S4E11: From Theatre to Programming with Dev Mastery Founder Bill Sourour

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Bill Sourour is the founder of DevMastery.com, the founder and president of technology consulting firm Arcnovus, and a frequent consultant for the Canadian government.

Through DevMastery, Bill offers a weekly newsletter full of tips and resources to help developers program better and advance their careers. Bill has 20 years of experience as a programmer and architect, which he uses to help both individual developers and large organizations as a teacher and consultant.

Bill’s secondary passion was for acting; after studying theatre at Concordia University, he balanced both pursuits for years until he decided to fully commit to his tech career.

In today’s conversation, we talk about the early days of Bill’s career balancing his tech and theatre passions, how he got into consulting and started a business, his advice for people who want to work freelance, his goals for helping developers with the DevMastery newsletter, and more.

This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

Laurence Bradford 0:06
Hey listeners. Welcome to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford. Before we get into today's episode, I just want to remind you that you can get the Show Notes for this episode in every other episode at learntocodewith.me/podcast. And if you enjoy the show, make sure to subscribe on whichever podcast player you listen on. And if you're feeling particularly generous, a review would be awesome too. Here's a quick word from our sponsors who helped make the show possible. Interview Cake is an online resource that helps you prep for interviews so you can land your dream job in tech. To find out more and get 20% off go to learntocodewith.me/cake. Again, the URL is learntocodewith.me/cake.

Laurence Bradford 0:59
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Laurence Bradford 1:19
In today's episode, I talk with Bill Sourour, the founder of DevMastery.com, a weekly newsletter and blog for developers. We talked about how he studied theater in college, what led him to start consulting, how he started dev mastery and more. Bill Sourour is the founder of DevMastery.com, a weekly newsletter full of tips and resources to help developers program better and advance their careers. Bill has 20 years of experience as a programmer and architect, which he uses to help both individual developers and large organizations as a teacher and consultant.

Laurence Bradford 1:58
Hey Bill, welcome to the Learn to Code With Me podcast.

Bill Sourour 2:01
Hey, Laurence, thanks so much for having me.

Laurence Bradford 2:03
Yeah, I'm so excited that you're here. Is there anything else that you'd like to add that introduction before we jump into the interview?

Bill Sourour 2:09
Actually, you did a fantastic job. I mean, other than that, maybe you can say that. I occasionally try to try to share my knowledge through articles online and stuff like that. But for the most part, you nailed it.

Laurence Bradford 2:20
Okay, great. So before getting on the call, I was looking at your LinkedIn profile, and I saw something that just stood out to me and I had to ask about it right away. I noticed that you studied theater in college. So naturally, yeah. So naturally, I was wondering how you ended up getting into tech after studying theater.

Bill Sourour 2:39
It's actually funny. It's almost the reverse. It's How did I end up getting into theater because I actually wrote my first few lines of code when I was six years old. So my dad was a was a computer guy. He came home one day when I was a kid with what's affectionately called now a luggable computer. Did you can imagine like a really large kind of metal suitcase, where the top kind of slips off. And there's a little monochrome 10 inch monitor, like that was the computer. So, you know, we sat together and I got really fascinated by this whole machine. And we wrote a little program in basic at the time. And I mean, he did most of the work, I was just kind of along for the ride. And then when I was a teenager, I got into sort of, well, we were one of the first households to kind of have internet and, and the web and stuff. And so I got into I learned a little bit of HTML at the time. And then I started working for him. And so while all of that was happening, kind of on the side, I had this hobby of, of acting and theater, and so on and so forth. And so I actually kind of had this split personality. So when I went to after high school, when I went to university, I had this kind of theater that which is what I was studying and then to pay to help pay for school I was doing side projects, which was building like ecommerce sites for people so it was this really kind of weird duality. So yeah, I got this By the theater bugged for a while. I did it for a little bit, you know, did it in school, did it for a little bit afterwards, and then kind of hit a crossroads and ended up veering into and staying in tech.

Laurence Bradford 4:11
Wow. So that's really interesting. And it reminds me of someone else I had on the show back in season three. He was on episode two Ben Halpern, I had no idea before getting on the show, a side note of Ben runs the site dev two so dev.to and he you I don't want to help I'm not recalling this incorrectly. But he was really interested in comedy. I think early on, I think he's trying to be a comedian or like a script writer or work on TV shows or something. And that's actually what first I think, got him to New York. And I thought that was such a like, he he found a lot of similarities between the two. Did you do you think like studying theater helped your tech career at all? Or maybe like the reverse? I don't know.

