We are starting our new series of an article where we are going to take interviews of awesome programmers.This is the first interview and without any doubt, there is no one, to begin with than Azat Mardan.
Azat Mardan is an Entrepreneur, Programmer, published Author and blogger. He works at top 10 US bank called Capital One, authored 14 books, runs Node university and give talks at various big conferences.
In this interview, we took a dive in past and walk through his journey as a programmer and how he became bestseller Author at Amazon. With no further due, here is the complete interview.
Please introduce yourself and your work
Please give us a brief walkthrough of your career, how have you started as a developer and what was the important events that took place in your career
I started as the developer I’ve taught myself PHP and a little bit of Python and MySQL. I taught myself SQL, well actually I took a course in the university on SQL but PHP I did it myself as well as HTML and CSS. So I started about fifteen years ago. Self-taught but I was going through an informatics bachelor program. So I took a few courses here and there but mostly self-taught.
And then I did my master’s degree in the United States where I got, even more, experience and mostly continued to educate myself. I worked for the US Federal Agencies in Washington D.C then in 2011 I moved with a startup to Silicon Valley and we did the whole Startup game. So we’ve raised a few hundred thousand dollars and burn through pretty much all of it and then I went on to work at storify. And then I really started to focus on NodeJS so that was 2012. I worked at Storify and started writing my first book, first series book. I had a few books before but this was the first series one on NodeJS. Storify was sold to a bigger company a year later and I joined DocuSign and continued to work with NodeJS. I started leading the development team. And now I am at Capital One where I bring innovation and I foster strong engineering culture at Capital One.
Please introduce your project Node University to our readers
The way to go there is node.university. That said without the dot com. You can get a free course we have lots of free courses we also have a paid plan just for you to support us and for you to get the fresh content delivered every few weeks.
So every few week there’s a new course because technology changes very fast. You have to keep up to date right. You pay a subscription you get the new courses just to up to date and you enjoy a happy and productive work and hopefully, life too. So go check it out.
What tools, editor you use to code?
So I used Atom but now I’m switching gradually to VS Code. I’m using iTerm. I am Using JSH, Git. I use CURL and I am not a fan of PostMan.
And then I’m also using Byword a lot. It’s a markdown editor. I’m using marked. I mean using DexSet for my slides. I spoke at conferences a lot and used Zoom and Skype for online meetings. Slack for chatting. Those are my main tools where I spend ninety percent of my time.
Please tell us about your blogs
So I have my professional blog and I also have a personal blog where I just share my thoughts my travels my pictures etc My personal blog is that azat.co. I also sometimes share the same posts on Medium. So if you already on Medium you can follow me there.
The best way to master technology is to teach it to others
We know you are renowned Author, please tell us in brief about your journey as an author
So my first book I did it into 2002 did two books that were at the same time I was studying for my bachelor degree. And I just like writing. I think it’s pretty cool you sit down in front of an empty file and couple hours later you have an essay and then a few weeks later you have a book. That’s been awesome!
Something which did not exist before and now here you have it physically in your hands you have a print book. You gather royalty checks and you get invited to speak at conferences and you get invited to work at awesome companies like Capital One So that’s pretty awesome.
So I just started to write I sit down in front of my computer and put my hands on my keyboard and started writing. The major motivation was for me to basically remember all the steps that I did to get started with NodeJS, MongoDB, git, Heroku because there were a lot of commands a lot of moving steps. Basically the motivation for me was to remember it for myself and if someone else will find it useful then it’s even better right.
I started sharing it on my blog and then I decided to teach a course live course in San Francisco and I develop this manual. It’s basically like a small book, just fifty or one hundred pages and then I start expanding it and people start buying it and downloading it so that turned into my first bestseller.
I put it on Amazon and it turned out to be a bestseller and then I had more and more books because it’s like eating potato chips you know you cannot stop once you have one. Once you have your first book and it’s relatively successful. You just want to keep continue and keep improving right. And then you have more and more motivation to keep going. You have people giving you the good review and then you have royalties and you have a publisher so I approached Apress media and we did a deal with them. I sent a proposal and we did three more books then Manning reached out to me we brainstorm a few ideas and.I ended up writing react quickly which was my latest book. It’s coming out in print in a few weeks it’s already told ready finished in the ebook version. We’re just going through the production and copyediting.
