- My journey at GitHub
- My next steps
- What draws me to working at TBD
- Change is scary
- My aspirations
Leaving a job I truly adore is a new experience for me. I'm not afraid to quit things if that means it will improve my quality of life, but I typically leave jobs when I hate the job, I'm struggling with my mental health, or I'm chasing fresh opportunities after acquiring new skills. This time is different. I find myself bidding farewell to a job I genuinely enjoy.
And you might be wondering, "Who the heck cares?" That's valid. Job announcements are a little pretentious. However, I believe in transparency regarding my career and technical journey. I want others to learn from my successes and failures, and this blog post is a part of that continued commitment.
In this blog post, I will:
- Reflect on my journey at GitHub.
- Share my next career move and the reasons behind it.
- Delve into the fears that come with such a transition.
- Outline my aspirations and the knowledge I aim to gain in the next chapter of my professional life.
Two years ago, I entered a new era of my career as a Junior Developer Advocate at GitHub. Before that, I was working as a software engineer and was desperate to become a developer advocate. I liked coding (and still do), but it was unfulfilling because my diverse skill set was not the best fit for the role. I wanted to empower, educate, and provide support to other technologists. After a few rejections and a slightly unconventional career journey, GitHub gave me a chance. I signed my offer in August 2021 and prematurely wrote this tweet announcing that people needed to follow me because I would work at GitHub. I didn't even start the job until September 7th 😆.
At GitHub, I:
- Made my first open source contribution
- Empowered others to engage in open source
- Spoke in a keynote
- Wrote blog posts that people actually read
- Live streamed for the first time
- Got my first promotion from junior to mid-level
- Embraced failure as a teacher, delivering less-than-ideal talks, championing questionable ideas, and occasionally flaking or oversleeping due to an overloaded schedule.
The most impactful part for me was the recognition and appreciation of my perspective by my colleagues and the broader developer community. Feeling valued and heard was a new experience for me, and I'm endlessly grateful that my company and the developer community supported my endeavors. I'm thankful that my coworkers, managers, and friends I made outside of GitHub knew how to help me highlight my strengths. As I reflect this week, nostalgia washes over me. I'll miss the relationships I've built over the last two years, from my teammates to the Blacktocats (our Black Employee Resource Group) and even the CEO and his team. I'll also miss the projects I invested so much time in, like Open Source Friday. However, new endeavors are on the horizon.
In a few weeks, I will be a Staff Developer Advocate at Block's newest business unit, TBD. Many companies acquire other companies or open source projects to help support their growth. Block, previously known as Square, also acquires other companies like Tidal, but it also supports in-house projects developed by their employees. TBD is an initiative led by individuals who have spearheaded projects at CashApp and other Block subsidiaries, with a focus on building decentralized technologies that advance economic empowerment.
In a rapidly evolving tech landscape, companies like GitHub, Microsoft, and OpenAI are pioneering the field of generative AI. I've had the privilege of participating in this exciting industry trend. So, you might wonder why I'm now choosing to transition to a company with a strong focus on decentralization.
I have a personal policy of saying yes. When I was ~20, I read the book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now. It's not the best book. (I was reading a lot of self-help books because, for some reason, I thought I failed at life when I turned 20). A quote in the book says, "Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids. Even if it's a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means you will do something new, meet someone new, and make a difference."
As I recently celebrated my 28th birthday, this philosophy holds even greater significance. When I was trying to decide between joining this company or staying at GitHub, I decided I would procrastinate and watch my favorite Black YouTube video content creators instead. I stumbled upon one of Gyasi Linje's videos, in which he quoted the same words from the same book! I took that as a sign. Saying "yes" to ventures beyond my comfort zone has propelled me to where I am today.
I credit part of my rapid growth as a Developer Advocate to starting my DevRel career under the guidance of a Black manager, Brian Douglas. As I transition to the next phase of my career, I'm fortunate to have Angie Jones, the VP of Developer Relations, as my new manager. Angie is admired for her work and her character among all developer relations professionals. She is also one of the few Black VPs in DevRel that I could think of off the top of my head. As I progress in my career, having a manager who understands how to navigate the industry as a Black woman is paramount. Brian's mentorship was invaluable in my early journey, and I'm confident that Angie's leadership will continue to provide me with the insights and support I need to thrive in this field.
I recently met many members of the TBD team at an offsite, and they were all brilliant and friendly. What adds to my excitement about joining this team is that I already have trust and respect for several team members, some of whom I met while at Resilient Coders, a coding bootcamp I attended. Nick DeJesus and Ebony Louis have expertise in leading impactful, but behind the scenes work. I'm eager to collaborate with them and learn from their expertise. Nick has been a great mentor to me since I became a developer. I remember I joined a company that was using Redux, and he took the time to explain how it worked.
