Ep#90 From Girls Who Code to Digital Nomad Powerhouse

September 23, 2022

Episode Summary

Pauline Narvas has been pushing boundaries since an early age, from playing games online and learning how to rebuild websites. She started in tech but left to pursue a career in the biomedical field. Pauline felt like something was missing and the very day she was going to drop out of college, she received an email about Girls Who Code. She found herself back in tech teaching others about her passion.

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About the Guest

Pauline Narvas

As Head of Community, Pauline leads all community-focused DevRel activities and manage and support the community subteam.

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Episode Show Notes & Transcript

Host: Jon

Please join me in welcoming the Head of Community at Gitpod Pauline Narvas. Pauline. Thank you for joining me.

Guest: Pauline

Hi, Jon. Thank you so much for having me on your show. I'm so excited to talk to you today.

Host: Jon

So, Pauline, we were talking previously about having some energy levels before joining the show. And then I have to tell you, this is we're taking round two because the lag of zoom was killing us and your energy has definitely peaked way up and it's able to keep up with your energy. This is awesome. I really appreciate you joining.

Guest: Pauline

I'm so excited, honestly, and yeah, I mean, we were talking about this in the first take, but I feel even better this time round. So hopefully this work

Host: Jon

<laugh>, if it doesn't woo two, take three, four, whatever we will do as many a takes as it, does it get this right today? We're talking about the head of the community. We're talking about digital nomad, but also who is Pauline. And speaking of that, Pauline, how did you get in the tech?

Guest: Pauline

Uh, I absolutely love this question and I feel like I can go through several different, like key stories with you, uh, but I'll try and keep it concise. Um, so I got into tech, like my earliest memory of even just a bit of interest in tech was actually when I was eight years old and my dad let me on the family computer, uh, that was connected to the internet. And I, um, ended up playing a game there actually. Um, and it was like an online game where you would move around and you'd do different quests and things. And that actually it's a, this is a different side note, but it actually is the reason I really liked playing games and I was a competitive gamer at one point, but that's a different story. Oh,

Host: Jon

We're getting to the competitor gamer part. Don't you worry? We've got, that is a whole topic. And it's so

Guest: Pauline

That is a whole topic. Yeah, definitely. But yeah, I really like playing this game, and then as, as I played it some more, I was like, wow. There's like things I would love to add to this game, but there just isn't an opportunity to, and I dunno how to even make a game, where do I even start? Um, because the game was hosted online. Um, I was like, oh, the first step is to like to build one of these things, which was a website. And so I went down this rabbit hole of trying to understand and learn how to build a website. And at the time we didn't have any of this fancy like react and next JS and all of these JavaScript frameworks to just build a simple website. It was genuinely just HTML, CSS and a bit of JavaScript. And so I taught myself how, how to do that with trial and error.

Guest: Pauline

And, um, I eventually ended up building my first website and it sort of became like an addiction that I really enjoyed, uh, rebuilding my website again and again, with different layouts and seeing where, uh, the different components and where I could style them and what would make sense. Um, and at the time as well, because I had all of these layout ideas for my websites. Um, I would have, like, I ended up having at one point like several websites that were specific to a certain topic. For example, high school musical was one of my favorite films growing up. And that is because, um, I really I'm still a fan, but I really loved, uh, Vanessa Hodgins, who's a Filipino and I, at the time when I was growing up, I grew up in the UK. I didn't really see many like Filipinos on TV. So when I saw her, I was like, oh my God, she's just like me. Um, so, so yeah, I really, really liked her. So I started creating like a website that revolved around high school musical and all of the actors in it. And so I had that as one of my websites. So you were

Speaker 3:

A super fan?

Guest: Pauline

Yes. Yes. You know how, like these days you have people on Twitter that create like fan accounts for like Taylor swift or something. That was me, but I was like the original generation that I had like websites for, for them. Um, so yeah, I really liked, I really liked, um, that, and I was building all these different websites. One of the websites I B built actually was, uh, my own personal like blog. And at the time, like years ago, blogging is completely different to what blocking is now. I actually refer to the blogging I did as like the OG blogging, which was honestly, it was honestly just like online journaling and back then people were just writing their journal entries online. And that's what I did. Um, and because I was so young, I would just write stupid like blog posts that were like, oh, today I did this.

