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110: Mentorship 3.0 with Saron Yitbarek

Hosted byCharles Lowell and Sam Keathley

September 7th, 2018.


In this episode, Charles and Sam talk to Saron Yitbarek about her idea of mentorship, ideas for distributed learning for businesses to promote individual and company growth, and why it's important to take "digital sabbaths" on the regular.

This show was produced by Mandy Moore, aka @therubyrep of DevReps, LLC.


SAM: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Episode 110 of The Frontside Podcast. My name is Sam Keathley. I'm a developer here at the Frontside and I will be your episode host. Today, we're here with Saron Yitbarek, discussing mentoring. She is the founder of CodeNewbie and the host of the CodeNewbie Podcast. Also with me as a co-host is Charles Lowell, who is also a developer at Frontside. Welcome Saron and welcome Charles. How are you guys doing?

SARON: Thanks for having me. I'm doing pretty well.


SAM: Today is going to be an interesting take on the mentoring talk. I mostly want to know first off, Saron, how do you feel about mentoring? What are your opinions on the mentor-mentee relationship or the value there?

SARON: Yeah. I have lots of opinions on this topic. I think that the traditional structure of mentorship was usually looks like someone with less experience going to someone who has a lot more experience and say, "Will you be my mentor?" kind of like the children's book, 'Are You My Mother?' like 'Are you my mentor?' and then that person, that mother figure, that mentor looks after them and checks in on them and they have regular coffees and lunches and kind of steers them in the right, usually career-related direction.

I don't think that's very realistic, to be honest. I think about why that might be. There's many different reasons. I think the fact that we're so, so, so networked and there's just so many different ways to get in contact with people and build relationships is a big reason but I think that that traditional mentorship model, that kind of one directional way of doing things is just not really needed and kind of overrated.

I think that mentorship nowadays looks more like a mutually beneficial relationship, where I might reach out to someone who has more experience than me, for example in drawing, in art, not something I want to get to do but I know a crap-ton about podcasting, so I help you, you're my mentor in this specific area, in this specific topic but then, I get to be a mentor in this other thing that I'm really good at. I think it's those types of very focused topic-oriented, ideally two-way relationships that are more accurate and frankly, a more effective way of doing mentorship.

SAM: Yeah, I actually agree with that. I am pretty new myself to development, only really been in this career for about a year now and I always kind of consider that mentoring relationship as a regression back to school days, where you have these --

SARON: Yeah, yeah.

SAM: -- considered superior over you in some way, well, that's really not true in this community of developers and no matter where you are in development, it's all about working together and pairing. Working here has really showed me that value in paring, rather than like I have to look up to someone and regress back to feeling like a teenager in high school, like this person so good at this thing and they're the only one who can teach me. I definitely share that view of mentoring.

I went to a boot camp one day when they were telling you like, "Oh, you got to find a mentor. You got to find a mentor," and I was like, "Well, but why? Why do [inaudible] together?"

SARON: It's also a huge responsibility, a huge burden on the mentor too. Having to be, in a lot of ways, responsible for someone's career and trajectory and direction, that's a big responsibility. We don't have time for that, you know? On both ends, whether it's feeling like you're back in school or feeling like you have this huge responsibility, I think the traditional model isn't really the best model for either party.

I think this idea of let's all learn together, let's be really focused on topics and problems that are very particular to what I'm doing, what I'm learning, what I'm trying to do. I think that works out. It feels healthier for both people.

SAM: Absolutely.

CHARLES: I wonder also too, it seems like it might be a little bit of a throwback to the days when people would spend 30 years in a single company or 30, 35 years in a single career where you have these people who are really these reservoirs of this intense tribal knowledge. It seems like people move around a lot more in their careers, not only in the company that they work for but also in the things that they're literally doing.

I might be podcasting one day and producing a bunch of content and then, I might move into music or writing or other things like that. The careers seem to be broken apart a little bit more is one of the reasons why older models of advancement in those careers might not be as good a fit as they once were.

SARON: Yes, absolutely. I'm obviously very biased because I'm in tech but when you think about the different roles that people have in tech, I feel like we're always wearing so many different hats. We have to, obviously code and be technical in that sense but we have to be really good communicators, a lot of us are speakers, we host podcasts, we organize conferences, we go to meetups, we're bloggers, we do so many other things, that this idea of, "I'm going to have a mentor who can help me in my role of being a developer," is just too big. You kind of meet people who are good at those individual pieces and those individual skills to get me to where I want to go.

