042: Apprenticeship in Real Life with Taras Mankovski and Lennex Zinyando
In this episode we cover how to handle apprenticeship, share with listeners how they can start participating in mentoring and apprenticeship in their companies and communities, and help them to understand the impact apprenticeship and mentoring can have on everybody involved.
In this episode we cover how to handle apprenticeship, share with listeners how they can start participating in mentoring and apprenticeship in their companies and communities, and help people to understand the impact apprenticeship and mentoring can have on everybody involved.
CHARLES: Hello everybody and welcome to the Frontside Podcast, Episode 42. I am Charles Lowell and with me is Brandon Hays, as well as some other really, really, really, really special guests, which I'm really excited to have on the show today.
BRANDON: Just really?
CHARLES: Really, really.
CHARLES: I was thinking of 'really, truly' but no, I wanted to go back to 'really'. I don't know, Brandon, are you pretty stoked about the show today?
BRANDON: I am. I'm really excited today. We've actually wanted to do this for a long time and we finally were able to line it up once we've figured out that we can record a podcast more than once every six weeks. So yeah, we're really --
BRANDON: -- Really excited to have Taras Mankovski and Lennex Zinyando with us. We'll have you each introduce yourselves. But basically, the point of this podcast is we want to talk to you and you're doing some really cool stuff with apprenticeship through us, and Lennex is one of your earlier apprentices. From everything I've seen tremendously successful, Lennex, you're an awesome developer. So we wanted to talk to you, find out how you're doing that stuff but we'd love to have each of you introduce yourselves and talk a little bit about your background. So we'll start with you, Taras.
TARAS: I'm really excited to be here. I also feel like I need to point out the fact that this is podcast number 42. Right? That's the meaning of life and everything.
BRANDON: We would be very quite remiss to miss that. Thank you so much. We were so really excited that we forgot about this was the purpose of everything.
CHARLES: That's right. We're sitting on the main nerve right now. This is it people. This is it. It's everything.
TARAS: I'm really hoping that if you ask me questions, I'm going to answer them faster than this famous answer. I'm really glad to be here. I want to give a little bit of my story because I feel like a lot of things that I've doing over the last 10 years have been adding up to what I'm doing now. I have a pretty diverse background. Programming wasn't something I wanted to do because when I was 12, my dad gave me a Java book and he said, learn how to program and I'm like, "This is terrible."
TARAS: That was a really rough introduction for me. Even though, I think I was always technically inclined and I did like [inaudible] for a long time. I did a lot of different things. Since I was a little kid, I always want to be a businessman before I think I even knew what that was. So my focus has always been on the business of things, and technology happened to be one of the only ways that I knew how to access that in a way that was actionable based on something that I could do.
I've tried a lot of different things. One of the things that I did before was a company called Positive Sum, where we spent about four and a half years trying to figure out how do you build relationships where everybody who works with you wins. When that Positive Sum company and the being as 'zero sum' for me, I end up leaving and starting from scratch.
I have another company called WRKTG, Inc which is like the mothership for EmberSherpa and that acronym refers to 'working together'. Everything that I've kind of have been doing has come from the perspective of how do we bring people to work together, and how do I make it possible for people to have a win-win-win scenarios. I think that's kind of what brings us to where we are today, with this conversation about apprenticeship.
BRANDON: Cool, thanks for that. Then Lennex, how did you get into software and what was your background? I don't know if you come from a computer science background or you were doing something else.
LENNEX: I'm Lennex Zinyando. I'm based in Harare, Zimbabwe. I've always wanted to work with computers since an early age. But then, access to computers was really hard to come by so I used to spend a lot of money going to internet cafes so that I could access the internet.
After a few years of [inaudible], I went to work with a bank for a few years and I decided to leave because I really, really wanted to become a programmer developing software. I joined a local company that does mobile marketing as a technical support person.
I worked with them for a few years and I met Taras on Twitter, sometime beginning of last year. Then, I paired with him so that he could mentor me. So now, I'm an apprentice at EmberSherpa.