Guest: Pauline

And I, I don't know, hugged a tree today or something like that. It was just really silly with no actual value. But, um, it was actually something I'm really proud of doing, uh, early on, because then years later I continued the blogging habit. And obviously my content has like, sort of like grown with me. And, um, if you go on my blog now, pauline.com, which is spelled P a w L E a n.com. I've written from for a couple of years now, just like experiences that I've been, um, I've that I've gone through and it's taken it's. I actually takes you all the way from the, my journey at university, all the, sorry, my first year at university, all the way until I graduate all the way into my first tech job, all the way into my second tech job. And then my third one that I'm in now.

Guest: Pauline

So it's like a really good snapshot of like my life and the key events. Um, but yeah, so that's how I started getting into tech into to begin with, like I was building all these different websites and then when I got to school, um, when I was picking my subjects, I studied, uh, for like, they call it in the UK GCSEs. Um, and for GCSEs, I picked, uh, computing as one of my, um, subjects, which is now like computer science or it wasn't, it's not it. So it was very different to computing. Computing was more like programming and, uh, I built like a visual studio, um, like recipe.

Host: Jon

I, I did those same things. Yeah. That is definitely something that's totally different from before, like now. And versus before I actually did visual studio and I built a program, we code, we did all the backend and now it's like, it it's like, yeah, yeah, you don't have to do that stuff. <laugh>. Yeah,

Guest: Pauline

Exactly. Yeah. But I remember using, um, the software, the software, I don't even remember what it was called, I guess it was just visual.

Host: Jon

It was, uh, be basic. Yep. Yeah.

Guest: Pauline

Be basic. Yes. That's it. Oh my God. Flashback. I just, I have the UI in my head right now.

Host: Jon

<laugh> but how, how weird, so old and, uh, I guess 2d the UI was, was you look at it now and you're like, oh my God, I can't believe we actually use that stuff. Yeah,

Guest: Pauline

Yeah, yeah. But I was really proud of my project that I built on that I built like a recipe app and it was like, it had all of my favorite recipes. And you can add your own as from a chef's point of view, but you can also have a point of view as a customer, so you can see the menu. I dunno. I just was really proud of it.

Host: Jon

I built a casino wheel. Like I randomized casino wheel for

Guest: Pauline

My mine was just, mine was just the recipe app thing. <laugh>. Um, but, but yeah, I really liked that. Um, and I did that com um, in my, in my, uh, course, but unfortunately when I was in the next stage of my, um, like education, it was a levels. And as part of that, you could only pick three subjects. And at the time when I was in computing, uh, I was actually heavily discouraged by my classmates who kept telling me that you're not supposed to be here. They used to make like jokes saying, like you're supposed to be in textiles. And I dunno if textiles is the same thing over there, you know,

Host: Jon

It's like actually

Guest: Pauline

Like sewing and stuff.

Host: Jon

Did you smack that person? I mean, <laugh>

Guest: Pauline

No, I didn't. I wasn't, as confident I was quite like insecure back then. So I just was like, I was like, okay, I, I'm not supposed to be here, but I did really well in that class clearly. Like I built a really good project. And then I also like, did the exams, like, it was, it was really fun. I really liked computer things. Um, yeah, but then, uh, but then, yeah, so by the time I got to a levels, I actually dropped anything to do with tech. And I went down the route of, um, bio, uh, like biology, chemistry, and sociology, uh, which I don't regret because those three subjects were really great. And, uh, biology and chemistry specifically helped me get into university where I then studied biomedical sciences. But on the side, I kept up my interest towards tech and towards like, um, yeah, building websites.

Guest: Pauline

So I continued building websites. I continued blogging like online just by myself. And it was, it was fun. Uh, it was really, uh, really fun. And then when I got to, um, university and my parents were like, oh, you can become a doctor after you, uh, do this degree, cuz there's an option to go from biomed to postgraduate medicine. And that was the route I was going to take. That is what I had my eyes on. Um, but then I finished my first year at university and I said to myself, I can't do this. And that was the moment I was like, I, I know that there's something else out there for me, but this like the medical field is not for me. I, I, I know it's not for me. And so luckily at university you are, uh, I was exposed to a lot of, um, different people and different experiences and different ideas.