SAM: The whole idea of mentoring to me always reminded me of that whole Mr Miyagi relationship where you have this master of something and you're trying to learn from them. But in software development, I've learned that really no one is a master of anything because it's just changing so much and everything is so different.

SARON: Yup, absolutely.

CHARLES: The question is obviously, it seems like the idea that you're going to find one person who's going to represent the ideal confluence of every single skill set that you could hope to want, to be at some point in your career. That's looking more and more ludicrous. Is there a model where you can try and distribute those things, where you single out a large range of individuals? I guess the kind of what you were hinting at the beginning is that it is a lot more broken up, a lot more distributed but how do you pursue that, even if it is in a distributed manner?

SARON: Yeah, that's a great question. One of the moments where I realize that the distributed model is really the only way that makes sense is, I think it was three years ago maybe. We thought about doing some kind of mentorship program in CodeNewbies, some type of way for people to link up and find people who can be there and guide in a way and we had people fill out this survey that basically said what do you want out of a mentor, what do you look for, what do you hope for to achieve but also asked how do you see yourself. Do you see yourself as a mentor, a mentee or both?

It was really surprising that most people checked off both, which I thought was so interesting. It was so interesting to me that the same people who said, "I need help," with the same people who also said, "I also have help to give," and to me, that was such an amazing moment because I said, "Wow, it really isn't about this idea of I am the guide and I'm going to guide you." It's really about, "I have information expertise in one area and not in others."

What I realize is there really isn't a mentor model. I think it's more of a culture of being helpful, which probably sounds really cheesy but it's true. I really think it's about saying, "I know how to do a thing. I'm going to go on Stack Overflow and answer questions. I'm going to go on Twitter and answer questions. I'm going to write blog post and share with the world."

I think the real model, the real distributed mentoring model is us as individuals saying, "I just learned how to do a thing," or, "I just figured out how to do a thing well. Let me capture that. Let me capture it in a response, in an answer, in a forum, in a post and let me share that," and the more we do that as individuals, the more we have this huge amazing aggregate of knowledge that can serve as mentorship for all of us.

SAM: I like the touch on that. That's kind of the idea behind Codeland Conference, where everybody thought they might be new to development and everyone is just sharing their knowledge. You might feel you really knew about it but you know a lot more than you think you do and you could still help.

SARON: Yup, exactly and that's the whole idea, even the Twitter chats. When we first started, I don't have all the answers, I don't claim to, I don't really want that responsibility but I know there are a lot of people who do and I know a lot of people who have resources and opinions and who can help out. One thing that people do is they'll DM us and say, "I'm having a hard time with this." Sometimes, it's a very technical problems. Sometimes, it's a general 'I'm having a hard time getting a job,' which I do like high level question and I never answer them. I always say, "Tweet us and we'll retweet it and we'll get the whole community involved and we can have a rich conversation around it," and that's really been our motto, our philosophy.

I see what they do with mentorship. If you have a mentor, you're not obligated, I guess to listen to them but the idea is kind of that you should. There is one person and you should listen to them because they know more than you. I think that's just not really fair and instead, I like to think that there are lots of different ways to do things and it's up to you to decide what's best for you and in order for you to decide, you have to have a lot of options. With Codeland, with the Twitter chats, no matter what skill level you're at, no matter how confident you feel in your coding abilities, you do have something to offer. Let's pull that out. Let's put it on the table and let's see who you can help today.

SAM: That's a perfect way of introducing someone to the idea of helping or getting help from a community, rather than an individual because you never want to take one person's word as gospel on something you just know nothing about.

SARON: Yeah, exactly.

SAM: You can sound confident talking about something and it can be the total wrong answer but if you're seen as someone superior or someone who knows what they're doing --

SARON: And you can sell it.

SAM: Yeah. You can be the best snake oil salesman in the world.

SARON: Absolutely. For the CodeNewbie podcast, we do short questions at the end of each episode and one of the questions -- my favorite question -- is what's the worst advice you've ever received. I love that question because I started by saying, I think that people love giving advice. I think people love asking for advice and the assumption again is if I give you advice, then I probably know more and you should probably listen to me but that's not always true. I want people to be comfortable making their own decisions and deciding for themselves. "This may sound like it could work and this may sound like a good idea, generally speaking, but for me, it's probably not a good fit. It's probably not what's best for me," and to be comfortable rejecting advice and that was kind of the reason why I started that question, it's my favorite question and it's so interesting how much advice is good.