Bill Sourour 4:54
Tremendously. Yeah, like it. It's incredible. So I mean, probably programming in a lot of ways is, is a creative pursuit. So there is, I find most programmers actually have kind of a little bit of an artistic bent in a way, you have to be somewhat of a creative person to do it. The other thing too is when you study theater, especially like when you're saying that you're putting on a play, everything is fixed. So you have like a fixed timeline, you have like a fixed number of people and have a fixed scope, which is the plate. So like, as the deadline is approaching, you can't just like okay, well, we'll delay opening night by two weeks. So you can't say like, oh, we'll just add, you know, three more people to the cast at the last minute. And they'll take on the lines that I didn't learn or you can't say, oh, let's let's just drop the second app. Right. None of that can happen. So you have this real kind of Iron Triangle of constraints. And so it teaches you about how to work within that. And I think that applies to any job. But I know that in in tech, and as developers know, one of the things that frequently come up is, you know how bad we are at estimating and how deadlines get missed. Or We're always kind of like having to change scope, etc, etc, etc. And so I kind of through the theater thing got really used to this idea that you're kind of constrained, and you just got to work and make it work. And so I find that was super helpful in terms of the tech herd.

Laurence Bradford 6:16
Yeah, that definitely makes a lot of sense. And I mean, I think I wasn't, you know, placed as a child, but definitely not as an adult. I imagine it's extremely different. But I really liked what you said about the estimating and just having to make it work. And yet having things always been a deadline, like what you mentioned, if you have a show opening tomorrow, you have to do this show, so on and so forth. Okay, so getting back to your story, though. You studied theater in college. Did you pursue acting after that? Or did you kind of get into tech right away?

Bill Sourour 6:47
I did a kind of a whole bunch of stuff. It's just It's weird. So I'm up in I'm in Canada. So I was I did the new voices. I used to do stand up comedy as well. So I did that the new voices of comedy at the just for laughs fest And Montreal. That's where I would school at school in Montreal. And then I moved to Toronto and I did a show at the the second city there like there was like a dinner theater show at the second city called Tony and Tina's wedding and I was in for a while and then oddly, I'm, there's an old version of Monopoly floating around somewhere like the CD ROM game of Monopoly, like a computer game by Parker Brothers, and I'm the voice of the old shoe. why that's so creepy. Actually. I swear I think I had that game. I don't know if I that one. I used to play life on the computer. And I used to play like candy like random board games for some reason on the computer. And I feel like I could have had monopoly that's so wild. So what you're like a voiceover artist? Yeah, I did. I did a little bit of voice work. And that was the funny thing there is. So my, my my wife's. My wife's aunt actually had the game. She got it out of out of a box of Cheerios, believe it or not, like and kept it. So she had this. By the time I met my wife. I mean, I thought Doing all that stuff I was I was waiting to my tech career and it all felt like ancient history. But yeah, I was mentioning this at some family function. And she's like, you know, I think I have that game. And and she found it for me. And so yeah, sure enough, there it is me doing this. This crazy voice of the old shoe in a Monopoly game. So it feels like a different lifetime ago. But yeah, it was. It was fun. So I did pursue it. And I always had kind of both going on. So while I was doing that, I kind of had a day job working in tech as well.

Laurence Bradford 8:27
Got it. And I have to say, I mean it you were in. You were a I remember it saying that not a game developer. But you were part of the games. You're part of things early on. Right. You were voice in the game now. That's so cool.

Bill Sourour 8:38
Yeah, that's right. Yeah, I didn't. Interestingly, like I never got into. I never got into game development. So I did a lot of e commerce stuff. And then I did a lot of, you know, what they would call enterprise kind of apps. So like business focused, business focused applications, a lot of web based stuff, that kind of thing. So I never got into that the whole game development thing. You know, it's sort of interested me but I never, I never found my way into that space. So, yeah, so my contribution or my gaming development experiences just in being a voiceover artist for this monopoly.