Guest: Pauline

And at the time I remember, I remember like stepping back and thinking, what is it that I actually want to do? I don't wanna talk to anybody. I don't want any external people telling me you should be doing this. You should be doing that. What do I want to do? And it always came back to just doing creative things online. And I really, like I said, I enjoyed blogging. I enjoyed, um, creating like content. And also I enjoyed, um, um, making websites and being technical and coding. I really enjoyed coding. Um, and around the same time it was so weird. I remember I, I got back home from, uh, a university, uh, class and I was just sat on the sofa and I genuinely was staring at the ceiling and I said, I can't do this. I'm gonna drop out. And I, I kept, I convinced myself I'm gonna drop out of university cuz I don't, I hate my degree and I don't see it going anywhere.

Guest: Pauline

And then I remember around the same time I got a ping on my phone and it was a email from the department of computer science, uh, that advertised to every student in the university. And it said, um, join, join us for a code. Women's only coding group, uh, coding class. And I remember I was reading it and it was going through like frontend technologies, like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, but it also had something called GI. And at the time I didn't even use Git because I I'd been like uploading files through FTP and updating, updating my files through FP FTP. Yeah.

Host: Jon

Wow. That's how I, we're going back into, we're going back into, I know,

Guest: Pauline

Like I had files Zillow, do you remember that files

Host: Jon

A little nostalgic on all this technology, but we're used it all. So

Guest: Pauline

Was like a little girl uploading like things via FTP on like into a different server and things anyways. So, um, so yeah,

Host: Jon

By the way, I still, I was using it too. I don't think I transverse to like, uh, get, uh, probably after you did so don't worry about it. <laugh> yeah.

Guest: Pauline

Well I felt really behind cuz I was like, oh, I don't even know what GI is. I don't even, I've never heard of GitHub before, but the email came through and I was like, well I've never heard of a women's only class. And because of the boys in my computing class, I was like, wow, this is so refreshing. And I remember I read the email and I applied immediately for it. Um, they were actually looking for people who had never written the line of code, but I was like, I'm just gonna give it a shot. And I ended up getting a place in the, in the course. And it was like a six weeks, uh, after university, like extracurricular course, I went there for six weeks and the first few sessions, I just had such a good time. And I remember on my third session, uh, when I actually stood up and I began helping other girls in the, in the, in the group because I already knew, uh, like CSS and bits of JavaScript.

Guest: Pauline

Um, so I was helping out with the teaching as well. Um, I that's, when I genuinely felt like, oh, I feel so alive. I've not felt so alive in so long. And so the organization that organized it was, uh, is called code first girls. And then that is another like big part of like my getting into tech story where I got into the community, uh, the code first girls community and what they are is their social enterprise that aims to teach as many women in the UK. And I, I think now across the world, because we've gotten remote, um, how to code and it was like the best community I've ever been a part of. And they really changed my life because they not only gave me the skills I was missing, um, in tech gave me, spent up to speed with that. But also they gave me the confidence to say, this is a potential role for you.

Guest: Pauline

This is you've got space here. If you want to like go, if you wanna take this seriously and get into tech and be a coder, you can do it. And so the next, uh, four years of my, uh, time at university, I didn't drop out instead. I continued my degree. Um, but alongside that I became a instructor. Um, I was an assistant instructor as part of the course completely voluntary. Um, and then I eventually became a lead instructor and I was leading the, um, uh, front end, uh, course it was introduction to web development and it, I had a really great group of people who was helping me like shake the classes. And eventually after the four years I ended up teaching around like 300, 200, yeah, 250, 300, um, female students at university from all different backgrounds, um, how to code. And I was so proud of that.

Guest: Pauline

We also launched another course called uh, advanced to Python. I didn't teach that one, but I was an assistant to it because there were so many Python issues, which, uh, get pod where I work now actually solves, but that's a whole separate ramp. Um <laugh> but I wish I knew that at the time, but yeah, so I was teaching there for like a couple of years and I slowly, it, it, it, it actually started off as a course. So I was just helping up with the course. But then I saw the op an opportunity when I, because I felt it myself as a community member, I realized that there's like, this could be a bigger thing. And so in the small town I live in, in Sheffield, I ended up like, um, going around the university with like leaflets. Like I made like advertising it to people being like, you can learn how to, to code, but also you can find the group of people who are like really ambitious and want to get into tech.

