Brandon is a Ruby Architect at Square working on the Frameworks team, defining standards for Ruby across the company. He's an artist who turned programmer who had a crazy idea to teach programming with cartoon lemurs and whimsy.View the profile
About the talk
Expertise is a strange concept, and very hard to quantify at that. It's a state in which you exceed in a given field and can stand as an authority, a wellspring of knowledge and an inspiration to others in that field.
For someone with autism and a particular obsessive streak expertise feels like a natural evolution of their interests into solidified knowledge and pragmatism.
Expertise is also perhaps the most dangerous part of an autists career.
Brandon is a Ruby Architect at Square working on the Frameworks team, defining standards for Ruby across the company. He's an artist who turned programmer who had a crazy idea to teach programming with cartoon lemurs and whimsy. He's also autistic, and would love to talk to you about your own experiences.
Well, here we are. Okay, friends, we are now already a couple hours. Can you please start a couple hours in a ruby cost 2020? I mean, this is, this is wild. I know that many of you were on the other side of the planet who are watching us at like 2 a.m. that, you're probably getting a little tired. So if you haven't, had the chance to take a look at the activity video that I just posted. So you get the blood flowing, so you can stay engaged. But as another reminder, all of these are being recorded, So you're welcome to watch those after the fact, but let's get started. All right,
so we've got coming up here by now. Is somebody that I've seen talked a few different times as well as participate in the event. I help run this last year so he is very very engaging and I hope that you're going to find that at the very least is gloriously well-prepared. Suit presentation is gay a game. So I would like to introduce Brandon Weaver and he's going to be giving a talk that I think that for many You are, you're going to find really interesting, a captivating and resonate with. So, without further Ado, let me introduce our next speaker. Brand Weaver.
No, thanks. Travel. Well, I asked what I should wear today and they said do whatever suits you. So I did indeed suit me. So. Anyway, Jokes Aside, let's go ahead and get into it. So hello, are everyone from Ruby, comp? I think we're about ready to get started. My talk is a part of a series called the tales of the existing developer. This particular story is called the experts experts. Exactly. Is it, it's really hard to quantify thing, can be measured, well, not really easily but at the same time we have some ideas as
to what its path might look like. And what those who are further along that path might start to become the state, which you exceed in a field Sanderson Authority source of knowledge and inspiration to all of those around you. And for someone with autism, Tickler possesses. Great expertise feels like a Natural Evolution made after all it's just going further down that path to infinite knowledge. Wisdom isn't it? Well, you see that's the problem. Expertise and its Pursuit. Are perhaps the most dangerous part. When it's cystic person career, if not in
person, career Dangers, which can make a person substantially more toxic to work place and likely to find out around him. It would be no exaggeration to say. That one who pursues expertise with ill intent can ruin an entire company. So, where does that leave us with this? Talk, what? Exactly do I tend to cover today? Well, I'm going to tell you a story. This is my story. My stories around expertise how I failed and its Pursuit how I pursued it with him. Since the past hour and some parts I
might have cheated and how I learned to apply those lessons to work. There we go. Perhaps your story might look a little big difference. Mean, after all, everyone has their own story. But I hope these stories will help you along your own path. What does start with? Who exactly am? I, what makes the person to talk to you about such a Sumptuous, this, well, you see my dear audience matistic in 88. It's something I found out about it, the age of 19 and spent the next decade learning to accept it. And quite frankly, I'm still working on that. It's cost me a numerable struggles in
my adult life, but is also granted me. Many lessons experiences along the way. Says I speak on and hopes that they may help someone out there. Someday, find a way to love themselves for who and what they are. And I'm scared to share experiences and stories, and I've learned to adapt those on my own path. And currently my path has led me to work at Square. I close to a decade of experience. I worked at several companies large and small each with their own lessons, some which perhaps lessons, what not to do in future. My current job at square, has me working in an organizational
leader, cross, platform and infrastructure, engineering working to lead a ruby community on topics. Such as language. Standards education architecture in gamut of other topics as to how I went from being a positively disorganized not available to function exactly. Two roles, Beyond senior engineer. Well, that's for a pronoun, third day. No, no. Let's talk. It has to do with expertise what that we get started. Now, to be absolutely clear. I don't like to call myself an expert on the slightest know, and now I appreciate the irony in that, I'm giving a