Laurence Bradford 9:11
Yeah. Which is, which is like very nice, right? But hey, Lucky guy. That's that's a nice little fun fact. Yeah, that's really cool. Okay, so you mentioned that you were pursuing theater or stand up comedy and different things like that. Wow. Also working in tech. So was that like, were you freelancing, or you know, consulting or did you have a full time job in tech go inward and was doing the acting on the side?

Bill Sourour 9:37
Yeah. So I had a full time job and was doing the acting on the side so well, that so the comedy stuff was more when I was in school, but afterwards, a lot of the voice work and and the work of the Second City, I had a full time job. So I was working in Toronto. I was working for an agency for a while and then for a startup for a while. That was sort of super crazy insane because as you can As you probably know, from working at a startup, you wearing like a million hats, and you're doing 1000 things. And then every so often I had very understanding people around me, I'd be like, Guys to sneak off for an audition, but I'll be back. And then, for the most part, though, when I was in Toronto, I had that steady gig at the second city, which was, which is evenings, you know, three nights, three nights a week. So that kind of that sort of worked with the schedule, but it was hectic. I mean, I don't know I've just always been my life in terms of work has always been super hectic. I've always had like a million things going on, and I just work all the time.

Laurence Bradford 10:33
Yeah, I can I can totally relate to that. So when did you give up or maybe like kind of take a step aside from the acting and pursue tech for the most part?

Bill Sourour 10:42
Yeah, so probably around 2005 2005 2006 I would say is when I, when I kind of made the made the full switch. It was just getting harder and harder to balance. Both and this is gonna sound terrible, but I was not a fan of being poor. And sort of the, you know, my contemporaries in the, in the acting world, their their life was, you know, they would take a flexible job as they could. So there would be waiting tables or stuff like that, and living very kind of simple, simple lives and then you know, chasing after the next, the next gig and it's a super hard, super, super difficult road and it's not one that you can kind of do on the side, you sort of have to commit to it. And so, you know, faced with the option I had this, you know, programming, which I loved, I really, really enjoyed it didn't so much feel like work to me. So because I had that I felt like, you know, this is nice, I can make a I can make a comfortable living and it's something that I enjoy. And then so, you know, over time, I felt myself fitting in like less and less and less with that crowd. So in school, it's easy to fit in because you know, you're all kind of studying the same thing. But as I started to have, you know, like, the career and the lifestyle was, you know, a nine to five job Plus, you know, this this evening theater stuff that cut out felt sort of disconnected. So by yeah by, oh 506 I pretty much stopped doing stop doing that and really focused on in on the tech.

Laurence Bradford 12:08
Yeah, I hear a lot of stories I think that are similar to what you've described. And one that stands out clearly, I won't go into all the details, but actually my Dad, I've mentored him, I think maybe a few times on the show and some other episodes. My dad is in tech. He's been in tech my entire life before I was born. But back when my parents met well, even before my parents met, he was trying to become a musician. And he lived in New York and he would do like freelancing and kind of side gigs with programming. And working for banks in particular and helping them set up I think, like their early computers that they were moving on to and pursuing his music career on the side and then once my parents got married, and they had me he, he still plays music, but then he decided to you know, get a full time job and something more stable and you know, with health insurance and things like that. So yeah, I think a lot of and there's definitely tons of folks I talked to that write emails and whatnot that were pursuing music particularly, I think there's a lot of connections between people who can like read and write music to programming.

Bill Sourour 13:14
Yeah, music is highly associated with math as well, and some kind of connection there as well. So I think that makes sense. And yeah, a lot of I've met a lot of like programmers who are in a band at night or yet who are involved in music for sure.

Laurence Bradford 13:28
Yeah, I'm terrible at music, but it definitely makes sense to me that they have similar especially in the math and in the music. So getting back to you and your journey in tech. I read something else on your LinkedIn that caught my eye and I wrote it down word for word so I don't like like misconstrue anything but it says, I have a secret level two clearance from the Government of Canada. So could you explain that secret clearance? Like I mean, if you can't, if you can, of course, if you can't know.