Guest: Pauline

And it became a community and there's like one significant event. I remember there was a tech conference in Nottingham, which is like two hours away from Sheffield or something where I live. And I remember I, I said to the course that I was teaching the, the girls I was teaching, I said to them, okay, we are, there's the conference that I'm going to this weekend. And I would love to invite everyone to come with me. And I think it's really good to expand our network, learn about tech, learn about the industry because you can apply everything. You are learning in these courses into real life and you could get a job there, whatever. And then I didn't think anyone would be interested. And then the next day on the weekend, we ended up having to book like half a carriage, no, sorry, not half. And the whole carriage, one whole carriage on, in the train to get there.

Guest: Pauline

Um, because all of, most of my students went with me. We all went to this big conference together as a big group. And we all enjoyed the day. We like, uh, we all came in as a big group and I still have pictures of it. It just makes me feel really happy, but we all went in as a gr big group. And, um, we, uh, we spent the whole day in the conference learning from like industry leaders about what it's like to work in tech and off the back of that. We kept doing it for, so the remaining time I had at university, every time there was a tech event, I would try and find, I would try to talk to the organizers and ask for a discount or something for my, for my community. And then we would get discounts. People would buy the tickets and then we would go around the UK.

Guest: Pauline

<laugh> me. And like these group of people that I like just on teaching every like for like six weeks in the semester, we all just went around the UK and then eventually it became this big, like community that was local in Sheffield that, um, people met up for like social events. But also they went, if there's a tech conference, a hackathon, I also got involved in the hackathon scene. So because I got involved in the hackathon scene, I got those girls in my class to get involved in hackathons. And then suddenly like the, uh, percentage of not having a lot of women participate in hackathons, they go suddenly we've got 50% of them cuz all of my, all of my girls would go to the, to the, uh, to the hackathons. So it was a really, really special period of my life. And it's like, every time I talk about it, I get like honestly kind of emotional because it was like the period where I definitely grew out of, um, like my comfort zone. I became a lot more confident in myself, but also the best part was when I became confident in myself, I then like passed it on to people that I, that were also in a similar place to me before where they weren't sure where they were going, they were a bit lost, but then they found tech and then tech kind of was an option for them suddenly. Um, and um, another one of my big achievements as part that,

Host: Jon

Wait, wait, can I jump in there? Can I, I have absolutely. Absolutely. Oh my God. I have a I'm

Guest: Pauline

So sorry. I've just been talking.

Host: Jon

I did. I didn't wanna interrupt you at all. I mean, this was so inspiring. First of all, I, a couple of quick things, I have noticed a trend. A lot of my guests come from like a biomedical or science engineer, like degree and background into tech. So there's a trend that's happening. Oh. And I, I think that's an interesting study to go for, but you are basically ahead of a community before there was a term head of community building this, you know, girls and tech community and going around to these conferences and really elevating the presence of it. And now you're the head of community at GI pod. And we're gonna talk about that a little bit, but I wanted you to get back to, uh, your story and because I find it really inspiring how you were empowering, not only you found your calling by helping out and just reaching out, you looked at this one email and you're like, yeah, I think I'll go. And then after two or three you had the confidence to stand up and be like, I know this, let me help you. And then you it's all of a sudden it's like going into, uh, any type of thing. Like, you know, I went into the podcasting, not by choice. I didn't say, Hey, listen, I'm gonna go into it. I just started doing it. And all of a sudden I found a passion. You found a huge passion around this in growing that community.

Guest: Pauline

Yeah, absolutely. And that's why like later on when, um, we can talk about this later on. But um, when, when I was like trying to figure out what I wanted to do after I did my first few tech jobs, uh, the only thing that was very consistent in every single tech job I had done up until joining GI P was no matter what, no matter if I was like an engineer, DevOps, software engineer, whatever I was doing, I always had community as my foundation. So no matter what I was, what I ended up going into, like, for example, like, um, just to give you a bit of context, let me speed up the story. But basically I graduated. <laugh>,