BRANDON: You said you met him on Twitter and you said, "Hey, I'd like to be your apprentice," but how did that interaction actually occur? Was there like a tweet that went out and said, "Hey, I'm looking for apprentices," or you just kind of saw that he was knowledgeable and you said, "Hey, can you help me?" How did that interaction first happen?
LENNEX: Actually, I saw a conversation between him and another guy where the guy was - actually they're discussing how they could – I think they wanted to pair on it or something. Then, I just asked if I could join the process, be part of the team that was going to pair on it. Then Taras created this link for us and that's how it was started.
CHARLES: So you just said, "Hey, can I join that pairing session?" And the rest is history at this point?
LENNEX: Yeah, something like that.
CHARLES: Now, you're a world famous software developer so it seems it works.
BRANDON: Well, that's really cool. I'd like to ask you, Taras. Was that sort of intentional on your part? You said your arc was bending toward community and 'greater than zero sum' type work. As you were bending that arc toward that, did you have the idea of- I mean, your name was EmberSherpa on Twitter so clearly, you had some sort of training or guidance aspect to what you're doing. Was apprenticeship part of that model by then? Or is that something you kind of stumbled on?
TARAS: I always imagine what things might look like. I imagine that there might be a scenario- I tried to do this with WordPress before which is create a scenario where I'm helping people learn and in the process they cultivate a community of people that follow what I do through helping them become like an engineer.
It didn't work very well with WordPress but it seems to have worked with Ember. It's very much an [inaudible] process. I kind of went through a bunch of hardships trying to figure out a structure that is actually sustainable. That's the really hard part, I think, about creating like win-win scenarios is that you need to be sustainable and finding a way to make sustainable. That was really tricky.
CHARLES: Yes, that's something that we're discovering as well, right? You identify these values and you say, "Hey, these are the things that I value," and then you discover how expensive they are in the process of trying to implement them and trying to do that in a way that you can keep going that doesn't basically require everything from you all the time. That's really hard.
So it was something that clearly, like you cared about, you were trying to do it in WordPress. You said you ran into a lot of painful lessons there. I'd actually be curious and dig into a couple of those things that you are finding were not sustainable.
TARAS: It's ironic actually, I found mentoring to not be very sustainable. From a business perspective, I think mentoring is a really great service but because it relies so much on people like myself who have to be like people that get to certain levels through their hard work, you end up wanting to get paid well for the work that you do. Then in that scenario, it becomes very difficult. Like offering mentoring services is very valuable but it's also a very premium service. So to be able to sustain myself and be able to offer a service, the businesses you want to pay for, and in a way that is going to benefit the company is going to benefit the apprentice and benefit me, those were difficult.
But it seems to be shifting towards apprenticeship turns out to be the answer, for me at least. It was like one of things that was right under my nose but it took a really long time for me to see that actually apprenticeship is the answer to creating this scenario. It’s really funny how something might be right in front of you but you might not see it for a year and a half.
BRANDON: What's different about apprenticeship from mentorship, basically?
TARAS: Mentoring for me is supporting a company that has a team of developers. Basically, the company is paying me to mentor their developers. It seems like a very fine distinction but the difference with apprenticeship is that the focus is on the individual and all the other things are kind of secondary. When I stop thinking about myself as a mentor or stop talking about mentoring and I start talking about apprenticeship, it becomes about creating structures for others to be successful like making that shift on creating opportunities for others to grow. It's one of those things where you shift your focus towards something else and it makes your path forward easier. That's kind of what I found with apprenticeship. Even though I was doing it for a while, like I started working with Lennex a year and a half before I made the shift, I really found focusing on the apprentice and making apprentice successful actually help me make my business more sustainable.
BRANDON: So basically, by defining the problem scope as, "Hey, this is about an apprentice and not about how good a mentor I am," you basically discovered -- I think all businesses go through this at some point too, like anybody with a purpose ends up discovering that the thing that doesn't scale is your time, and the only way out of that is to develop a process that's focused on achieving an outcome. So apprenticeship is the definition of the process by which somebody gets better and focusing on them rather than non-scalable Taras' time.
BRANDON: Lennex, you basically came on as an apprentice about a year ago. Can you describe the process, from your perspective of like what that apprenticeship has entailed and maybe even how that evolved over time?
