Episode #14 - James Tucker talks about life as a full stack dev and shares advice on getting started
James is a full stack developer based in Minneapolis currently working at Soona Studios. He loves Vue and Rails, and tweeting about tech, startups and big ideas.
In this Episode
In this fourth episode of season 2, James Tucker is joining us. James is a full stack developer based in Minneapolis currently working at Soona Studios. He loves Vue and Rails, and tweeting about tech, startups and big ideas.
James talks about his love of the web and how he moved from a potential career as a pastor into web development. He also shares some tips and advice on how to get started in development and his experiences to date.
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We mention a few different resources in the show and you can find them here:
- Find James on Twitter.
- Visit James' website, to see what he's up to.
You can find out more about me, Rob Kendal, on my personal website, or follow me on Twitter.
[00:00:00] Rob Kendal: [00:00:00] Joining us today, we are very grateful to have James Tucker who you may or may not have seen around the Twitterverse ihe's had a sort of relatively meteoric rise, I'd say. Virtually unknown to super popular, but James is full stack developer based in Minneapolis. Is that right?
[00:00:13] James Tucker: [00:00:13] Correct? Yep.
[00:00:15] Rob Kendal: [00:00:15] Working at sooner studios are he loves Vue and rails and tweeting about tech, startups and big ideas. So, James, how's it going?
[00:00:22]James Tucker: [00:00:22] It's going great, Rob. Thanks. Thanks for having me on here. Excited to get to know you more and share more about my journey.
[00:00:28] Rob Kendal: [00:00:28] Yeah, definitely what, we had this discussion offline, I think, but it was it's about lunchtime where you are so noon.
[00:00:34] James Tucker: [00:00:34] It is. Yeah. Yep. Yeah, and I haven't, I haven't even had breakfast yet. And so it was probably time for me to eat. after this, but it's gone noon. Yeah.
[00:00:43] Rob Kendal: [00:00:43] If you start going downhill throughout the record and it's just cause they, the blood sugar is getting lower.
[00:00:47] James Tucker: [00:00:47] Yeah, well, I have tons of caffeine in me. Should be good to go. I've got like three cups.
[00:00:52] Rob Kendal: [00:00:52] I think it's a, I think it's a, it's a inherently British thing that we're very interested in time zones because we don't have one, you know, we have three or four countries like welded together to make the United Kingdom, but they all share the same time zone. So when you come across people who are like several hours behind or ahead head, it's always quite, I dunno yet. We get weirdly excited about it. Same as we do, as soon as you do with the weather. Cause it's just how we work.
[00:01:13] Now you've been a software developer for just over a year now, professionally. how are you finding it?
[00:01:19] James Tucker: [00:01:19] Oh, it's it's, you know, it's everything I wanted it to be . yeah. It was. I think in my first year anniversary in June of this year. Super grateful to be in this industry.
[00:01:29] Rob Kendal: [00:01:29] Yeah. Has there been, have you found it quite welcoming?
[00:01:31] James Tucker: [00:01:31] It has. Yeah. The Minneapolis, Minnesota tech seems like kind of like a small family I mean, it's pretty close knit. Everybody kind of knows each other. A lot of awesome events and then like the Twitter tech community is, you know, especially welcoming too. I haven't been a huge fan of social media for the last few years. Different reasons, but. I found that like I've really enjoyed the Twitter community.
[00:01:53] Rob Kendal: [00:01:53] Yeah. I think it's very easy with social media, Twitter's of, less than Facebook, but I find that it's [00:02:00] very easy to, to kind of open the door to negativity, like a little bit, and then he kind of just kicked it open and it's just a flood of like really negative energy and, you know, say what you will about it. I think it does start to bring you down and it's easier to shut a lot of it kind of just out cause people are very different online, you know? I think I'm not really. I think there are a few people who were kind of the same in real life. but I, I think a lot of people they're very different because they have that anonymity, it'd be a bit braver behind and anything where people can be a bit, gatekeepy and a bit guarded about it, you know, tech's one of them and I think, I feel like it's a bit of an older guard. I'll certainly like a white male thing, which unfortunately I am, but like, Yeah, it's a white male thing for people want to closely guard it and not let anyone in but I'm glad you, I'm glad you kind of find it okay. And how, how is your work at sooner studios? What do you do there?