Host: Jon

We've got plenty of time,

Guest: Pauline

But, but I graduated and uh, I ended up moving from Shefield to another city in the UK called leads for a, for my first tech job. And again, as part of that move, it was really difficult for me to actually move because I had such a strong community here in Sheffield of the, the community I built basically. And then, uh, I wanted to bring that to leads and I actually ended up again, teaching more women how to code in leads. Uh, but it was a bit different cuz it wasn't at the university. Uh, and I didn't really know. I wasn't well connected in leads at the time. And so I, instead I went to big, uh, companies that were wanting to host the courses into their, in, in their offices. And so I ended up going to, to those, um, to those offices and then teaching and I continued it for, for a couple of years. Um, and yeah, and so when I was in my first tech job, it was actually a, a graduate scheme. Um, I don't know, it's well known in the UK what a graduate scheme is, but in, I guess in the states, it's similar to like a training program, like a graduate training program where you get a graduate fresh out of university to, um, to do two years like training, like on the job training and then they may get a job at the end of the two

Host: Jon

Year internship.

Guest: Pauline

Yeah. It's like an internship, but it's a two year long internship.

Host: Jon

Yeah. Uh, so it's actually, so in the medical degree, it's usually they have to do an internship or to graduate program where they have to do, uh, actual, uh, like two to four years worth of training before they can get a job and possibly get a job in there. So

Guest: Pauline

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it was like a similar thing, but yep. Um, as part, as part of this graduate scheme, I was in, it was like a tech, uh, graduate scheme and it was really awesome because I had the opportunity to in the two years to go around different teams. So I spent six months at time in different teams. Um, so throughout the two years I did, I went into architecture, digital architecture for the first six months. So that was like looking at all the different components. And if we added the new thing onto the website onto the app, what would be the complications? What changes to the API would we have to look at blah, blah, blah. So it was that. And then the second, uh, grad scheme, I, sorry, the second rotation I did was as a software engineer. And this is actually where I, uh, I would say like shunned the most because it was things I was good at.

Guest: Pauline

And at the time I was U I was learning react and, uh, the website was like, we were doing a project on migrating it to react. So I got to play with a bit of like doing react in, in real life, um, in like a real project. Um, and then the third one was when I realized there was like loads of different options I could have gone into, I could have stayed as a software engineer and gone to a different team, but instead I was like, I need to challenge myself in, in tech. So up until this point, I had always been more of a front end, um, developer and I sort of understood how that worked. Uh, and then some bits of the back end. But one thing that was a huge mystery to me was like platform and infrastructure and cloud. I kept hearing the cloud, I kept hearing AWS and I was like, I don't know what anyone is talking about.

Guest: Pauline

I need to learn this. And so I actually negotiated with, uh, the platform team cuz they weren't accepting any graduates. They said this rotation, this team is too difficult. If we have a graduate here, we are setting them up for failure. And I was like, it's me. <laugh> let me, let me try, give, give me a shot. And let's just see if we can do something here. And I ended up joining the, that uh, infrastructure team and oh my God, the first two weeks I genuinely cried every day. <laugh> I was like, I have no idea what I put myself into. And I honestly was considering talking to my manager at the time and being like, is it too late for me to start on another team because this is too hard. And she was just, uh, and I actually didn't like bring it up and I just kept going.

Guest: Pauline

Uh, and then eventually, um, I, the more I kept showing up and learning, the more I learned about like you Buntu, um, the ins and outs of like Linux. And I was like, wow, this is, this makes me feel like a real hacker. This is fantastic. I love it. Um, and then eventually as well, I started getting, um, into like, um, AWS cloud native and also, um, like infrastructure as code. And when I started, uh, uh, developing like infrastructure as code for, um, so we were like a central platform team, almost like a developer experience team that helped provide tooling to other, uh, engineering teams. And I built my first like, um, like pipeline almost to help a, to help our, um, one of our most common, um, like things that's, uh, one of our engineering teams always wanted and they always like gave it to us and we would have to deploy it.

Guest: Pauline

Um, so I tried to automate the whole process and it was my first go playing around with infrastructures code connected to AWS and provisioning the infrastructure on AWS. And I remember I just got such a high when <laugh>, when I, when I create successfully created this pipeline that anyone in the company could self serve and create, uh, and deploy the like, uh, draft like application into this like, um, preview environment. And it just, it just like worked. And I was like, oh my God, I did that. And you know, and they also had the opportunity to like, I started, uh, building on the project and you could also delete it by, they could delete it themselves. And there was like a pretty little dashboard and I just felt like I, I was like, I understand what I'm doing here. And it's, it's amazing, but there's so much, uh, left to learn.