BRANDON: So basically, you have commits on open source projects now out there in the world?
LENNEX: Yes, I do.
BRANDON: And how long have you've been developing software before you were basically doing that?
LENNEX: Not that long. It was just a few HTML sites, a bit of PHP, then Ember is like the first programming thing that I've done.
CHARLES: I think that's really interesting. Like part of the process, you seem to be describing as you kind of got thrown into the deep end of the pool. Like this is a new language for you, we're going to be doing open source projects that people actually use, and you were actually contributing working code into a real life. You know, thousands of people are using the code that you actually wrote in very early stages of your development career, which I think is a really interesting model.
Taras, would you say that that is part of the model or is that just sort of a coincidence of how this went down? Like is that part of the design of the apprenticeship model?
TARAS: It's certainly by design. I think there's something really beautiful about Ember, and it's the fact that it creates a possibility of an ecosystem of open source applications that solve the script problems and that is enabled by the fact that we have this collection of conventions. When I chose Ember as a technology to focus on, I kind of made a guess that this might happen. Then when I realized that Lennex needed to learn by doing real practical things, I went out looking for this applications and started off as being, first it was a HospitalRun, and I was kind of really uncertain whether the HospitalRun would even take it seriously because we're saying, "I'm going to help this person work on your application for free. Will you talk to us and tell us what we need to be able to make this happen and make it so that you can actually mark this code?"
But it's proven that this seems to be something that maintainers of open source applications are willing to do, and now we have something like... Oh, I don't know what it is, but plenty applications. I have a list of open source Ember applications that we're adding to on a regular basis, and they're all opportunities for our future apprentices to contribute and improve their skills. Actually, they have something that they can show and say, "Look, I did this."
BRANDON: So I'll grab that and put that in the show notes. That seems like something that just producing that list was important to your apprenticeship but actually, everything that you do when you do work on the public like this adds value elsewhere as well. Like that's a really cool and useful list for people to have of things that people can actually contribute to.
TARAS: Yeah, and I hope that there are other applications that we don't know about that are going to get added to this list because if we can have more apprentices helping more open source applications, I think that's something that's really great for Ember. It’s a win-win for everybody.
CHARLES: So I'm curious, you've got this big list, 20, 25 open source applications that's actually a big list and I assume there's a lot of people. You talked about how making the shift towards apprenticeship allowed you to scale but I actually am curious about that process because like how does it scale? There is only one of you so how do you manage more than one apprentice -- two, three? How many is reasonable? How do you bump that number up and get more people coming along?
TARAS: I think what's happening now is that my apprentices actually have their own apprentices. I think that's the key to scaling this because at a certain point what happens is, as I mentioned earlier, at one point, I paired with a hundred people and I realized that people have very common problems and depending on what stage they're in in they're learning, they all tend to have very similar problems. The way to scale [inaudible] a lot of people, I think, is to have the apprentice that just learned or apprentices that has a six months of Ember experience, they can support somebody who just started last week or started two months ago.
They’re actually really good persons to support that person. If I support somebody who just started Ember, it creates a situation where like I want to be able to help but I've answered this question so many times already that it becomes repetitive. It's actually takes away from the energy of me trying to explain this to the person. So having an apprentice support a new person is great for the apprentice because they get to grow. It’s great for the person because they get really personal attention.
BRANDON: I want to make a note. I feel like I should have noted this earlier. Part of the reason that we wanted to talk to you two about this is we've taken several swings at apprenticeship at Frontside, and we're in a sort of unique position in that. We don't see a lot of companies doing this very actively. I saw a company called Obtiva that had an apprenticeship model that I admired a lot. Then they got acquired by Groupon and everything that was good about that company died.
I haven't seen this done a ton and our attempts have been kind of shots in the dark on this. It’s been very challenging. Your approach to this seems to be working in a way that I have not seen happen elsewhere. What I'm hoping part of drawing out this conversation is the process of discovering what is working for you and what other people can adopt? Basically define how this is actually like it seems like a pretty successful case and how people might adopt that in their businesses, in their workplaces, and in even in their capacity. I love the concept of moving away from mentorship as a concept and toward apprenticeship where this becomes more of a defined process.