talk on the nature of expertise, but I want you to see for my perspective, why I dislike calling myself that you see in the Ruby Community. There's an abundance of experts. People of true Talent Barbie where I see myself people, like math, self Penelope, 5th and Betsy Heibel. Erin Patterson, Sitara, Matsumoto Eileen would still know what. Gives it so many more. I mean, I could spend this entire talk going down, a list of such people, but you get the point. The point is, there are a lot of people who know a heck of a lot more about Ruby than I do. And you know what it
means that no matter how much I learn, there's always going to be someone who knows more and because of that much further, I can do on my own fat. But let's start with the story. when I started in platform and infrastructure engineering, I was greeted by one of the directors who exclaimed very happily, so you're the one who the experts you remember. That pick up me being touchy about that title? Well, in that moment I went through every reason why it was wrong, why I had no business taking that title, but I choose to let it be. It's a thing called
taking a compliment and quite frankly. I'm absolutely horrible at it. I reached out to others afterwards and talked through it with them. I expressed my concerns said, some of my feelings and one of them, which is a very dear friend of mine started laughing. And I have some rest of us and that really touched me. It meant lots In many ways, I was refusing to accept how others saw me both at work and in the industry and in some ways that undermined their faith in my abilities at my own faith in myself. Imposter syndrome likely played no small part of this, but as I
said, it was getting in the way of me working, effectively and leveraging my skills, to truly help others. Now, in my head, I still believe I won't ever truly live up that I do what I may never, and that's okay. Sure. When I was maybe 5 or 10 years younger, I would have gladly accepted but a decade of programming as if anything highlighted just how little I truly know. Where I may be an expert in some Fields Ruby. I absolutely hopelessly clueless mother's now. This talk isn't supposed to be reflection on a few of the Ark types
of expertise Ivan body to see it on my journey. The mistakes I made in their pursuit in the damage I caused along the way. And how I, finally, in some small part maturity use more effectively There's still a lot of growing I need to do and very likely future. Me will see current me as a bunch of sleep. As well but in the meantime I'll do the best I can with what I have. And I will be harsh on myself of course. But I believe this is necessary to growth, told myself to account for all of my actions, especially as I'm trusted with more power
and responsibility. I have to be harsh in relation to that, to make sure that I'm growing to be safe Brothers. Well Solutions, I may offer sound simple or be presented as such a result of years of wisdom from others as well as my own journey and oftentimes the simplest answers to the hardest to learn. And it certainly was my case, it took me a decade evil or half of them and I'll probably take me an extra three decades to actually body them with that lipstick. Look into some of the archetypes of expertise along my path and stories, which came from them.
We'll start with the hero. Now, our first archetype is the hero. The hero is someone who saves the day, who fights against impossible odds, man. Should come out the Victor. No matter what happens, even the most dire situations, if you look to the sky, The hero will be there with a smile on their face and somehow you just know everything is going to be alright, for me early, my journey and expertise. I think to you myself, one of these Heroes who could solve any problem, And quite frankly caught me into a lot of trouble. By positioning myself as a hero, I
isolated more Junior Engineers from taking tests that would help them grow simply because I was interested in them, their growth was hampered because of my pride and greed and my inability to work through others. Instead I would give them to work, I detest and found less valuable as showy and I could have potentially cost and promotions much earlier in their careers. I had to be seen to be known to be the most visible bright star in the night sky and I had to do it alone. And I had to prove myself at every turn that Pride was what led to my downfall and several teams
is there would always be a problem Beyond me that I was too proud to ask for help on. After all, I was hero I can take on the world, right? It also meant that when I left all the knowledge that accumulated from all the years of Stella work went with me and behind me. I leave a wake of Destruction that would soon follow as others. Had to clean up that our Noble and Main table mess. So how did I recover from that? What was the secret that save me from that toxic mindframe. It's this programming is not a solo Journey. Never was and never will be.