Guest: Pauline

So the six months in that team was actually the, the one I grew the most technically I also ended up doing two AWS certifications. So I did the certified cloud practitioner, um, one in that team and also the, uh, uh, solutions architect, associates exam, um, exam, and, uh, really enjoyed my time there. And then when it got to the final six months of my scheme, um, at the time, uh, leadership was talking about building a new team called site reliability engineering because they, they saw a need for it. And, um, then one of the managers had been impressed with how fast I learned, um, the things in the, um, in the platform team. And they asked me, do you wanna be one of the founding members of this team? And I was like, heck yes. <laugh> like, there was no, there was basically no scope.

Guest: Pauline

I just knew the name SRE. I had read about SRE principles from Google. And I was like, yes, that doesn't sound stressful at all. Little did I know SRE is one of the most stressful, in my opinion, one of the most stressful jobs out there, but that's a rant for another time. Um <laugh> so then I ended up being an SRE for this, uh, for this team. I was one of the founding members and I just absolutely just, I really enjoyed it. And we ended up one of the biggest achievements I had in that, in that, uh, team was actually again from a community standpoint, uh, we were doing some great work with, uh, shaping, uh, the engineering culture, um, in, in that team. And I, I was like, what we're doing here, what we've built in terms terms of frameworks, this doesn't exist elsewhere.

Guest: Pauline

And I think we need to tell people about it. We need to talk to the SRE community. We need to talk to the tech community out there and share what we are learning. And again, I think that was the natural devel aspect in me just wanting to do that. And I ended up just putting up that proposal <laugh> I asked my team, I was like, can I do this? And they were like, okay, sure. But they wouldn't, they weren't really thinking too much about it, but I ended up putting a proposal for SRE con 20, um, in 2020, and we got accepted and it was like the first worldwide conference that I spoke at, but it was still remote. So cuz of COVID, but still, it was like such a big achievement and like it's on YouTube and it's, it's still a really awesome talk and I'm very proud of like getting the team up there to talk about what we've achieved.

Guest: Pauline

Um, but yeah, it's also that sort of like go goes back to what I was saying earlier that in every single rotation that I've had in every single job that I've had, like there was always a part of me that was like, how can we share this with the community? How can other people benefit from it? How can we like create something pave the way forward and help other people get in with us? So then we can continue moving forward together. And that was like a common thing that really, um, kept coming up and up and up. And so after I finished the graduate scheme, I got offered a job in the SRE team. They wanted to keep me like to continue their efforts. And I stayed there for a bit, but then I was also looking for a new challenge. It was like, you know, end of 2020, it was 2021.

Guest: Pauline

And I was like, I sort of want something different. Um, and then I ended up joining a different company, but this time as a DevOps engineer and as a DevOps engineer and that team, it was very much like what I did in the old platform team, where I was like in a developer experience, um, space where I was building tooling for other, um, develop for other developments, um, teams, um, really enjoyed my time there. But there was a moment where I remember I, I was like working on a ticket and I was like, I love doing this. This is fun, but there's more to me. And there's more to what I want from my career than moving a ticket on a J board from left to right. It's like, there's

Host: Jon

What do you mean? You don't wake up and go, it's really good. I feel accomplished today.

Guest: Pauline

It's slowly like, like after a while after I was doing it, I really liked the team. I really liked the technologies. It was actually the, the job I learned about Kubernetes. And at the time I hadn't actually looked at Kubernetes ever. And so that, uh, job really introduced me to it. And I really learned, I learned so much. I'm really thankful for my time there, but it was that time. I remember just looking at this JIRA board and I was like, I cannot do this. There's something else for me out here. And then it sort of get, again, takes me back all the way full circle to code first girls. I continued code first girls activities. I eventually became. Um, as in, in addition to an instructor, I became one of their ambassadors. Uh, and then also I, whenever there was an opportunity that they needed someone to talk about the impact of the community, I would be like, yep, that's me.