I'm sure to you it felt like you're kind of fumbling around as well. But you seem to be landing on a lot of things that really seems to be working. Are you noticing any patterns in terms of somebody you get them working on real world applications, they tend to support each other, what other tools, I guess, or patterns are you using to help that process kind of stick with people and scale because this seems to last longer than just a couple months too, which is important?
TARAS: I think one thing that I talk to our clients who - because we actually do sell apprenticeship. Part of the process of the apprentice evolving from someone who has never maybe done programming before or who is very new to Ember to actually being a good productive member of the team, is actually starting off doing something that is very low stress, doing something like open source contributions. Then, being in a situation where they're able to make a difference but there isn't a lot of pressure on them.
So one of the ways that I set that up is I tell our clients that this person is an apprentice. The reason why you would want to hire this person is because first of all, if they have a problem, they can ask me. But also, this person, like a lot of things that we do on Ember are very repetitive. Their patterns that once you've taught, you can use that pattern over and over again. I think, at a certain point, if you implemented a few tables, implementing a fourth or a fifth table isn't that different than the first three, and you don't get that much more effective at it because you're still limited by how quickly you can type. So if an apprentice knows how to implement a table, then an apprentice is just as qualified to implement that table in Ember as I am, for example, especially if they have access to the immediate feedback that they need when they get stuck.
What I've been doing is first, I've been very, very honest with people that I work with saying like, "This is what's going to happen. This is going to be the person working on your project, and this person is going to do be doing this work." Also kind of talking about the reality of Ember work which there are a lot of things that are really difficult that very smart and experienced Ember developers can solve, but there's a lot of work that we do in large Ember applications, that there's lots of paved paths for that, there’s lots of just like assembly kind of the ground work and I think that's a really great opportunity for people who are learning Ember to get the repetition, the kind of muscle memory of understanding how to solve problems.
I think the repetition of doing like 'data down, actions up', repetition of doing like working with computer properties, and repetition of writing tests. All these are things that apprentices need to do to become very good at writing Ember applications.
BRANDON: That's actually my experience as well. I come from a nontraditional background and I knew that I got a sense for when I was trying to learn a new thing that it was a certain number of projects before I felt like somebody could give me something and I felt comfortable saying, "Hey, I can probably do that." It wasn't my first project and it wasn't like a hundred so have you kind of discovered a number in there of projects that somebody might have worked on when you talk about that repetition. Is there a number of times of repetition that you find people become comfortable with something?
LENNEX: On number of projects, for being comfortable in Ember?
BRANDON: Yeah, at what point do you start feeling comfortable and a little more confident that somebody could hand you something that you haven't seen before, and say, "Hey, I could probably tackle that." Is there a certain number of projects that you've handle before you felt like you could just jump in on that?
LENNEX: Let's say for testing for example, writing an acceptance test. I wrote the initial test for HospitalRun. The next project that I did, I was really comfortable with acceptance testing. That was just one of those thing that I could do. I think just doing it once or twice is enough for you to feel comfortable doing something. I don't know about the other stuff, but then what I've done so far, that has been okay.
CHARLES: That's interesting. What I'm hearing is you weren’t doing like the whole slice of the application. You were focusing on, "Okay, the acceptance test. That is the thing that I'm going to take on. That’s the thing that I'm going to own. I'm actually just not going to worry about everything that lies underneath it, or how to implement the acceptance test but I'm going to learn acceptance testing in an Ember application. Then once I've got that skill, now it's in my pocket and I can take it to the next problem."
BRANDON: Lennex, at what point do you start feeling these things start to click together, where you have the tests over here and you have maybe understanding the router over there and you have maybe understanding components over here? Each of these things takes time, it's difficult, and it's a new concept. At what point do you start feeling that you have a full picture of how an application works and that you could kind of attack it from different angles?
LENNEX: In my experience for HospitalRun, I did the tests and I did a lot of [inaudible] from Ember 1.X to 2.X. So I got to touch a little bit of everything. The next project in [inaudible], I implemented a feature. That feature has required me to use all the previous knowledge that I gained from HospitalRun to do something that actually [inaudible] and [inaudible] properly.