It’s kind of generic but it's a good advice. It's an advice like, "Don't quit. Keep going," which maybe a good idea and maybe you do need to quit, so being open to rejecting advice, I think is really important and that one of my favorite questions.

SAM: In your experience, what is the best way to reject advice? Because when you're a new developer, when you're new at anything and you're seeking advice from a community or from a person, you don't want to come off as rude or maybe you're feeling... I don't know, not very confident but you think the advice that you were given is just bad advice. What would your advice be? I guess, what would your advice be on this advice? For your perspective, what would be a good advice to reject advice that you think is just wrong?

SARON: Number one is when I ask people for advice, I try to think about and try to know upfront, do they have the same values that I do? Do they have the same worldview? Do they have the same goals? Because that's the thing too. Oh, my God, I got so much unsolicited advice. It's amazing. I've actually stopped just saying to people my ideas or what's on my mind because I know as soon as I say, "I'm thinking about this," I'll get a whole slew of unsolicited advice and I'm like, "I didn't ask for that."

What I've learned is first to kind of figure out are we even on the same page because if my goal is to be a developer, if your goal is to be -- the only thing I could think of is a juggler, I don't know why -- a juggler and I ask you for a career advice, I'm going to go ahead and safely assume that what you have to say is probably not as applicable to me and so, number one is kind of identifying that. But number two is if they say something that just I know is not going to work or I've already tried, I'll just nod and say, "Thank you very much," and kind of go about my day.

I don't think you have to declare whether or not you going to take it. I think just acknowledging and I think the people that give advice, I think they're trying to be helpful, they have good intentions, usually. Usually it's, "I'm trying to save you from making mistakes that I made and I'm trying to help you get to learn a little faster." I always appreciate it but knowing that I can say, "Thank you. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your perspective," but know that I don't have to go off [inaudible].

SAM: That's actually very similar to my tactic. Just not like, "Thank you. Thank you so much. Don’t talk to me ever again." No.

SARON: And disappear, yeah.

SAM: I'm like the wind. With this pressure that either new developers or seasoned veterans are feeling about the mentor relationship, because I feel like a lot of senior developers that I've spoken with or people who've been in the business for a long time, feel like they should be mentoring or they need to take on that responsibility but there's always that hint of dread in their voice when they say about like, "Oh, I should be doing this." I always feel like it's okay to not do that. I never really understood why it was so high value to have this one-on-one relationship with an individual when you're not in school because it just feels so like... Not childish but childish.

SARON: Yeah, that's one of things, frankly that I love about the tech community and also do not understand about the tech community. It's such a giving knowledge sharing community, whether you do it in a tactful way or not in a tactful way but the idea of giving back and paying it forward is just so deep. It's so, so deep that even when I've been coding for only a couple of months, I still felt this, I don't want to call pressure because pressure kind of sounds a little negative but I definitely felt this expectation that I was supposed to be blogging, supposed to be sharing and shouting and helping and doing these pay it forward type things.

I don't really know where that comes from. Maybe that comes from the culture of open source, maybe that's where it kind of penetrate. I'm not sure but there's this huge need, desire, idea that we're supposed to be giving back and for that, I am very, very, very grateful. But I think that acknowledging that if you're someone who wants to be a mentor that you can do it simply by being available, literally being available, the going to be hashtag is super, super active even when we're not doing our Twitter chats and people use it to ask for help, they used it to ask questions.

If you're feeling particularly giving or extra helpful that day, go on Twitter and check the hashtag and see what questions people are asking. Things like that or just super helpful and don't require a huge amount of time and effort. There's a lot of small ways to help out. That may not seem like a big deal to you but for the person who's asking for help, who has been banging their head against the wall, it's hugely valuable.

SAM: Yeah, absolutely. Up until I went to my first conference this year, I didn't realize how supportive and important Twitter is. You know I always kind of considered it to be like another social media platform that I don't understand because I'm 84 years old and I just don't get it. It's been so uniquely helpful and in ways like Stack Overflow or even issues in GitHub, it just aren't. You can get so many more perspectives, so many different perspectives from people.