[00:03:45] Rob Kendal: [00:03:45] That's super useful. I having built a few eCommerce sites in my time, I can tell you the kind of. You do this beautiful design and then someone comes with this, like, suite of like photos that they've taken on some really old Nakia camera. And [00:04:00] he's like, Oh, I just did it in my back garden. And it's, it just kind of brings in tight, but I want to charge premium prices for this thing that looks like blurry. Really really low res in your like, you can't sell that. It's not good. That's a good one. Great idea. but Ruby on rails. I used to work at a place where the backend part of their business was all kind of Ruby and it just looked like another world.
[00:04:20] You've experienced quite a breadth of, of technology. I think in your relatively early start to your career. Do you, have you got like a lean in for anything in particular? Do you prefer the Ruby side or more kind of a Vue and things like that?
[00:05:09] Rob Kendal: [00:05:09] Do you know, I haven't, I'm very much react fan boy.
[00:05:12] It's like language walls, but I I've used it a little bit. I've got full stack Vue, like the book. I kind of one of those, I mean, to go through it, but it's like anything, if you don't use it, you know, it's like, you can learn as much as you want and you can kind of you'll you'll recognize bits, but to actually you need to be using it relatively day in, day out. I think to, to make the most of it. So, no, I haven't but hear good things about it. and I certainly don't love React enough to hate on Vue.
[00:05:38] Always be open
[00:05:38] to it.
[00:05:40] James Tucker: [00:05:40] Yeah, for sure.
[00:05:41] Rob Kendal: [00:05:41] I it's interesting what you said about the people hate on you for using the term full stack. And it's, we we've covered this before in previous episodes where we kind of think of is the term kind of front end and backend still kind of applicable. Cause it's so blurry now, depending what you get into, you know, if you, if you still just use. [00:06:00] JQuery to do stuff on the, on the front end and you do CSS. Great. That's very much front end, but a lot of it like, like my role now. Yeah. I'm building a front end application in React, but I've also got to do some stuff with Lambdas and. Dynamo tables and it's kind of, it's so blurry in the middle. I think people get away from the fact that development is, is more of a kind of. A way of breaking problems down into smaller bits and the things that you use to do that are kind of really tools. You know, if you, if you know about object oriented programming as a concept, it's easy, it's easy enough to transfer it in a different language. It's just kind of learning the quirks of that language. If you like.
[00:06:34] James Tucker: [00:06:34] Exactly. you had a tool, the tools and the silos are starting to get blurred, I think, yeah, in front of, I think that it's really hard to get even hired as a front end dev if you don't have some experience connecting the back to the front.
[00:06:48] Rob Kendal: [00:06:48] Yeah. I mean, certainly from my experience, I've seen a lot more people. I don't like the term kind of like culture fit, but I've seen a lot more people just going look, do you have good experience in development? Full stop? are you like, you know, not a murderer and if those two things are kind of fine, then you'll fit in the team really well. That seems to be a lot better. I'm now we all love a good, how I got into development story. How did you find your way into development?
[00:07:11] Because I think I saw on your website that you were, an aspiring pastor. did you get very, did you get very far into the kind of training for that lifestyle? Or like what, what made you steer away from it?
[00:07:20] James Tucker: [00:07:20] That's a great question. And, Yeah, people are always intrigued or surprised. Like my CEO that's one of the biggest things about my story was. You know, she was just intrigued by the fact that I wanted to be a pastor. And so, yeah, I got super far into it. I grew up in a pretty religious household. Basically my childhood, I had. Just grew up hearing. No, you're. You're you're you're you're a good guy. So maybe you should just be a pastor right there weren't really any other career options that were presented to me. So for undergrad for university actually went to study. I got a degree in theological studies. So I spent. Oh, Five years to get my degree. I will say that story for another [00:08:00] time, but. so yeah, so I spent five years training to be pastors taking courses, took a lot of public speaking classes. and then, you know, I'm originally from New York and I moved to Minnesota and I started. I was an intern at a church. under a pastor and, things just didn't work out, but, I did get pretty far into it. Like six years of my life spent preparing for it.