In my next project, I'm now building an [inaudible] from the ground up using previous knowledge from all the other projects. So you're always building on top of what you got before.
BRANDON: That actually sounds like an interesting pattern. Again, I don't know if this is sort of something you discovered or happens over time or even if I'm reading it right. But it sounds like you're really mixing up these tasks where some of them are kind of a deep dive on one small piece like, "Hey, I want you to write acceptance tests around this and you're familiar with acceptance testing." And then you have a thin slice of something like an Ember upgrade that touches all aspects of the code base but in a thinner area, as well as a ground up building of something, sounds like maybe later. Is that sort of mix of types of work intentional? Or is that just sort of something that, "Hey, if the work is there and if it seems like somebody can do then I'll grab it"?
TARAS: I think some of things are very intentional like the last project that
LENNEX is working on, I intentionally said that, "You now have enough experience doing all of them. You’ve been dealing with other people's problems for a while now. So I think it's time for you to make your own problems so you can actually understand that process a little bit better."
But other things that are actually just very practical things like the reason why starting with testing. Why we start with testing is because without tests in place, I don't have guarantees that the things that Lennex is doing are not breaking functionality. Then what that means is if I don't have that guarantee, that means that the chances of me being pulled into something randomly is very high and then that's the kind of risk that I can't take.
Actually what happens now is almost every conversation with new clients starts off with, "I know you guys want to do features but before we can do that, we need to build your acceptance tests suite." And so this is actually a very practical thing. I think part of apprenticeship program for us is actually teaching the things. It's a very practical thing. It's like we need to have tests to be able to do this work.
BRANDON: Yeah, I mean it's one of those things. There is some debate in the community around like, "Well, how soon do you introduce that to somebody? Is it something that is an advanced concept?" I was not introduced to testing until much later in my development career. Basically, my first introduction to testing was somebody handed me the 'can't back' book called Test Driven Development which is all written in Java before I had learned to program, and I was like, "I don't get it." So that was my last attempt at testing for about two and a half years.
It wasn't part of my process but when I did discover it, seemed like it did make everything easier. The fact that you're able to do that up front, I imagine probably saves a lot of time and frustration for people so they have something to like back up to during the course of their learning process. There's always like a place where they knew this thing was working.
TARAS: I think there's another pattern that is underneath this which is very important to give people what they need to build to move forward. So with Lennex, when he started working on HospitalRun, I spent almost half a week, maybe almost a week setting up because they never had tests so we had to make it possible for him to write test, so we need to actually read the first acceptance test. What that means is that you need to go in and find all the problems with the app that prevent you from writing acceptance test and actually fix those problems.
If I just said to Lennex, "You know, write an acceptance test for this," without giving him any paved path to do that, I think the chance of him succeeding would be very low.
BRANDON: So yeah, you basically have to pre-shave all the yaks around getting the first one going. And from that point forward, they're likely to be able to carry the ball further.
BRANDON: I have a question for you, Lennex, in that sort of vein is how do you know when you're stuck on something that is like well outside of your capabilities versus when you're supposed to stick with something because you know there's something you're supposed to learn? Is that a skill that you've had to develop or is that something that... I don't know, like I'm not sure how to deal with that with our apprenticeship, and I'm wondering how you've dealt with that?
LENNEX: One thing that Taras has taught me is if I'm facing a challenge, I should work on it. Taras will say, "We're going for a day. If you fail, then come to me." It helps me to not give up easily. If it's beyond me, then after that day Taras is going to help me. By then, usually, I end up getting through that and finding a solution.
BRANDON: Interesting. I have worried that a day was too long of a feedback loop to let somebody bang their head. But it sounds like you've landed on a day as being kind of the approximate amount of time somebody could spend and try to solve something themselves. Taras, is that basically a fair, like wind up being a good place to land?
LENNEX: Well, for me and Taras, it will depend on different - a day usually means when you accept. So there isn’t that much [inaudible].