Additionally, Ace recently joined the TBD team as a Staff Developer Advocate, and from what I've observed, he's absorbed so much of the technical knowledge around what TBD is building. I anticipate a dynamic collaboration where we can complement each other's strengths and provide a well-rounded approach to our work.
People say things like money and titles don't matter, but that's a privileged take. I'm a black immigrant woman raised by a single mother of three in the hood; money and titles always matter. They're not the only factors that matter, but they do determine the trajectory of one's life. Due to imposter syndrome, I always sign up for junior roles at every new job. This time, I'm trusting myself to make Staff-level contributions and influence the team, the company, and the industry.
Beyond my own career trajectory, the aspect of representation is crucial. We need more underrepresented folks in leadership positions. It shouldn't even be rare. My goal is to reach a level where I can influence the prioritization of hiring more underrepresented individuals across the board. This step in my career is a meaningful stride towards fostering diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
When I've mentioned this new opportunity with fellow developer friends, one recurring theme of skepticism has been the product. Understandably, they're unsure about it because it's still in development, and the term "decentralization" can often conjure images of gimmicks and scams prevalent in the crypto industry. Some, including myself, have questioned whether decentralization is a solution in search of a problem.
But as I've explored the technology that TBD is building, I realize:
- We are already searching for decentralized solutions for our social media platforms, especially as we've witnessed the decline and growing distrust of many social media applications. Cough, cough. Twitter/X, Facebook and Instagram/Meta.
- How technology is used determines its ethical implications; it is inherently neutral. For instance, people can use my main passion, AI, for harm and benefit. In the case of TBD, they focus on creating solutions that simplify sending money across borders. While this may not appear revolutionary to everyone, I've personally experienced the frustration of sending money to family members in Guyana and Antigua or friends in Nigeria. It's frustrating to stand in check cashing lines or to wire money successfully between banks. Another example is although there's a large developer presence in Nigeria, they're not eligible for GitHub Sponsors or many of the ways to get paid through open source. Simplifying these financial transactions can make a difference for the global south.
This technology can improve financial equity, and it's not something I will get bored of. In fact, I've said this in a few blog posts and talks before -- I'm tired of our industry; we are too focused on building tools that only benefit privileged people.
There is a steep learning curve to understand the protocols and SDKs, but I welcome the challenge.
While I'm excited, I'm also nervous because change is scary, and I'm not 100% sure what to expect. I like knowing everything that's going to happen all the time. For example, I look up spoilers while I'm watching a movie.
I'll have to adapt to a different work culture, tweak my DevRel strategy for an early-stage company, and learn a lot of new technical concepts. I also anticipate that my unconventional DevRel strategy and personality may take time for the new company to warm up to. Still, I'm fully committed to embracing these challenges and enthusiastically navigating the unknown.
My greatest strengths are my storytelling skills and my ability to break concepts down for beginners, which I think the decentralized web needs more of. There's a lot of complexity around decentralization because it requires a paradigm shift in how we think, build, and use the Internet. Unfortunately, I don't see many resources that break down these concepts in a consumable way. I am most excited about creating beginner content and gradually building that into more advanced content.
In the upcoming months, I also hope to:
- Create sample applications that exemplify the potential of Web5.
- Cultivate meaningful relationships both within the company and the wider community.
- Support the enablement of open source externally and internally.
- Continue my exploration of generative AI and integrate it into my work.
- Evaluate the effectiveness and relevance of the DevRel strategies I've written about and implemented. Perhaps I wrote about those strategies, and they only work at a large company with a well-established DevRel team. Let's see how they work at an open source startup.
I started building a few things for my own understanding of Web5. I built a decentralized to-do list and a DID alias generator. Both projects are incomplete and don't use Web5 to its full potential, but I plan to add more incrementally. The final product could serve as a sample application demonstrating the advantages of Web5, perhaps in the form of an app that allows specific tasks from the to-do list to be shared with different users—whether they be partners, coworkers, or friends. Users could utilize aliases on the DWN instead of a DID (a lengthy alphanumeric string representing your digital identity). These aliases would be connected to their social media accounts, which could be a form of authentication on the shared to-do list application.
Saying goodbye to GitHub is bittersweet for me. I'm immensely grateful for the opportunities, relationships, and growth this chapter has provided. But, I'm also eagerly saying yes to having a voice in the evolution of the web. (If I see anything sus going on, you know I will speak up. 😉) As I embark on this new journey, I hope that, at TBD, we can collectively drive positive change within the industry, shaping the decentralized future of the web to benefit the less privileged. To the community, thank you for supporting me thus far. Just as I did when I took my first steps in Developer Relations, I invite you to continue this journey alongside me. Together, we'll explore decentralization, open source, and AI and make a meaningful impact on the tech landscape.