[00:08:23] Rob Kendal: [00:08:23] Wow. That's that's quite the dedication. do you find that kind of helped a lot with, I know people talk about soft skills and that kind of, like communication and like personal relationships with the people in, in kind of the tech industry. And some of that is forgotten by some people they focus very much on. You know, they can be the best devs in the world, but miss the human element, do you find having that training is kind of helped at all? Or, I mean, certainly I think having known that about you now that comes across a little bit on your tweets, cause they are very, kind of very positive, very uplifting, very about the people and helping them. Do you find that has helped you?
[00:08:57] James Tucker: [00:08:57] Yeah. you know, I used, I used to think that my past was kind of wasted, you know, that my past experience just wasn't useful for them currently doing, but. I think that some of the. Some of the trace that, let me tell you even want to be a pastor like. I don't know, maybe. Empathizing with people or, even teaching, right? Cause like, That was a huge part of. Of just being a pastor or priest or whatnot. And development I feel like. Especially if you're coming from a side where your background's not as technical as, as other people in the field, people who've stayed in state CS programming on there. You know their calculators since they were nine years old. That, I really make up for my lack of technical expertise with my ability to like, kind of teach what I'm learning as I'm going along. and then also just like to public speaking experience. I think that's helped me. Sooner. as gambling. Chances to like lead lunch and learns, or like lead different meetings were explained technology to like my coworkers are our non-tech employees. So, yeah, I think that it's definitely [00:10:00] served me well.
[00:10:00] Rob Kendal: [00:10:00] We touched on Twitter before, but I think it'd be amiss if I didn't mention the fact that you've had quite a good rise on that. Cause I think I came across the firm. However you come across people on Twitter.
[00:10:11] James Tucker: [00:10:11] Yeah.
[00:10:11] Rob Kendal: [00:10:11] but I think I hit you about two, 300 people, and then it's just gone like skyrocketed. how have you found that dev community on Twitter? He was quite good, but if you found it a useful resource personally?
[00:10:24] James Tucker: [00:10:24] Yeah. I mean, I think being on this podcast and talking to you is that a good example of how it's you know, I really benefited from it, you know, like, As a dev. You know, a small American city and just starting out my career and not a lot of people really know who I am and that's okay. You know, like at this stage, in my journey, I don't even necessarily want to be known by a lot of people, but because of Twitter, I mean, I connected with you in the UK and I find that so fascinating and so awesome. Right. Six hours, six, seven hours apart in different time zones.
[00:11:00] But, but yeah. Just been awesome meeting with devs from like Nigeria and Poland. different parts of the world. you know, I think I've gained. I'm just gained so much I've learned a lot in terms of information about how to be a dev, but also just, I just opened my eyes to like, Other people's experiences and other, and all their cultures.
[00:11:19] Rob Kendal: [00:11:19] No, that's cool. I think it's important as well. I mean, there 's always something to learn and that's the key thing for me, you know? I mean, I don't like using the kind of terms junior dev, where it I can, but that's kind of a typical path in, but certainly for someone like yourself, who's, you know, w we'll say like early on in your career, you know, like you're a year into it. I'm sort of. 15 years plus, but you know, I think it's, it's fascinating that this people who I could learn a lot from you. You know, Ruby on rails aside, you know, it's, it's always great to see people just come in with a different viewpoint and a different attitude and they just know different things. Cause they've had different experiences and I think that's certainly part I like about it and I've made some really good friends on that. so I definitely, [00:12:00] recommend people get on there.
[00:12:01] Do you have any tips for anyone looking to engage with more people on Twitter or maybe grow their account a bit?
[00:12:06] James Tucker: [00:12:06] Probably not going to be coming out of a course. Like, I feel like that's kind of a trend, right? I have a gum road course or something.
[00:12:14] Or a book I don't plan on doing that soon. I mean, I don't really have time for that or, you know, just, just be yourself, be yourself, be kind. I think. Like I am in shock that I've grown so much because I didn't even really necessarily set out to. You know, I was really discouraged at first. Cause when I had like, last August or whatnot. I started last August. And then like, even January of this year, I had like 18 followers. I felt like I was talking into outer space, right? you know, a few things that have helped with growing is just, Kind of having a. Like a nature, stain stain of a certain theme. And I think that my theme might seem you know, like I've kind of developed a mission of helping other people, you know, make their transition easier. Or just more of 'em. There's a guy on Twitter, Shaun Wang. I forgot what his Twitter handle it was, but he's really big on learning in public. And so basically, you know, no matter your level of expertise, when you're learning something new, you know, try to teach it as you go. because one you're going to reinforce it and then two. You know, you're helping other people. And then three, you're opening yourself up to external feedback that will expedite your growth, from just trying to learn on your own. and so I found that like doing that, like writing blog posts, or just sharing what I'm learning through tweets, like bite-size tweets has really resonated with people.