There is a wall, no matter how talented or special you are. You will find yourself staring down. It's a wall which can never be overcome by yourself and insurmountable Mountain for those walking the telepath and one that will never be conquered for all the self-help books, thought leaders blog post or anything else in the world. So how does one overcome such an obstacle then? Well the secret to programme is quite simple and others stepping back, I learn to see the value in others, in their experiences, in the unique insights which made them who they are. I heard about you. Those
I work with more than one of the best of them to see them grow and reach their potential. And I also recognized that oftentimes recognizing, that potential was a simple questions, right direction? The people around, you know, so much more than you would ever think, unless you take time to talk to him and understand their pranks. We grow together, not alone. Perhaps ironically, the more skilled the solo programmer the later, they find this wall and more damaging of a collision o b, those who learn to work together, early will inevitably
outpace, even the fastest solar developer in time. So does this mean they're broke? So necessarily bad. Well not really the greatest us to go beyond what we currently know. That shows what's possible to give us insights into what we thought. We already learned a true hero is an inspiration of Beacon that lights were out of those around them. They're The Firm leader in uncertain times Captain in uncharted waters and a guide through the Labyrinth. It is Engineers are there supporting you? You feel like you could do so much more than doing so break your own limits
and grow as an engineer? A true hero programme is a leader that brings those around them to new level and through that hole. So levels up themselves, such a programmer is an excellent Tech lead and a valuable member of any team. And that brings us to our next archetype. The discerner. Now, our second archetype is a discerner of the starting. Expertise able to grasp problems at a glance, they find critical flaws, that was behind code and deliver insects dramatically improve everything
around them. They can see what others may miss and in doing so, or a guardian to get the Myriad of pitfalls on the road. They can also heavily abused us to destroy the morale of their teams. Now, in my own career at start develop an ability to see all types of issues with code Doodles know at a glance. All types of improvements or other optimizations. Unfortunately, for my co-workers just took the form of something. I now consider to be extremely damaging code style hours days weeks were spent reviews nitpicking the
smallest most detailed quite frankly did not matter. Did not follow an exacting. Standard of what I believe to be correct about it. I focused the entirety of my attention on the microscopic on the Irrelevant. This blocked so many code reviews, instill a sense of fear and distrust and having me as a reviewer. I wasn't delivering inside. I was bullying others with my opinion and miss them much, wider, picture of very real issues, which comprise compromise the Integrity of the coronavirus for viewing. I can find 50
stylistic record for having issues, naming conventions, other such things, but I miss and plus one. Queries SQL xss injections, opensquare, Loops are far, worse, critical architectural, and security problems. Because of my personality, this was also used to belittle the knowledge of others after all. They didn't know the language and I take some smug satisfaction out of this. It was my goal to prove it. I knew more 3D Petty comments with cheeks in doing so I certainly made no friends. So, how does one improve on this? Well, this is going to be controversial but I do want everyone
listening to hear this coat style doesn't matter. Pick a letter or four matter. It only one with the autocorrect feature and let it do that work. Stylistic, Netflix have no place in code reviews and should be relegated to tools. They are at best a measure of uniformity and it worse a severe distraction from what truly matters about code Engineers. Should train to see larger issues? Not just the microscopic nitpicks Cove reviews abilities. The issue should be utilized to teach and guide rather than to tell people are allowed to make mistakes and they're required
to do. So, to grow, I mean, I've certainly made several myself. The points of calling out of mistake is to only do so when the mistake would otherwise, cause him harm, Now, a wise friend of mine once introduced me to concept of blast radius in which they would allow failure to certain level depending on the impact, it would cause to create learning opportunities. Sometimes learning opportunity was that you yourself are very wrong and lesson is humility. So what does that mean for the strength of discerner? Well, there's great strength and having clear inside the ability to spot
issues at a glance. It's a skill coats made from years of experience and familiarity with systems to provide the level of clarity. That is critical to the success of larger projects. When using the scope of a very senior engineer. This ability can be used to Charter product roadmaps, adjust the loss tea spot, critical elements missing from an equation in fluid senior leadership, to the future of the team has so much more. It's a skill, which inspires confidence. You see those skills for people into of my promotions at my current job with spotting gas to others and missed the being able to
bring together a plan of how to deal with them, is the ability to predict that future Peril before. It escalates Point severity and he believed those insights into actual content and being able to finally deliver on them that led me to more senior roles That inside also allows you to see the potential of others and help them grow. The discerner, is an architect for amateur application through and through. And the person you want triple checking the blueprints before you start with Factory, large portions of your application or start breaking apart of monolith. That brings us to our
third type. The Creator. Now, Arthur darkstripe is the Creator and the Creator is expertly can build almost anything that you can imagine. If they set their minds to attend pace which other my finding possible, or if stirred, they can take a problem and give you an almost immediate solution and a way to get there, build a team and grow something from the ground up. The problem is, there's more to building site than we can hack in abundance of arrogance. Early in my career, I would see things is pretty lazy task. Be done in a matter of hours