Bill Sourour 14:00
It sounds a heck of a lot more impressive than it actually is. But the bottom line is, because I live so I live in Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada. So, a lot of my consulting work ends up being with government clients. And so when you're dealing with government clients, you need to have a certain level of, of clearance to be able to handle you know, private information, like citizen information, etc. So there's different levels. So secret sounds like super like spy novel, impressive, but it's, it's it's actually not that it's a pretty common thing around here. Like if people who work for government and have that clearance, it does it, you know, like, I don't have the nuclear codes or anything like that. It's not. Yeah, it's not that, that James Bondy, but it is something that you need when you're working when you're working in government, when you're building software that you know where you're collecting, you have access to information on on citizens and private information that they they don't want to get out you also have access to like, you know, the business processes or internal processes of government. That may not be, you know, something that needs to necessarily be completely transparently shared, so that people don't don't try to game a particular system. So yeah, so that's, that's the story behind that.

Laurence Bradford 15:12
Yeah. Yeah, that makes that makes a lot of sense. And I was, again, back to your LinkedIn, looking at all of your experience, it looks like most of your experience in recent years has been consulting. And it looks like you also own your own business, right?

Bill Sourour 15:25
Yeah. So the way it works, Autodesk kind of a funny town for that. So you can actually make a really good living and a good business as an independent consultant. So in a lot of other cities to do what I do, you'd have to be an employee of a large consulting firms, you'd have to work for like an Accenture or KPMG, or that kind of thing. But in Ottawa, for whatever reason, there's this this, this environment where you can be an independent consultant and then you can partner with other consulting firms. So you have your own little business, your own Corporation and then you partner with large You're friends and you go after different contracts. So either private sector, large private sector or large government contracts. So it's really cool in that way. So you kind of have the, the best of both worlds. So you can do the you can do the higher end consulting, but in a kind of almost a freelance way, which is, which has been really neat.

Laurence Bradford 16:17
That's Yeah, that is me. I've don't think I've ever really heard of that. But that's really cool. And are there other cities like that in Canada? In the US, maybe if you know of any?

Bill Sourour 16:26
I don't know, I don't know of anywhere else that's like this. So when I was in, when I was in Toronto trying to do the same thing, it was a really, really, really difficult because you were just directly competing with all of the big consulting firms. And so you were relegated to very, you know, either smaller companies and you were relegated to the small, very, very short, little contracts moving from kind of one to the next. So it wasn't as the work wasn't as steady it wasn't as lucrative and so the choice there was either become an employee go become a Become a freelancer where you're kind of doing doing everything soup to nuts, which at which I did that for a while too. You know, you're doing everything soup to nuts, you can have your kind of own little mini agency, you might work with one or two people that you that you hire, and you're dealing with very small or small to medium sized companies or go and go and be an employee of a consulting firm or be an employee of a regular of a regular business.

Bill Sourour 17:21
So, yeah, so auto is unique in that way. And that's actually what my, what my dad was doing. So, you know, when my dad moved, my dad moved to Ottawa when I was a teenager. And so I started working for him doing this kind of thing. So that's how I knew about it and, and how I understood it. And at one point, when I was in, when I was in Toronto, I was working there at a startup and things were not going well, it was sort of towards the end of the, that was when the.com bubble originally burst, like in the in the early 2000s. And, yeah, it was clear I was supposed to be you know, retired and had all kinds of stock options and I was, you know, living the living the startup dream at that time, and as Things were not going well, and the company was running out of money. And, you know, I was deferring deferring my salary for a while. And, you know, everybody was making sacrifices, and it was starting to look pretty bleak. And my dad said, you know, why don't you? Why don't you come back to Ottawa. And there's tons of work here, and you've got lots of experience. So you'll have no problem finding work and you can kind of do your own thing and be independent. So sounded good to me. So I came back. And that's what I did.

Laurence Bradford 18:28
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Laurence Bradford 20:46
That's really cool that you got to work with your dad and that he was doing something very similar to what you're doing today.

Bill Sourour 20:54
Yeah, yeah. My dad's a, like an old school. he's a he's a database guy. So he, yeah, he did a lot of did a lot of work around like, yeah, writing writing code for, for databases writing lots of SQL and then, like running huge, huge databases and huge database installations. And so yeah, so he was he was always into that. And I mean, even before that, he was like, Yeah, he was a programmer. And so I got into it through him. And and then in the, when I was a teenager, what would happen is because we had the internet, so people would start asking him, he had his own business, and people started asking him, you know, Hey, can you are you able? Are you able to build a build a website? You're able to build a website? And you know, for my company, or can you build a website for me? And he looked at me and said, Yeah, sure. I can do it. He looked at me and said, Hey, you know, this, you know, this web stuff. So can you can you help me out? Can you do that stuff? And I said, Sure. You know, you're a teenager, you're kind of you have that. That kind of hubris that says you can do anything so I started doing that for him. And that's, that's how I got into it.