SARON: Yeah, absolutely. Twitter has been amazing exactly for that. It's just an efficient way to crowdsource opinions and crowdsource perspectives and when you get your question answered and someone else answers it, it doesn't only benefit you the way it would if you email someone but it benefits anyone else who comes across that page, so yeah, it's hugely valuable.

CHARLES: I remember the first moment I had kind of like that, a light bulb went off in my head where I was working on some really weird project that was using some strange wiki for its content storage and I was getting frustrated and I just tweeted about it and then the CTO of that company just immediately answered my question and I was like, "What?" You know, it was years ago and definitely, I was like, sound of explosion, that is where my mind exploded. I was not seeking help. I was just literally being kind of a jerk and venting frustration and lo and behold, the answer for my problem descended from the Twitter clouds. It was incredible.

SARON: The Twitter clouds are the best clouds, usually

CHARLES: Twitter is very... What's the word? It’s very split down in the middle.

SARON: Noodie? Yeah, there you go.

SAM: There's this live feedback, so there's no buffer of emotion there, you know?

SARON: Yeah.

SAM: It's like, "Oh, this thing that you said, it made me mad. I'm going to tell you about it right now." Charles, I know that you had mentioned before that you think mentoring would be a good idea for Frontside and then, after all this discussion, have your views stayed the same? What are you feeling about that?

CHARLES: As kind of the person who's like the grizzled veteran in the software world, it's definitely something that I've kind of whipped myself over the back. It's like feeling like it's something that we should do but I think it comes from the idea that people come here and we want to make sure that they're getting access to the learning that they need and the ways, in which they can level themselves up that they need, that's the kind of the prime motivator there.

I always perceived mentorship as some vehicle through which to achieve that. It's something that I've heard. Obviously, we don't have a mentorship program at our company. It's something I felt that we should always be investigating. I've always felt maybe a little bit bad that we didn't have it but it's also something that I really struggled with in my career because I can't really say that I've ever had a mentor, so I don't really know what that relationship would look like but I do have a lot of people that I learned a lot of critical things from. I can look at it as kind of these seminal moments in my career, where like light bulbs went off and a lot of the time, they're associated with an individual and that individual and the thing that they taught me or multiple things that they taught me, are still with me.

I have those experiences, which have been phenomenal and critical to my development as a software developer, so I guess it's just part and parcel of that impulse that you're describing to pay it forward, to realize that when you walked into the building, the lights were on and the walls were standing and the air was at a comfortable climate temperature. As you live there, you realize that there are people involved in actually, doing that maintenance and providing the building for you and the space for you to become aware of your world and then, when new people walk into the building, you want to provide them the same experience that you had.

I guess that's my take on. That's the kind of thing that I would want to provide, so the question is like what does mentoring or mentoring 3.0, as we're maybe talking about in this conversation, how does that fit into that? How would you implement something like this, some sort of distributed learning in a company? I don't know. Maybe, it's not worthwhile. Maybe it is.

SAM: I think it focuses more on that pair programming because when you're thinking back and you have all these people, like you have names of people that taught you something, it's multiple names. It's not just this one guy taught me all of these things. Actually, within a company, that mentoring just comes from pairing with your coworkers, seeing what different hats everybody wears and then, trying them on every now and again but not necessarily taking that individual's word as gospel, you know?

CHARLES: Right and hopefully, that's not something that we've advocated for. Maybe, it's how do you introduce structure around that, to make sure that the proper ferment is happening, so that you have novel pairings and make sure the ideas that are flowing are flowing around the entire company and not just through certain set channels.

SARON: Yeah. The other part of that is if you create structure around what it looks like to share outside. You know, pair programming is interesting because it's kind of one-on-one and it's hopefully, I have something important or bright to say in our pairing session. Maybe, I don't. Maybe I'm having a dull day. Maybe, I'm having a bad day but this really give you the same opportunity to take a moment and say, "What do I know? What do I want to share? What do I want to put together?" It does really give you a chance to prepare and gather yourself. It's kind of in the moment.