CHARLES: But it makes sense when I think about it. I actually wasn't thinking about it in terms of that being an appropriate size feedback loop. But when you think about what you're actually doing when you're programming, a day is actually a very reasonable amount of time to struggle with a problem. So before you say, "Oh, man. I just need to find someone to pair with this on. I've done my Googling or whatever but I need to try and like roll back and look at for some prior [inaudible] on this or try and find connect with somebody who's sharing a similar problem." I think that actually makes a lot of sense, right? That's something that we all encounter in our daily lives.
TARAS: We know from people with experience how long sometimes it takes for us to understand something.
CHARLES: Sometimes years.
TARAS: Yeah, and I think it's really tricky. It’s hard because learning takes time. That’s one of the things that I'm a little... I'm not sure exactly how this is going to work but I know if clients are paying me to mentor their team, I'm going to be available to them within half an hour to an hour to answer that question because if the client can't afford to wait a day for them to get that answer. But for a person who is learning as their primary deliverable, I think a day is reasonable amount of time for a person to try to like even sleep on it.
CHARLES: Right. It's true. It’s a tough line. I think, Brandon, one time you said something that always stuck with me. You said that learning only happens when you bang your head against the wall so that your brain is soft enough to accept the answer. And you don't achieve learning without the banging your head against the wall first.
BRANDON: Yeah, Brandon Hays, the king of violent metaphors.
BRANDON: There is actually an important aspect to this that I don't want to drop onto the floor and that is the idea that part of this process is that you have people that have access to one another. That's part of how you are scaling it, that you're also kind of helping. It seems like you're helping build a small community of apprentices to help each other.
So Lennex, my question is this, how often do you wind up using that network of people versus you feel like you'll just handle it on your own? How much do you want to have accessing that?
LENNEX: I access it a lot. I usually get stuck, and then I know someone working on projects which is similar to what I'm doing. So again, I just easily ping him and then a few minutes or a few hours later, we're pairing on it.
BRANDON: That seems like a way where you're able to do that without reaching out too much to Taras. It feels like you're asking for help and figuring it out. But it means that you don't have to roll up to the most experienced person for every single question, that you kind of started to build a network of people that stitching together your own mentorship in effect, I guess.
LENNEX: Yeah, that's true. It's easier to understand the concept when someone is on your level or slightly above you when they explain it to you. Maybe for me, it's easier to understand.
BRANDON: Actually, that jives with a lot of our experience. I can't remember what book this is from. I'm pretty sure it's stolen from another book but I read it from the book 'Pragmatic Programmer' where they talk about the zone of proximal development, where it's easier to learn from people who have just a bit more experience than you because they haven't completely forgotten how they learned the thing that you're trying to learn.
After a while, expertise means that you actually internalize that to the point where you can no longer remember not knowing it. That can be really tough. I think that's actually something that a lot of mentor should probably know and recognize and understand. People that want to take apprenticeship on need to understand that you probably have lost a lot of the empathy. I know I have and it really bums me out because it doesn't feel like that long ago that I was a brand new developer. But I'll sit with somebody who's brand new and I forgot how I learned the thing that I'm sitting there trying to teach somebody, and you start getting that little burning sensation in the back of your head like, "How can you not know this?" You know that at one point you did not know this, but you don't remember not knowing it. It’s a very strange sensation to have gone through all of that and then lose that empathy. So I feel like that's must be a really important concept.
Another question I have for you Lennex is how much of your time do you wind up spending helping other people do that kind of stuff as well? Do you wind up doing participating as a mentorship stuff at this point?
LENNEX: Yes, I do. Actually now, they are about three people that have reached out to me on Twitter, wanting my help. I've paired with them when they have their own projects. They're asking me questions. One guy that I helped with Ember stuff in our local community, and maybe because of the apprenticeship that I'm doing with Taras, they think I'm an expert in Ember. But I'm actually helping other people a lot.
BRANDON: I think that's really phenomenal. That sounds like success to me.
CHARLES: Yeah, I'm actually curious. Having been through this process and experienced success at it, were there any times where you kind of felt you wanted to throw up your hands and be like, "This is not working." What were those moments of frustration or mistakes that... Not mistakes, but were there any moment’s frustration? What actually did you take to course correct on that? If not, that's fine too.