Laurence Bradford 22:00
Nice. So it sounds like you started with tech, or with programming. You're very young. You did study theater in college, but you tech was always like a part of your life. You're always doing things on the side, you ended up working at a startup in Toronto, and then around like the.com era, you left there, went back to Ottawa, began working like alongside your dad, and you really focused on like different kinds of government contracts.

Bill Sourour 22:27
Yeah, government, but also some, some larger private sector work as well. But yeah, that kind of that kind of work. And so usually building like, you know, enterprise applications, business applications, that kind of stuff. A lot of going from like Java to, to C sharp, that kind of that kind of work on object oriented programming for the web. And then lately, lately, there's more and more, sort of in the JavaScript world as well, even server side JavaScript that I've been I've been playing with So yeah, it's been a bit of a funder.

Laurence Bradford 23:02
Yeah. And I know it sounds like, like your situation and the kinds of contracts you can get in Ottawa. It's a bit different than other parts of Canada and I would imagine to the United States, but I was curious, do you have any advice for listeners who want to work them to work for themselves?

Bill Sourour 23:20
Yeah, sure. So I actually I've been lucky in that I've, I've done the I've done a bit of everything. So I've been I've done the startup I've worked in an agency I worked for a company I've been like a freelancer, I had a little my own little freelance web agency and then now this consulting thing, so in terms of working for yourself, so there's really two ways to kind of work for yourself, there's working for yourself where you're, you're a freelancer, which most people do, where you're taking on, like smaller, smaller projects, you know, you're building websites for, for small businesses, etc, etc. And so, what I would say mainly is, you have to remember that when you're working for yourself, it's not just the work like, like the technical work that you have to worry about. But you also have to worry about kind of running, running a business to a certain extent. And so, you know, this idea of working for yourself is sort of usually tied with the notion of having a lot of freedom, but it's actually, there's a lot of restrictions as well.

Bill Sourour 24:19
So, you know, whereas somebody who may be, you might have the regular nine to five job, you know, they can clock out, go home, and they're kind of done their work and then show up the next day, when you're working for yourself, you're always worried about, you know, you got to think about marketing, you got to think about accounting, you got to think about sales. And you also have to be really self motivated. And you have to be able to, to put haven't have that kind of internal pressure to keep yourself going because it's really easy to slide and slip. And as soon as you do then, kind of there's no income. So, yeah, anybody who wants to work for themselves, I would definitely say sure, try it, but just remember that it's not all. It's not a ticket to to ultimate freedom. And also the other thing too, that I think is a misconception. You think you get to make all of the decisions, but at the end of the day, you're always going to have a client, right? If you're if you're running a business and so you're gonna have to be a partner with that client and the client is gonna have certain demands, so you're not just gonna, it's not gonna be you just doing whatever you want to do all the time. It's gonna be having to meet the client halfway.

Laurence Bradford 25:21
Yep, yep. And I think what you mentioned about all the other aspects that go into running a business that may not be your favorite thing is something that people forget a lot and people don't talk about it a lot. And even though I do have a full time job now I'm it's been a very slow transition for me to think more about learn to code with me and everything I do, like outside my full time job as an actual business. In the past, I was always just like, Oh, you know, kind of treating it like a hobby and it was for fun. And then finally, it's, you know, it hit me I was like, Wait a second. I'm actually not really being efficient or effective. How can I do things better? And then it just kind of was this whole waterfall of Okay, how can I, you know, basically run this as a business and not as just a side project. And I think going from that fact making that like mindset leap is, is difficult. And for me it was something I didn't want to do cuz I didn't kind of want to like, think of it as a business. I don't know.