I think having another opportunity where you can gather yourself is important and so, that might look like brown bag lunches, where everyone takes a turn and has to do a little lightning talk. That's usually the opportunity to say, "I have five minutes. I'm going to share something." Everyone has a turn, which means that the company's literally saying everyone has something to say. It's only five minutes, only a few minutes, so hopefully it won't be too terrifying if you're not big on public speaking and it's your co-worker so hopefully, it won't be terrifying because it's people you know and not total strangers. You know, a format like that, where there's structure but the company is saying, "We're going to give you time to think about what you're good at and what you know and to share that is good."

I think another way to do that is by setting time aside for blogging. If your company can say, "Thirty minutes out of the week, we're going to take some time to write down five things I learned, to write down one cool thing I learned, post it publicly, post it internally about this expectation that everyone should be writing, everyone should be sharing, which also says everyone has something to share." I think those are two ideas and two ways that we can create a culture of sharing and a culture of distributed mentorship, where everyone has an opportunity to find the thing that they're excited about and specific ways to share it.

SAM: Yeah, that's excellent.

CHARLES: I hope you're grinning as much as I am, Sam because at least in the first half, you basically described our Lunch and Learn process. It's a little bit more than five minutes but I think another thing that clicked for me there is making sure that having a variation of expectations of quality or something like that because I feel like where we do really well is in the Lunch and Learn thing. We have a process very similar to what you describe but where we're not so good is maybe with blogging. I wonder if part of that is we just hold ourselves to such a high standard of what it is.

The idea that we could throw together a blog post in 30 minutes, I love that idea but it means you really have to be willing to just say, "You know what? We’re going to get it out there and we're going to make it bite-sized and the expectation is that we're not going to be writing some gigantic essay that's going to shake the industry to its core every Friday at three o'clock." There are things and if we can, I shouldn't say a reduction in quality but maybe a reduction in scope so that you can say like, "We're going to carve out 30 minutes or an hour and we're going to pick a topic that scope-appropriately for that."

SARON: Absolutely and I think that knowing that you only have 30 minutes or maybe it's an hour -- an hour is probably a little bit more realistic -- but knowing that you only have an hour also forces scope. You can't write a book about JavaScript in an hour. You just can't, so the fact that by the end of that hour, you have to have something to turn in is a great way to force people to focus and do something really small and really bite-sized.

The other thing is I don't think that after the hour, you need to publish it publicly. It could be, you need to turn it into someone else, to edit and look over for you and give you feedback. It's not quite ready yet but it's a solid first draft and the ideas that after that first person edits it, then it's on its way to being published. I think there's different ways to manage a scope without also making this scary thing where I have to say something for the Earth to shake. There's different things that we can do around that.

CHARLES: I'm wondering what other forms of sharing that we can fit into our workday. I guess, the other baseline is just making sure that you're always... What is it? ABT -- always be tweeting. It's so easy to be write-only, not even engaging conversations but just throwing ideas out into the void.

SAM: I think holding a discussion with your coworkers like if you're in an environment where you can work face to face or are constantly online, if you're more of a remote worker, I think just having a conversation with anybody, rather than just putting your idea out there, putting it out there with someone who can actually provide real time feedback in a more friendly way, then I think some people on Twitter could be. Because they're your coworkers and they're not going to call you rude names, you know?

CHARLES: Right and you're also going to know, hopefully the whole trust and intent and 'are we on the same page?' that question is answered even before the text is written.

SAM: Right.

SARON: Yeah, absolutely and with those conversations, this actually mean [inaudible] that we do. We do like a show and tell every week and the idea is that we're both always learning random things, usually related things but sometimes, totally random but still very interesting and it will take 30 minutes to just share what we've learned. Sometimes, they'll also turn it into a blog post. Sometimes, it's just a knowledge sharing opportunity. I'm not really sure but it's a good window of opportunity to say, "We are learning and we're sharing and we have something of value to bring."

The great thing about something like a show and tell is that it doesn't necessarily have to come from my brain. It doesn't have to be like, "I have a great idea that I'm going to share." It could be, "I read about this cool idea." It can be, "I heard about this cool thing that we can try and we can apply," but I still kind of credit, you know? Like I get credit for being the value bringer but the burden isn't on me every week to come up with the idea. That's a nice balance, to kind of create space to share and to promote this knowledge share and if it comes from you, it's great but if not, you're still helping other people.