[00:13:30] Rob Kendal: [00:13:30] that's a really good point that kind of do it as you're learning, same with refactoring, you know,don'tl put it off till this kind of mythical time in the future where it'll never happen, you know, I'll write the article that, yeah, that'd be great. I'll do it next week. I won't. If you've literally learned how to do something sticky in a blog article and they don't have to be massive, you know, I think. Everyone associates with them with being 2000 words long. And it's like, no, it just, just a few hundred will do you just get the point across. And it's easier for people to absorb.
[00:13:53] But that leads me on a good point about Twitter and blogs and content things. And you share a lot of great content. And I think that's one of the [00:14:00] good draws for people, especially people who are learning to code. It's a lot easier to identify with someone like yourself. Who's like at the earlier stages in their career. And think I can, I can get that too. so I mean on that, what advice do you have to new developers starting out or looking at getting into development.
[00:14:15] James Tucker: [00:14:15] you know, one of my biggest things is like, don't get stuck in tutorial hell. I mean, it's almost like a cliche to say that now, but, when I was gained to development, I was forewarned about watching too many tutorials and getting stuck, but I still did it. Right. And, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm one of the devs who has. You know, 500 Udemy courses I really only watch like two of them.
[00:15:23] Rob Kendal: [00:15:23] Plus there's only so many ways you can learn the same thing. I mean,
[00:15:26] James Tucker: [00:15:26] Yeah.
[00:15:46] What advice would you give to past James?
[00:15:49] James Tucker: [00:15:49] Probably number one, probably take notes. Everything take notes. Of what you're learning during the course. I mean, if, if you. You know, if you're, if you're on the [00:16:00] job, take notes from what, everything that your manager has said, like in a meeting. So you don't have to ask twice, like take notes when somebody tells you about like a certain, like terminal command. So you can reference that later, you know, taking notes, When you, come across a pretty cool resource that you want to reference in the future. I don't know, cause I. You know, I think that if I started earlier in my career, I'd have this huge toolbox of information I can synthesize into like helping other devs. And you've you. You know, the trading content. so I'd probably be more diligent with notes.
[00:16:33] Rob Kendal: [00:16:33] Take more notes. Do you think you've seen the development landscape change at all from where you started to where you are now? if so, how do you think it's changed?
[00:17:42] Rob Kendal: [00:17:42] This is going to go into these interesting fun facts. But, the word, accessibility gets shortened to like 'a' '11' and then 'y' and you see that the, what looks like ally. And I recognized it as accessibility, but I didn't know until I saw something on dev two with a graphic on it, that it comes from the word [00:18:00] accessibility. So accessibility is a 13 letter word, And if you remove the middle 11 characters, which is where the 11 comes from, then you get that kind of 'a11y'.
[00:18:11] And I saw that about two days ago and was like, I was today years old when I realized where that came from. I always wondered why it was 11. I was like,
[00:18:19] James Tucker: [00:18:19] Yeah. Mind blown. Yeah. I just thought it was just like some standing for like double L or something. I don't know.
[00:18:28] Rob Kendal: [00:18:28] and I was like that, that is just brand new information and I, yeah, I'd very much like that. There you go.
[00:18:35] Do you do any coding, in your spare time and what sort of things are you building? Do you have any spare time?
[00:18:42] James Tucker: [00:18:42] Spare time. yeah. I mean as Soona's pretty good about work life balance. I mean, they try to keep me, even though it's a startup, they try to keep me working only like 40 hours a week. so. Yeah, I haven't done.
[00:18:54] A lot of personal coding the last month or so because I feel like I'm kinda recovering that created myself from doing too much coding in my spare time But I was working on a side project called Teach Yourself Code, a React project where users could watch YouTube videos but not being distracted by other videos popping up on the side, but I also made it so you could add notes that would get added to each video.
[00:19:50] I told all my users that I'd keep working on it, and I haven't for a month, so there's probably quite a few bugs, but yeah, in the month I launched it, I got over 800 users! I mean, it's free and mostly it's just because I announced it on Twitter. If I didn't have a Twitter audience, I'd have like two users: myself and my mom probably.