Bill Sourour 26:22
Yeah, no, I hear you. And then but when it when that realization hits it, it hits you pretty hard, because you're like, oh, like, wait a minute, I've got a, I've wanted this thing to run, I've got a, I've got to have a different mindset. The other thing too, is, you know, for most of my career, I've been in a mode where I'm basically trading time for money. So even if I'm working for myself, you know, the the model is essentially I'm trading I'm trading time for money and that's a that's a tricky place to be because at some point, you know, you run out of time, and you hit a ceiling as to as to what you can charge and so you can, you can kind of plateau there and so on. Something that intrigues me that I've never, I've never done but I I've looked at recently is this idea of, you know, building, building a small like building a plugin or a small app or whatever that you can, you can sell or you can, you can put out as a kind of software as a service. There's a lot of opportunities to do that sort of thing now. And I think that's, that should be like, I'm seriously considering that to be part of a more holistic business model. So if you're somebody who has the skills, loves the skills to code and who wants to work for yourself, I guess a part of your side hustle, or at least one line of business should not completely depend on you trading time for money. I think there's more sort of growth potential if you attack it that way.

Laurence Bradford 27:44
Yeah. Yeah, I really like I really like that. And I think there's a lot of ways to not trade time for money or there's things to wear, like not all, well, when you think of freelance work or working for clients, at least in my mind, it's always kind of trading time for money, but You mentioned with the software as a service or a mobile app isn't a great example because people don't buy mobile apps like they used to anymore. But that's something else that you could kind of build once and you could charge for. And you know, really, actually, I love plugging like my full time job teachable, but at teachable, like we're an online course platform and an online course or a book or other great examples of something you could kind of create once and then sell many times over and over again without trading your time for dollars. And yeah, I really do like, like that advice. So you said that that was something that you Sorry, is that something you're doing already, like trying to not trade as much time for money or you're going to start doing in the future?

Bill Sourour 28:43
So what I've done with dev mastery is I've kind of this this little project where I'm really be the original intent wasn't even a business one. It was just this idea that I kind of want to see if I can. If I can help as many developers as possible, just share your mind. Experience my knowledge with as many developers as possible. So I started write articles actually started not on this Facebook group, which you may be familiar with called newbie quota warehouse. I don't know if you ever heard of it.

Laurence Bradford 29:13
But that's my so for anyone listening to can make the connection because it's different names, but that is Yeah, my facebook group or Facebook, I created like a couple years ago. But yeah, so I go on.

Bill Sourour 29:23
Yeah. So I started there. I just went there. And I literally posted like, hey, I've been doing this for over 20 years, if anybody has any questions, like, I'm happy to help. And so people started asking questions, they started answering questions. Then based on those questions, I started writing and publishing articles on medium and then that that got some traction, and I put a link to a newsletter. So I started sending out sending out these emails to help people and I think, ultimately, where that's gonna go, speaking of teachable is, I'll probably start to build out some kind of online training and make that you know, kind of an official line of business. I'm not sure I haven't put any kind of real deadline on not yet right now I'm just really enjoying interacting with, with developers and hearing what their concerns are and and what's Top of Mind, and sort of writing about that and sharing links and resources. And even just, you know, trading emails back and forth people email me all the time with, with different questions, it gets harder and harder to keep up with email, because I've got just over 15,000 developers now are, are getting my emails. And so I get quite a bit of email. But I do my best almost to kind of reach out and help. So I'm really liking that. And so eventually, I think I'll probably distill some of that into some online training and make that part of the business.

Laurence Bradford 30:36
That's awesome. So you have Okay, you have the dev mastery blog, which is blog Dev, mastery calm and then you also have a newsletter and that can just be found at DevMastery.com, right?

Bill Sourour 30:46
That's right. And actually the most most of the stuff that I write and nowadays tends I tend to publish a lot of it on Free Code camps blog. So if you go to blog dot freako, Camp calm or if you go to you If you go there, and you just search my name, if you search a Bill soror, you can see my articles I've, I've been really surprised, like, I wasn't sure that, you know, people would be all that interested in what I had to say you never know, right? Because I've been, I've had my head down, and I've been working for so long. And so in my own small community, you know, I've helped people out. And, you know, I think I have sensible advice, but you never know, like, what, that's how that's gonna play on a larger scale. And so, I was really lucky. So, in 2016, I ended up having, I think, three of the top 25 articles on on medium.com. And they were all they were dev related, but I think they were the, like, the most recommended articles across the entire platform. So I really, you know, I just, I feel like I got lucky in that, you know, what I'm interested in and, and the experience I have seems to be resonating with, with a lot of people and so so I put those articles out there and they've done really well. And some of them are actually they're all based on all day. Started on questions that devs have asked me or things that I've seen in online communities and stuff like that.