Guest: Pauline

If you can talk, you can talk to me and I will tell you this story and how much they changed my life. Um, but yeah, it also goes full circle cuz when I was doing some self-reflection last year, I was like, what do I, what brings me joy and what makes me get up in the morning? And it always got back to the point where that period of my life, where I was helping other people succeed and then introducing them to other people, then seeing them go off and get tech jobs and become like software engineers, then senior software engineers. I was following their career and I was like, this makes me happy. I don't what, whatever this enablement thing that I'm doing that I like that. And I remember I, I talked to a few people in the tech space and every time I described the job, they were like, Deborah, Deborah is that's Deborah. And I was like, oh, okay. And so, because I, you know, this is who I am. I went on my Twitter and I tweeted, uh, one day I'm manifesting for the future. I'd love to be in devel. And that tweet blew up <laugh> and the people like actually responded in the thread and they were like, polling. I thought you were a dev. And it turns out that a lot of my activities over the years were very aligned to dev activities and community building activities. And I hadn't, but

Host: Jon

It just wasn't the actual title then that Deborah didn't come up until the last couple of years. But you were doing it before there was actual term for it.

Guest: Pauline

Exactly. And I sort of just fell into it and then GI PODD got in touch and uh, GI PODD out of all the other people I spoke to their product really spoke to me. And uh, the reason GI pod's products, um, spoke to me was just, just as a like side note. So if you dunno what GI PODD is, it's essentially a way to automate your dev environments. Uh, and um, you can then develop in the cloud remotely. Um, and so that opens up a lot of opportunities for people. And the, the reason I was so excited about get part as a product was from the perspective as, as a former instructor, as someone who had seen students from all different backgrounds who didn't have the best laptop or who didn't have the best internet connection or whatever it was and how stressed they were, they kept saying like, oh, I can't be a coder because I need the most powerful machine.

Guest: Pauline

I can't afford the most powerful machine and things like that. And when I looked at gift pod played around with it, I had this light bulb moment where I was like, oh my God, this opens up so many opportunities for everybody. No matter their background, all they need to do is they just need even a Chromebook, a Chromebook. You can start coding immediately from a Chromebook, uh, because you don't need like all of these dependencies on your local machine, it's just all in the cloud. So you can start coding immediately. So that is actually one of the main things that I loved about the product. And it's something that it, it went back to that piece of enabling other people. And I was like, this is amazing. I absolutely love it. So that's why I ended up joining them. And I joined as a senior community engineer.

Guest: Pauline

And as part of my role in that, um, in, in that team was I was the first community hire. And even though I did loads of different things as dev rails, do just everything, they just float and do everything. Um, but my main focus was community and yeah, and then now we are here now. Like it's been a year since I got my job at GI pod. I was promoted to head of community like a few weeks ago. And the community we built when I started was around 500 people and it was scattered all over the place. We didn't have like a structure and now we've got, uh, over 5k people. So we 10 X our community, um, in just a year and now we've got like so many different initiatives going on in the community and I genuinely feel the same like connection that I did in real life, uh, with the code first girls community. And I managed to bring it here at get part. And now it's like a very special little project for me. And I dunno, I, I absolutely just love it. Um, but yeah, again, it goes full circle. This is how I got into tech. That was a very long answer. I'm so sorry, Jon. I hope you enjoyed that story.

Host: Jon

<laugh> first of all, I learned so much about, I have probably so many questions. We're not gonna be able to get to in this session, which makes, puts you on the hook for another session, which we'll have to go into. Okay. So talking about you in the, from the beginning and working with, as an instructor, so you joined the class, right? And it was, uh, code, what was it? Code first girls. Both girls. Yep. And how you felt being part of the community and growing that as a community and now you're head of community. So their calling was early on. You just had to learn all the stuff going through it. And you were like, I'm gonna learn this. I liked the story where you joined the, what was it? The engineering group, the, uh, infrastructure group. And you're like, yeah, yeah. And then two weeks I'm like, oh my God.

Host: Jon

And then you're like, man, I love this. And that feeling when something works, right? No matter, you could have spent three weeks on this and you had an error message and you couldn't get through it. And then all of a sudden it works. It was all well worth it. Right? You felt so energy. It it's, it's like a technical high I'll I'll say because you're like, oh wow, everybody's using it. And this is pretty cool. Now as a head of the community, your energy level is still the same, but it's all passion. You won't, you don't wake up feeling that you actually have to go to work. You just reach out and you're growing them and growing your awareness. And I think your personality is perfect for the role, by the way. Uh, thank you very, very high energy. I, I think it'll attract a lot of community folks and it, the, the cool part is being a community member. Right? So ahead of the community is you're not selling anything you don't say go use it. You're actually finding the best solution for them. If it's not get pod, you will say, Hey, why don't you try this and, you know, play around with that.