CHARLES: I have a question that may or may not be related in here. This has just kind of occurred to me because this is definitely something that I experienced, where I get into a mode where I become overwhelmed by the ideas that people are sharing and so, what's the balance? Because usually, we're out there searching for ideas and we're searching for novel things so that we can include them in our work, in the things that we want to do and accomplish, whether be that in tech or elsewhere. What's the balance of being heads down and being like, "You know what? I'm going to be closed to new ideas right now." Because they can be distracting, right? The [inaudible], that's actually a phenomenon and so, how do you protect yourself from sharing? What’s the balance?

SARON: My solution was to move to San Diego. That was my solution to that. I actually moved from New Jersey and I worked in New York City... How long has it been? Was it only been a year? Oh, my goodness, and now, I'm in San Diego and it was so interesting because that ended up being a really nice side effect. I didn't move specifically for that reason but when you are commuting in New York City every single day, there's so much going on all the time. There's just so many ideas and events and meet ups and companies and people. It's just so much.

I think that it was a great place to be in my early 20s when I really just wanted to soak up everyone else's ideas and I didn't really have opinions of my own at that point and it's a great way to just kind of absorb and be this awesome sponge in the big city but after a while, I kind of realized, maybe I have my own ideas and my own thoughts, so moving to San Diego, which is a much, much, much quieter place, has been a really great way to reflect and sit with my own thoughts and feelings and opinions and just kind of focus on that.

I understand that everyone can move to San Diego, although I highly recommend it but I think in that way of carving out like... What do they call it? Do they call it a tech sabbath? A digital sabbath? Am I saying that right?

CHARLES: Yeah. Maybe. It sounds about right.

SARON: Yeah. I came across that term recently but this idea of one day out of the week, I'm not going to be on the interweb. I'll just not going to do it. Maybe, even the whole weekend, oh, my goodness and saying, "I'm just going to stay away from things. I'm just going to create a little space for me to think and reflect."

I think when I don't have the whole day and what I need is just like a moment, I find that writing things down is a great way -- a really, really good way of doing it -- even if I'm taking notes or from doing a strategy session or if I'm trying to make a decision. Usually, I'll start typing and what I've started to do recently is to say, "I'm not going to type. I'm going to plot in a notebook and I'm just going to write things down," and because writing is slower than typing, it forces you to just think. It forces you to be alone with your thoughts, for better or worse and it forces you to really just to think about what you're doing or what you're saying and reflect. It's a really, really great meditative exercise that I found. You know, finding little ways to build in an escape from the noise, ideally on a regular basis, I think is a really healthy thing to do.

SAM: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. My normal method of sort of closing everybody off is I just sketch out ideas because I'm an artist. I come from that sort of perspective as I can make a drawing out of feelings more so than I can write them out. If I'm feeling really overwhelmed or if I'm trying to make sense of some information that people have given me, I just sketch it out and I think that's something that doesn't really get talked about a lot in the whole community because sometimes it's always about eat, breathe, live, code, you know?

We have different skills. You have other things that you're good at that's not just code. When I was at React Rally, a lot of people were in the music and then finding a way to separate yourself from the entirety of it is definitely one of the better ways to make sense of your situation.

SARON: Yup, absolutely.

CHARLES: Yeah. Sleep? It's a great way to take a break.

SARON: Sleep is so good.

SAM: On my top three things: sleep.


SARON: Yeah. As a kid, I never ever thought I would look forward to my bedtime ever. You know, it's my favorite part of the day.

CHARLES: Yeah but like sleep, writing, drawing, I always forget. Like when I'm caught up in a problem, I always forget that engaging in some other activity -- I like to walk in the place next to my house. I like to play my ukulele. Engaging in those activities is almost on the critical path to solving the problem and I always forget it. I think we always forget it but sometimes, you can be so frustrated and you can just shut it off, be completely alone and there is some magical process that's probably going on in your brain. I don't know exactly what it is but you come back and the answer is just sitting there, waiting practically on your desk.

SARON: Absolutely. One thing, we recently moved a couple of weeks ago to a new place and it's a little bit bigger and so, I had the opportunity to unpack boxes and buy furniture that we didn't really need before or just trying to make it more of a home. I've been using it as a really great opportunity to be productive and to feel productive but not be in front of a screen.