So yeah I think everyone can write a book. If you know the subject if you already know the topic then probably you can write a book in a weekend. Maybe in a week you can just take some vacation a few days off you can take a holiday and write the book there. If you know the research if you have the examples. Of course, if you don’t know the technology it’s harder. So at first write about something you already know and it will be really easy.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?
The most important lesson is that learning never stops.
No matter where you are if you think that you’ve already achieved probably you’re not looking good enough. A good phrase is that “If you are the smartest person in the room that means you are in the wrong room”.
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Join good technology company and join the team where you’re surrounded with people who are smarter, go to meet ups, go to conferences, read good books and learning never stops and that’s the most important lesson in our career.
If you think you know everything already is probably wrong. Most likely gonna be wrong. Most likely you are just in a wrong graphical location or you’re not surrounding yourself with the enough new technologies and new things.
What do you do to improve your skills and make yourself a more valuable programmer?
You have to code you have to program to in order to be a valuable programmer so that will get you to the senior level. Once you’re senior level senior software engineer or s/w developer then you should stop on the coding a little bit but just a little bit. You still need to code in your spare time, extra to get better but you need to start investing in soft skills you need to start reading books on how to communicate better and it includes written, it includes verbal communication mostly a written because that work most of the times you’re going to be writing.
So improve your English English is lingua franca of software engineering. That’s why writing books are good, writing blog posts is good because that will teach you how to become better at reading the communication. Learn how to do public speaking how to present your ideas learn how to speak.
Don’t be afraid of speaking. So that will get you from senior level to an architect or to a manager.
What trends or innovations are you most excited about right now?
There are a whole bunch of them. So AI ( Artificial Intelligence ) is obviously machine learning AI So those trends. I hope they will eliminate a lot of groundwork for our front end developers. So I think in five-ten years maybe it will take a little bit longer but eventually, we will have the Web development be so easy and there would be such great framework.
So developers just have to push a few buttons and they would have everything done for them. So basically that’s good because it will be easy to develop but it also means your salary will go down and you would be replaced eventually with a computer with a framework or with a service or with a cheaper labor.
So if you’re OK with that. I mean that’s fine. Right. Most people would not change but if you want to stay ahead of the trend that’s why you need to constantly educate yourself and try to become an architect, try to become the person who creates those frameworks instead of just a consumer or just a developer.
Being an employee, Author, projects owner, how you manage your work life and personal life ?
You just got to be obsessed. Get to be obsessed with whatever you do and don’t listen to anyone who is telling you that you need some sort of work-life balance. You just do whatever it takes to get you there and you don’t have to sacrifice anything you have to be obsessed and healthy you have to be obsessed in your day work, in your projects. Be obsessed with writing the best book, my book Practical NodeJS, yes was number one for many many months on Amazon when you search for NodeJS. I just I was super obsessed and you go an extra mile.
What is your upcoming project or book?
So React Quickly is pretty much done and I am working on Node University too. Obviously, I am working at CapitalOne on cool projects but I’m not going to tell you about them because you’re not working at capital one. Which is confidential.
And yeah I start speaking with few publishers about my new book ideas so. So I am excited to work on a new book probably it’s going to be not heavy on technology is going to be more or more kind of about “how to do rather than. Exactly what to do”.
So yeah definitely check Node university I’ll be putting more courses in the next few weeks.
Tips/Advise for fellow coders/bloggers/authors
Master English and master one technology really well so like pick NodeJS or Elixir or big cloud computing and then master that technology really well because the focus is the key to mastery. Once you master one technology you can switch to something else but don’t switch too early right you have to have to put hours sometimes it’s years.
Any feedback for Codeforgeek
Continue pushing good content on NodeJS, the written, the video, the audio. Put all kind of content and use all media because people consume media differently. So I prefer podcasts other prefer written and there is a type of people they prefer YouTube videos. So by repackaging, you can reach more people.