rather than days, why? Then just take other people so long to finish. Those is a constant source of frustration and a projection of my I did what was necessary to deliver feature. The problem was my interpretations of the requirements were wholly uninformed and miss several critical insights that would have collapsed. My design is the lack of empathy in communication with those around me that led to severely underestimate in difficulties and true struggles behind each feature. By believing that I could not only build the same thing, myself, but substantially faster as creating an
exceptionally hostile environments. And in some cases, I may have been, right? It could have been done faster for that also discounted the nearest to grow their own pace without my assumptions. In other cases, I was absolutely wrong and in doing so he could force others to cut Corners to deliver an impossible task and time frame is it were not fair at all and setting up team for inevitable failure and burnouts. So how does one overcome these issues? Then make sure I can be done faster, but does it need to be. By stepping back and listening case could be more easily regulated speed is
not the only factor which is important when constructing software by focusing on how fast something could be done. I'd failed to account for the multitude of contingent factors in folk style scope, that was not wise for me to pursue the secret here is trust trusting and those around you to tell you problems, encounter in creating an environment where they feel comfortable, confide such things by creating such an environment. You can have an honest discussion about issues that are encountered and when necessary help guide Engineers back on track with inside some questions, often times, you
may well, learn something for the discussion as well. Not this Harkens back to the point, some programming, not being a solo effort while I could do a few things faster. There's always going to be that wall there and if one of us is over how fast they could build a chair, they'll fail to remember, they're supposed to build the entire house around us. Now it should be noted that trust is not necessarily free and not all act with good intentions. Some may well take advantage of this and expertise. Unfortunately, some cases is knowing the difference between the two, So, what exactly would
strengthen the greater than much like the discerner, this ability allows him to iterate over all the possibilities of how something might be done. The difference is that the Creator is concerned with, in the initial construction, even if they never finalized inform on it, that means they can provide insights, those were blocked us there and have some help find solutions to get the moving again. Civility grass work. You're not directly involved with her on board quickly. To figure out how you yourself, might approach problem and it's further strengthened by the ability to understand how
others may approach. The same problem the ability to not only have these insights will communicate your thinking process. Do you think could be a significant benefit when I started to learn this I became substantial more productive as I learn to trust those around me. And when required, I was able to leverage its knowledge to take care of difficult problems with them. Now, I want you to hear this, your coworkers are smart incredibly. So programming is hard and they got here all the same and that's really something, beautiful incredible. It also gave me the ability to warn them of
potential pitfalls and things to watch out for in certain tasks. The Creator overall is a dream for Greenfield project. Your new company who need to season hand to guide their growth into mature. If you have a new product to ship you want one of these people on your team. In our final archetype is the authority. The Authority is the voice of seasoned expertise on the subject, reliable source that can answer about any question you can think of. And even if they can't, they're able to find the answer to matter of minutes there the
cumulation years of refined into still knowledge. it can also be incredibly arrogant and confuse opinion, with truth and fact, And become some of the worst Boys on teams. The problem with blame yourself being Authority is you have no wrong opinions, what you say is Law. And those who fail to listen or foolish. For me, this became a tool to bludgeon others into submission. What I believe to be correct without fully understand their concerns, our feelings on the matter. It became an issue where I would see myself as a sole Arbiter of Truth. In my field of
expertise, everyone else was Shirley wrong. I cannot begin to tell you how toxic that mentality is, cuz there's so many potentially, brilliant ideas and considerations are crushed ignored. The people that they were shut out, This lack of humility led to several bugs issues. Another major structural issues my code, that could have been prevented and I just listened the desire to be, right? And never show, weakness or wrong. This is one of the most dangerous things program because you most certainly will be wrong. You most certainly will fail, no matter how smart you are.
Those who place themselves. Atop the highest Ivory Tower will fall the hardest when the tower collapses under the weight of their arrogance and pride So what's the solution to this? Then the solution is to stop and listen. This required a lot of growing on my part for as much as I thought I knew they were spots appropriate. I had no knowledge of there's always something to learn no matter who you're talkin to no granted potentially that lesson is what not to do. But I find that to be very rare by stopping listening. I'd learned far more than I ever would have by
talking through an entire meeting. I learn ask questions to seek to learn and to appreciate the strength of my co-workers in ways I never had when I was busy. Running, my mouth asking questions, became a way to reframe. Branson tirades of the concentrated points in clarification through deliver substantially more value in inside in the problems, sometimes those questions were genuine curiosity. Sometimes they're meant to identify gas and sometimes Being an authority on a subject means you have a lot to share and that you can be
a guiding force for those learning. It also means you can condense. He's inside some simple answers and questions about Century. Lead to Enlightenment and growth of your co-workers. I'm practicing yourself through education and teaching the authority can prevent bugs and issues before they catch the attention of a discerner. They establish a foundation of knowledge by with your productivity and at our company to be multiplied. Several times over, they can speak to most difficult issues, your company May face and financers where before there were not much like the hero they can overcome issues