Sometimes, I even like save tasks for myself like, "I'm going to wait till the evening to put together this shelf because I'm going to need a moment to just be away from my computer." I have a plan around it so it ended up being such that, I think about every day, there's one little home activity thing that I can do, whether it's cleaning or cooking or assembly or movie or something with the home, that allows me to, because I'm not really a hobby person. I don't really do hobbies because it just feels, like no judgment on people who do. I know people get really into their hobbies but it just feels like, "Why?" You know, like, "Why?" like, "For what?"

But when I put a shelf together, it's like, "I'm going to use this for books." You know what I mean? Like you're very purposeful, so home activities has been my way of carving out that space away from the screen but also feeling like I'm doing something productive, I'm getting things done.

SAM: Something that I would recommend to anybody who doesn't really have that, I'm going to step away from the computer and do this thing. Something that's kind of helping me was the Pomodoro Technique, which if you're not familiar with that, it's basically a time management thing where you set your timer for work like for 25 minutes, 30 minutes or whatever and then, when the timer goes off, you take an allotted break for five minutes, 10 minutes, just so you're not doing the thing that you've been doing for the last 30 minutes.

SARON: Yes, absolutely. That's a great one.

SAM: My advice is to implement that if you don't have a thing, that you use for your cleaner, I guess.

SARON: Oh, you want to hear some really terrible but effective advice?

SAM: Yes.

SARON: And this is what I found out very accidentally is if you have a really, really crappy office chair that hurts --

CHARLES: Oh, man. I'm sitting in one right now. It's literally a rocking chair from the 1800s.

SARON: That sounds awesome.

CHARLES: Yeah, it does sounds awesome.

SARON: But if you have a crappy office chair, that can be a really great way to get away from your screen because after about an hour, your thighs will hurt and your back will hurt and you will be forced to get up and walk around. It's so funny because I have a pretty crappy office chair and my back has been hurting for so long and I just thought, "That's life." That's like my [inaudible] for myself. I'm like, "That's just how life is, my backs hurt," and then it got to a point where I was like, "I need to go and talk to someone," and as soon after that, I spoke to a conference and I was basically up and down away from any type of chair for like four or five days straight and magically, my back pain went away and I was, "Oh, my God. It's that freaking chair," and ever since I realized it, I started noticing it. I would sit down and I would go, "I'm nearing the one- Oh, there are my thighs. There they go. They're in pain."

There’s another great cheap life hack: get a crappy chair, after about an hour, everything will hurt. You will be forced to go do some jumping jacks for about five, 10 minutes and there's your additional sabbath. There you go.

SAM: In Charles' case, probably a haunted office chair. Yeah, that's an excellent advice. I never really noticed that. Now, I'm going to.

CHARLES: You know what funny is, I actually didn't even notice it but I do. I never used to get up and go on walks before or spend as much of the day standing as I do and I'm actually completely and totally oblivious to it but I think, I realize like I can attribute a lot of that to the terribly, uncomfortable chair, in which I sit on every day.

SARON: I have this awesome habit of sitting cross-legged, which apparently is a very, very bad idea, my physical therapist told me, so I make it worse for myself. If you don't feel like you have enough screen time, just sit cross-legged and that will accelerate the pain process.

SAM: As you said that, I am currently sitting cross-legged in my desk chair.

SARON: Yeah!

SAM: That's just how I sit in chairs. My legs are too short to reach the floor.

SARON: Me too. I just find it so comfortable. I don't know and I'm so happy to hear that you also do this because I'm like, "Am I just weird?" because I love sitting cross-legged. It's so comfortable. It makes me really happy.

SAM: No, I verified 100%, that's how I sit in all chairs.

SARON: Yeah, the same.

CHARLES: I can do one leg.

SARON: Only one? Man, you need to work on that.

SAM: -- [inaudible]. That's going to be the end of our podcast. Again, thank you Saron for coming on and having this awesome conversation about mentoring. Definitely check out the website CodeNewbie.org.

We are the Frontside. We build software that you can stick a future on. Hit us up if you're looking for help building your next big thing and also, hit us up on Twitter. Hit Charles, myself, Frontside and Saron on Twitter.

SARON: Thank you so much for having me. This is awesome. This is fun.

SAM: Also, I want to give another thanks to Mandy, our producer for producing this lovely episode and all of our episodes. If you have any questions for us, hit us up on Twitter. Any ideas for future topics, any thoughts you have on this great conversation, let us know and we'll talk to you all later.

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