BRANDON: Yeah, if not, I'll just know you're lying.
TARAS: There were definitely challenges. Lennex and I both went through some difficult learning and questioned whether we're be able to do this. I don't want to speak for Lennex but there are certain things that you have to learn to be able to work with people, and they're not programming things. I think that's because obstacles that Lennex and I had have been related to communication and being reliable for each other, I think that's the part that's been hardest. But the reality, I think, is that this is what programming is, talking to people most of the time and building a network of people. So I think we need to, as a mentor to an apprentice, I need to help my apprentice understand this, and help them understand what makes me successful in my work with our clients, for example.
BRANDON: You brought up one thing and I'm curious to get Lennex's perspective on this, which is being reliable for each other. I know it has been probably the single greatest challenge to our apprenticeship platform at Frontside, where we've brought apprentices on and the criticism that we had about our apprenticeship program is if I had 24/7 access to the mentorship that I needed, this process could have been done in three to four months. And instead, it's going to take seven or eight months. So it takes literally twice as long if they have to fight and scrap for every minute of mentorship that they get. I'm wondering, Lennex, if you've experienced something like that and how you've addressed it, if so?
LENNEX: Maybe the thing with me is I really wanted to be part of the apprenticeship program. So I had to work really, really hard to make this work. But given that for me, this apprenticeship program has been 100% remote. There's no one standing over my shoulder or someone chasing me, asking me what I've done or whatever. I had to discipline myself so that if I get tasks that I should do, I should do then on time. Even if Taras is not available, he's not there chasing up to me whether I've done that.
The other thing is I wasn't good at communicating early on. I would shy away from telling him when things are too complicated for me. I'll try to solve everything on my own until I discovered that some things you just can't learn on your own. You have to ask for help. Since then, things have been a bit better.
BRANDON: That sounds like something almost universal to me. Every time we've attempted apprenticeship of any kind, maybe it's because we tend to select the people that we come into contact that say, "Hey, I like to do apprenticeship," tend to be people that are kind of self-starters. But they always tend to try to solve everything on their own. It becomes this coaching exercise of having to have that person communicate back to you.
Is there a sort of a platform for that? Or is that just a style that you've developed where you're willing to reach out more frequently? Or do you have check-in points or something like that during the apprenticeship that are like standard?
TARAS: We don't have anything specific. Something that I use in projects is like if you're actively working on something, if you work in a project and that's your deliverable, like half an hour or so much time you get to play around with it, and then let me know. But the emphasis is on the person building the responsibility of the deliverable and knowing what's necessary for them to build to move forward. So I'm seeing that now from Lennex which I didn't see before in the beginning but I see it now. Now, if he's stuck, he's willing to say like, "Oh, okay. I don't know what's going on here. This doesn't make sense to me." And I think that's really important. I'm not sure exactly how to cultivate that but for whatever reason, it's worked with Lennex. But I think we need to help people learn that that they have to take responsibility for their work.
BRANDON: It seems to me that that's the process of learning to own their own thing, learning to kind of develop their own paths. Again, that's one of those things that winds up being a better apprenticeship pattern for the person and also is a thing that lends itself to making this thing scalable where you can benefit more people and have them help themselves in each other, rather than having to be the nexus point for all questions and all accountability systems and everything. So it seems to be working really well for you.
I have one more question that I want to ask from both to Taras and Lennex. What you would say to people who are intimidated about taking on a role in mentorship knowing that, "Hey, that actually does sound harder taking on a role and trying to cultivate and participate in apprenticeship." What you would recommend to that person that is interested in it but maybe intimidated by it?
Then Linux, the same question for you but from the position of somebody that's trying to break in and kind of scared and nervous that it seems difficult or scary or opaque. So can we start with you, Taras? What would you say to somebody that is like 'hey, this sounds fun and cool and everything but it sounds too hard'?
TARAS: To be a mentor or to have an apprentice?
BRANDON: Take on the idea or participate in apprenticeship in some way. Is there some way that you know that people could get involved that would not necessarily be super intimidating?