[00:19:50] Rob Kendal: [00:19:50] Oh, It's good to, it's good to have the backup of the mums. They do not understand what we do, but at the same time. Mine do my do well, actually my parents said they kind of get the gist of what I [00:20:00] do, but I'm still not sure if they just assume it's like the matrix and I never got asked to fix printers. So that's, that's pretty good.
[00:20:06] James Tucker: [00:20:06] That's good, that's a step in the right direction.
[00:20:10] Rob Kendal: [00:20:10] My last question here's going to be, I noticed in my pre show stalking, I uncovered. you have a love of books. What sort of books you into?
[00:20:19] James Tucker: [00:20:34] Oh man, just like my wide range of careers before coding, my interests are quite varied, a lot of productivity stuff, non-fiction, just kind like life-hacking or brain-hacking type stuff. I've been really fascinated recently though about just like career switching.
[00:21:08] And so I've been reading this one book called Range: Why Generalists Triumph in the Age of Specialisation, by David Epstein. And he talks about how people who have very different interests are very well equiped for the future of work because it seems like you're gonna have to be more flexible within your careers. Thinking in the context of thinking of other people who want to switch into tech and how they shouldn't be ashamed about their past experiences, right.
[00:21:09] Like, if they were a baker and they were, you know, making cupcakes, there's some pretty cool skills that can translate to them being a developer.
[00:21:09] Rob Kendal: [00:21:09] I think it's one of the few kind of careers that is a bit easier to transition to later in life. Cause I'm, I'm nearly 40. If I want to be an airline pilot. That's tricky. Cause it's not only hugely expensive, but like I've got a self say 'it's all right family, we won't eat for a few years while I go and train to be a pilot'. it's not something you can kind of I'll do it on a weekend. I'll learn to fly 747's.
[00:21:30] It's very difficult. Where with coding. You can do half an hour here, do a few hundred Udemy tutorials on a weekend. I do coding mentorship and things. Now I've just had a guy at 49. Just got his first, coding job. And that's brilliant. You know, it is one of those age knows no bounds with it. You know, he just did, it worked really hard in his part time, you know, did all the kinds of algorithmic challenges and loads of other sort of stuff. And you know, it's nice to see him go through that. So it is one of the few industries, I think, where you can just go, I'm going to go and do that now.
[00:21:58] James Tucker: [00:21:58] That's amazing. 49. It's never too late!
[00:22:00] Rob Kendal: [00:22:02] Never too late, but good luck with that, buddy. Careful what you wish for. Oh, yeah. Any, any book recommendations then?
[00:22:10] James Tucker: [00:22:10] So definitely Range. I'm also reading this book called How to Change Your Mind by Michael Palin, and he did a lot of research into psychadelics and LSD and he's not necessarily encouraging the use of them or he might be. Where I live they're not legal but he talks a lot about how legit medical institutions are starting to do research into how chemicals and whatnot from these natural substances are helping people to recover from PTSD from combat or people who have really intense trauma from the past.
[00:22:11] Rob Kendal: [00:22:42] Imagine the sort of code you could write, if you just to took a hit of mushrooms as you started the day
[00:22:49] James Tucker: [00:22:49] You'd be really scared to push to production
[00:22:52] Rob Kendal: [00:22:52] As the Look, I mean we've, is there anything else you want to mention? Anything you want to plug? I think you want to give a shout out to?
[00:22:59] James Tucker: [00:22:59] No, I mean, your questions have been fantastic. I guess I could plug, no I already plugged Soona.
[00:23:00] Rob Kendal: [00:23:06] We'd better plug yourself, that would be, that'd be horrendous if we didn't. So if you want to follow James on Twitter, he's just at Tucker underscord dev (@tucker_dev) , go and check his website out. It's jamestucker.dev all on word, except for the .dev bit. But you know how websites work. If you don't then good luck with this podcast.
[00:23:22] and yeah, thank you very much for joining us.
[00:23:24] James Tucker: [00:23:24] Thanks Rob. It was a pleasure getting to know you and sharing a little about my journey
[00:23:24] Rob Kendal: [00:23:27] Thanks. Yeah, we'll see, we'll see you on Twitter.