nightmare tails discourage you. Take a look. Look at the job boards, talk to your friends who work at those companies and see if there’s a niche for you. And prepare for it.

BP Alright, we have to wrap but I want to say thank you so much for participating. We’re really excited to share your story. And I’m, I’m feeling like maybe we should even include your zine as a digital download when we publish it. I don’t know is that is that a possibility?

RN That’s a great idea. We should do it.

BP Really excited for that. So I am Ben Popper, Director of content here at Stack Overflow. You can find me on Twitter @BenPopper.

SC Awesome. I’m Sara Chipps. You can find me @SarahJChipps on Twitter, and I’m the director of community here at Stack Overflow. 

RN I’m Rachel Nabors, on community and education at the React team at Facebook. You can find me on Twitter @RachelNabors. 

PF I’m Paul Ford. I’m the CEO of a software and services company that loves react called Postlight We build with it all the time. And if you need me, I’m at @ftrain on Twitter.

[OUTRO MUSIC]

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