TARAS: I'm curious what the person's intention is because if you want to help people and that's the emphasis, then you have things that are uncomfortable. Especially good things in a lot of times, they're uncomfortable until you get really good at them. If you feel uncomfortable, chances are you're not growing right now.
For a lot of people that are very good technically, helping others, understand these things is the next step for them to evolve in their personal growth. If they really want to get better, having apprentice is a very confronting and a very challenging thing but it creates real opportunities to see that you're actually getting better and you're improving as a person and as a technical leader.
BRANDON: Then, as far as [inaudible] said, "I don't see the opportunity for myself." My guess is there are people everywhere that could use help. Do you have any suggestions on where they can find people to help, ways that they can get involved? Do you have a place where - are you looking for additional people to jump in and get involved on the mentorship side or suggestions for ways that people might get involved?
TARAS: I would love to help people who want to build apprenticeship systems in their companies. I would love to help those people if they're able to do that. Otherwise, I think that creating more systems in Ember community around apprenticeship, I think would be really helpful like making more systematic because right now, it's something that I do but I'd love for it to be something to the Ember community does.
Then because from that, if we engage in that conversation, then we can create spaces where it will be easy for people to do this kind of things and find apprentices and find mentors. I'd love for this to be an Ember community thing.
CHARLES: Well, it seems like this would be as good a place to start as any. So, here we are.
BRANDON: Maybe after this call, we'll figure something out and put something together and tell people to look for that. If they want to participate in mentorship and they consider themselves Ember or Ember adjacent, I'd like to see something in the next little while that lets people participate in a more systematic fashion. That sounds like an opportunity, for sure. If there are people that want to participate in that, sounds like you're the person to reach out to.
Then Lennex, for your sake, for people that kind of want to break into technology and are really intimidated by it, obviously you're in a remote part of the world and your access has been somewhat limited. Sounds like you even fight for internet access in your life, as well, which is a foreign concept to a lot of people. So what would you tell to those people that are intimidated by doing this, scared that they're going to waste somebody's time, scared that they'll fail at it?
LENNEX: I think if someone really, really wants to learn, they should find a mentor or a good apprenticeship because learning from someone who's experienced, someone who has your best interest at heart, someone who's willing to put in the effort to teach yourself, you can beat that. If you find that that someone was willing to do that, then put in the effort and go through that program because usually, apprenticeship is tailored towards a specific individual helping the apprentice. Where else will you get that?
BRANDON: And there's not a ton of access to that in the world so it sounds like that's a big problem. That's what they are fixing in the tech industry. So having you on to come here and talk about it, lend some expertise to it, and start putting some ideas, process and pushing that conversation forward, it matters a lot certainly to me personally. But also to what the point of what we're trying to do at the Frontside.
If people want to get in touch with you all, how would they do that, Taras? How people get in touch with you?
TARAS: I'm @EmberSherpa on Twitter, and Taras@EmberSherpa.com via email. I always try my best to talk to people as much as possible and be available to people as much possible. If anybody reaches out to me, I'd love to talk to them.
CHARLES: Yeah, you definitely been accessible to us which is why we're talking today and I really appreciate that. I mean, you've been genuinely super helpful. We haven't really gotten into it in this podcast but we've worked with you quite a bit and are working to improve our apprenticeship program with your help. I can't tell you how much we appreciate it.
Then, for you Lennex, how do people get in touch with you?
LENNEX: I am @zinyando on Twitter, and lennex@EmberSherpa.com.
BRANDON: Awesome. Well, thank you both very much. This was super enlightening. It's frustrating because I feel like we just barely scratched the surface. But I feel like there's some work that we need to do to put together some process around this. Maybe there's some blog posts or some further discussion around this to put this together. I would love to talk with you all again when we have something cool to share with people.
But what you're doing already is so awesome. I'd like for more people to know about it because I literally have never seen it done as successfully, as consistently as I've seen the EmberSherpa apprenticeship set up work.
Thanks very much for both of you all for putting that into the community and for sharing with us.
TARAS: It means so much to hear you, Brandon, say this because I respect both of you very much. I think you guys have a really great reputation in our community, and it means the world to me to hear you guys say that. Thank you so much for having us here.