or otherwise thought to be impossible, The Authority is a teacher and a mentor and one capable of growing a leveling up all those around. Them companies with several new Engineers on board, he will find Great Value in such a person in their ability to explain the complex in simple terms. Now that brings us towards the end here. And there are a few thoughts that I'd like to leave you with today as we wrap up. The first is on the dangerous of seeking expertise. Expertise to be exceptionally dangerous and can lead to some of those toxic coworkers. They
pursued with ill-intent, a single Rogue developers are seeking expertise can destroy teams organizations and even companies if left to their own devices, one needs to recognize the potential dangers. In areas of growth are necessary to become an expert and do so in a healthy Manner and also, to recognize those who fail to do so and be wary of them. The second is on the wide range of expertise. It should be noted. There are several types of experts and even among experts people rely on each other. I will certainly don't have the faintest of ideas how to write a seat stitching show. Me
directly to Ruby or whole swaths about their fields and likely won't for your scum. That note said, I know several people were exceptionally good at every single one of those and they've been amazing friends. Interesting Lee enough, the ability to discern these trays and others is in itself, a field of expertise and one of immense value. The third is a value in expert can provide while they're indeed dangerous. Experts are some of the most valuable people are companies in our communities, their constant source of inspiration, learning and Innovation. They drive to edge of what the
industry, considers new territory and shows us glimpses of what might be possible. They can condense years of knowledge and clear answers. When you use, wisely, that expose a force multiplier, several times over. But must be used responsibly otherwise at multiplier May well be negative. In the last is it programme is never never a solo effort. It never will be, we work with others, no matter the level, no matter the knowledge, to build things Beyond herself. That's one of those fascinating things about it. I am myself, the culmination of thousands. If not tens of thousands
of people invested me from school to my current job through daily life and conversations to make me who I am today. I got a self-made, man. And quite frankly, there is no such thing. No, I'm a community made, man, and for that, I will be eternally grateful to everyone around me, but that gratefulness is not merely accepting the investment of others. But reinvesting, your knowledge, your time, your finances, and everything into building that new generation. And that's what it means to live in a community to be a true expert. In Ruby is one of the best communities out there.
This has been a difficult talk for me to write like mini ever known in the past. As I've had to confront the man, I was in the past to become the man. I wish to be in the future and honestly it's worth it. I'm not now nor will I ever be done growing in the past? That was a terrifying thought that fills me with Dread, but how I see such beautiful thing I have two will ever be in front of me, infinite amount of knowledge to learn new person, laugh with cry, with celebrate, with his lip with to the Future beyond the dark days. We find ourselves and I see hope I see growth
and I see each and every single, one of you working to find your own path, expertise and knowledge. And I sincerely hope you find what you're looking for on your own path. So, back to the initial question, have my next turn Well, honestly, that's up for you to decide. In the meantime, I'm merely a fool with a lifetime of work ahead of me and so much more to learn. Now, go out and be amazing because, you know what I believe in you. Now, I don't quite have time for questions as live session, but love to continue this
discussion on the Rubicon slack at RC talk, tales of the tistic developer, If you like to connect outside the conference or see, what else, I'm up to feel free to reach out and laying these social networks one day soon. I imagine all the Lemurs would be back for more Illustrated talks and I will we have some exciting things to cover them with that. I believe it's about time. Thank you so much for having me and have an amazing conference. Call Brandon, I really appreciate that. Talk great with those wonderful. And I think the sentiment endlessly
scrolling here is to that exact same, that exact same sentiment, really, really wonderful. And thank you so much. So, to everybody here in the chat who's watching, now, please head on over to slack. Let's move the conversation over there. I'm continue this as much as possible. So again, there is an underscore r, c specific Channel talk. Tales of the autistic develop for the expert that you can fight if your browser channels head on over there, let's do that. If you have questions for Brandon, let's move him over there as well cuz we're
effectively at time now. Alright with that being said, friends, let's move ourselves onto the next talks that we have on the docket. If I take a look at the schedule, There is a channel specifically for that so you can review the schedule there and find out in the next live talk or if you're participating in a workshop while workshops are already active but you can participate in anything else please do so and of course a huge reminder to you all this community is only as vibrant as the conversations that happened in the community. So the more we can engage with one another
as much as you can. Please play sure to do that. Alright, with that let's move on with the rest of the day. We'll wait, let me check. I'm going to check notes. Hold on. It's time to check notes. Let's make sure that I'm not missing anything as I have a tendency to do. I do want to mention this. So I'm going to mention this before the next talk when I might as well mention another. It's okay, if any of you want to perform a talent. Yeah, that's right. I said Talent, tell story tomorrow, during the conference fun session. Please make sure to direct message. Barrett
Clark, Alison McMillan or Brian Mitchell. You can find. All of them on the slacks. They are your new bestie buddies at cuz we like Alex talent show during a bit virtual event. It's like almost karaoke, but better. Alright, friends, be my pleasure, again. My name is that a puppy. Thank you so much. Brandon. And we will see you at the next sessions. All right.
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