Laurence Bradford 32:05
Yeah, that is so cool. So when did you start writing online?

Bill Sourour 32:09
So about, I think, late 2015, early 2016 is when I, when I started. So it happened. It happened really quick. I wrote an article called How to Win the coding interview, which was, it got a lot of attention on Hacker News. And it kind of kind of blew up for me. And then Quincy Larson of Free Code Camp reached out to me and said, Hey, would you would you be interested in writing for our blog? So he and I had a conversation and, you know, I kind of looked around social media and I saw one of the problems that people were having is figuring out when people are just learning to code. There's so much information out there. It's hard to know, like, where to start and what path to follow. So I wrote a really long article called the guide to becoming a professional web developer which basically takes people through you know, Almost a roadmap of the things that you have to learn. And there are links to free resources where you can learn all of those things. And so I kind of, I recommend a journey and I wrote it in such a way that you could skip. So, you know, based on where you are what you've learned so far, you could kind of skip around. And so that was really, really successful. got a lot of feedback and good feedback and a lot of traction around that. I turned that into like a little mini ebook that that people can get if you do go to, to go to I think medium.freecodecamp.com, or if you just go to medium.com and type my name, it'll come up. And then there's a link in the article itself to to the ebook version that has all the links from the article that you can get by signing up to my newsletter so that that went really well.

Bill Sourour 33:48
I wrote another one where developers were constantly telling me, the problem they had was not enough time like I don't, there isn't enough time to learn there isn't enough time to catch up. I don't know what to do with So I wrote an article with called finding, finding the time to become a better developer with a bunch of advice that, you know, based on my experience of what, where to focus your time and how to how to find the time to sort of improve what what to focus on, and what not to focus on what matters. What does it matter, that did really, really well. And then the other thing that really blew up is I wrote an article called the code I'm still ashamed of, which was an article about some code that I wrote in the past that I felt like I personally felt was was unethical. And it had some, yeah, had some pretty serious repercussions. And so that article really took off on on Reddit and Hacker News, and I got a lot of press coverage for it as well. And so yeah, it's been a really interesting journey. It's just been me trying to share, you know, the best advice that I can, and not necessarily is there's a lot of, you know, code based advice out there. You know, how to do how to do x with y, you know, so advice on a particular framework or a particular language? I'm trying, I sort of round out the edges of the profession with sort of broader, broader kind of advice, and it's gone really well.

Laurence Bradford 35:10
Yeah, that is also awesome. And I know some of those articles that you mentioned, I saw in the past, like when they first came out and seen them you shared in different areas. That's really cool. And I want to know, like, nowadays, how is your day broken down between dev mastery and related projects? You're working on Dev Mastery and consulting work?

Bill Sourour 35:32
Yeah. So my days or My days are kind of insane. So I'm, yeah, on a daily basis, I'm basically running around from from one client to another. So and I usually have, I usually have at least two two clients on the go at a time. So you know, one day I'm working on a project for one the next day, I might be working on a project for other ends, and some days I'm half and half. So I'm in a meeting in the morning in one place a meeting in the morning, in the afternoon, and then so definitely stuff kind of gets relegated to, to my evening. So after I've got the kids to bed, we've spent a bit of time with my wife and then I'm kind of working on the dev mastery stuff. So that's either writing another article or drafting up the the newsletter for the week that I'm gonna send out an email. And lately, it's been also, I'm working on building, building out my website a little bit. So I'm doing that kind of stuff. So it's, yeah, it's pretty hectic. I have pretty peaceful and long days.

Laurence Bradford 36:27
Yeah, yeah, I just was curious. Um, it's always interesting to see when people work on their, you know, what everyone called side projects side business, passion project, and so on and so forth. I usually do well, I used to do more mornings, but I've become less of a morning person recently. So now I think I'm, I usually work on the side stuff at night. But yeah, that's all really it's all really great. And it's gonna be really exciting. I think when you start creating courses, or it sounds like you were maybe thinking that or putting your knowledge into some other kind of fashion. Aside from just writing articles and kind of seeing where that goes, I think it'll be. Yeah, I think actually really great, especially since all of your articles are so many of them have done so well, and people really take into what you've had to share.

Bill Sourour 37:15
Yeah, I mean, that was that was a very surprising thing for me. I gotta tell you last like I, I just, yeah, you know, you never know. Right? So. So I think it's, I think it's pretty good advice. And, and it's resonated with, you know, the people in my own little community or the people that I work with, but when you put stuff out there sort of never know what's gonna happen. So I've been really pleased with that. And yeah, I'm looking forward to to, to building a course I'm starting to develop some pretty strong ideas around the types of things that developers need, like I find, for example, you know, when you're just starting out and you're learning, there's a whole bunch of beginner material, like there's an endless amount of material for beginners and then there's also a lot of stuff that's really, really, really quite advanced, but In between those two things, there's this sort of chasm. So you get your, you get your first job, as a developer, you've kind of learned enough to, to know your way around and and be productive. And then you're sort of in the wilderness and on your own. And if you're lucky, you might find a mentor or two. But a lot of people in that phase, sort of tend to pick up some, some bad habits, or tend to be, tend to be a little lost a little without guidance. It's only after you have built up a lot of experience that then you can start to digest some of the really more advanced kind of thicker books and volumes out there, and they start to like, resonate with you. And so I'm thinking I'd like to do something to sort of address that gap. Then the other thing that I've seen as well as courses tend to either be too practical or too theoretical, and there there needs to be a balance of both. And I understand now, why that is because I have played around with different ideas of building courses and stuff and it is is really difficult to strike the right balance between those two things. But in general, I find that's the problem. So when people are learning, and they get stuck, it's either because they've gone too far down the path of theory without having enough practice, or they've gone down too far down the practical path, where, you know, they're just copy pasting code and just doing, you know, following a recipe and instructions, haven't bothered to learn enough of the theory behind it, or haven't been given enough of the theory behind it to be able to get to the next level. So yeah, I have some ideas around that. And I'm hoping I'll be able to build something interesting in the next year or so.

Laurence Bradford 39:35
Awesome. All good stuff. Well, thank you, Bill for coming on. The show is great to chat with you. Finally, for the listeners. We were trying to have Bill come on the show last season, but there was just a few scheduling things. And it's great to actually get you on finally and have you be one of the early episodes in Season 4. Lastly, where can people find you online?

Bill Sourour 39:55
So the there's a couple of ways you can hit me at Twitter @billsourour. So that's B-I-L-L-S-O-U-R-O-U-R. the best thing to do is just hit to head to DevMastery.com. Sign up for my newsletter, you won't be disappointed I, I only send out really relevant advice to developers and links to stuff that I find interesting. And I almost, there's been weeks where, where I don't send a newsletter because there isn't something that I think is worthy of, you know, cluttering your inbox with for that particular week. So I'm very, you know, I guard people's inboxes a lot, because I certainly know that I would want someone to do that for me. So that's the best way and then you can always just google me, Bill soror. And a whole bunch of my articles will come up and I invite you to read them and comment and then I'm always looking for feedback.

Laurence Bradford 40:44
Awesome. Thank you again for coming on the show.

Bill Sourour 40:47
Oh, you're very welcome. My pleasure.

Laurence Bradford 40:54
If you want to start a career in the tech industry, a high quality portfolio is a must. Putting one together is one of the toughest things for new developers and others breaking into tech. What should you say? What should you include? What should you leave out? I know how tough it can be to work out what to add to your portfolio, especially when you don't have much direct experience. That's why I create a free course to help you build a portfolio from scratch that shines. If you want to get into tech sign up for my free portfolio course at learntocodewith.me/free-portfolio-course. So free portfolio course all spelled out with dashes in between each word. I hope you find this course helpful. Thanks for joining me today and have a great rest of the week.

Key takeaways:

  • Tech jobs are like theater: when you’re constrained by deadlines and estimates, you have to make it work.
  • A lot of people work or want to work freelance. It seems like freelancers have a lot of freedom, but actually there’s a lot of restriction too; you have to be self-motivated, always think about your work, and can’t take many breaks because then there’s no income.
  • If you want to work freelance then try it, but be warned that it’s not a ticket to ultimate freedom.
  • Don’t rely on trading time for money. Your time is valuable too.
  • You can have two jobs, or a job and a side gig, but if you start feeling burned out, don’t be afraid to step back from one and narrow your focus.

Links and mentions from the episode:

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