Guest: Pauline

Yeah. That's exactly the point of it. And that's why I really like, uh, my job, because it's, it's more like people join the community cuz they're like, oh, this seems like a cool product. This seems like a cool, uh, like community. This is something I could probably use in my day to day. Um, but uh, my job in as part of, uh, as head of community is to make sure that every single member that joins us feels like they can be as successful as they can be using GI PODD. So whatever project project that they've brought in, whatever it is, whatever language, whatever complicated setup they have, I want to make sure that by the end of it, they're like, oh yeah, GI PODD works for my use case. It makes sense for me to use that. But on the flip side of that, like our GI pod community, isn't just about like helping you get started with GI pod or, or, you know, it, even though that's a huge part of it.

Guest: Pauline

Like we have like a questions channel where community members help each other. But another side of the community is to bring people together who understand the future of remote dev environments. And I think that is, that is another really special little thing because you can see the early adopters, I would say like remote dev environments is still it. I wouldn't say it's like a niche, but it's still, uh, a conversation that people keep having this still like wondering is this right? Should we do this? Um, does it make sense for us to move our, our whole, uh, engineering team into, uh, developing in the cloud? And so there's all of these like, uh, conversations that are still happening, but the people who are in our community are early adopters and they see the vision that we see. And that is the most exciting part because they help us then build the best product that we can build for other, for everyone else in the future.

Guest: Pauline

It's like, again, it goes back to what I said earlier. We are sort of, um, creating the path for remote dev environments in this case, and then bringing everyone else with us to join the party. And then together we are, we'll be part of this big ecosystem where, you know, there'll be, there'll be more people who will be building products like GI PODD, but it's so exciting because we've created this whole like space for them. We're like here, this is a thing. This is a concept. Look at our community. Uh, everyone in our community understands why we're doing this. And I think that's the most exciting part of the GI PODD community because we are bringing those like-minded people. And also personally, uh, we've also, um, launched several initiatives like, uh, the community heroes program, which is our like core super fans who absolutely love GI pal who understands the future of remote dev environments.

Guest: Pauline

And they're the ones that consistently show up. We've got around the 30 community heroes across the world now. And, um, it's it's so it's such a joy to work with them cuz we always have fun collaboration ideas. And also we give them the platform to succeed. So they love going out to their local meetups or in the online communities to talk about GI pod. And that enablement thing I keep talking about like building those relationships and helping like planting the seeds and watching them grow over time. I've seen it so much already within the GI PODD community where there'd be someone I invited to the heroes program, they really love GI PODD. They, um, you know, they have so many ideas, but then because they became a hero, they became a bit more confident to like talk about it more openly. We give them the resources, we give them swag and all of these like, uh, things to like a platform for them to grow. And I think it's just, it's just so fantastic cuz it's again, it's a similar thing that I did at K first girls, but I see it here in this context and it's just, it's so magical because it's almost like it's almost like a formula, but it's not like, I don't think that you can just follow all these steps and you'll be successful. I just think it's the right like human connection that you have with people. Does that make sense? Oh

Host: Jon

100%

Guest: Pauline

That through

Host: Jon

No. Yeah, no, it, it makes 100 se sense because here's, here's how I look at it. Uh, and I equate it to not only a developer advocate role of building community is the community is following the person, not the product, right. They like the product, but they like the person who is presented it. And that's where the connection, that human connection Pauline. I know we, we, I know we're gonna be running out a time shortly. I have two more things. That one, we didn't even get the digital nomad. I gotta jump over that because I have a bunch of questions as a content creator. And what the heck does digital nomad mean? Don't worry folks. We're gonna get back to her as the head of community GI PODD. I, I think Pauline and I have signed up for at least a monthly podcast. We might have to do a live stream together. Yes.

Guest: Pauline

Or you'll have to,

Host: Jon

Yes. You've asked for it. You might have regretted it, but you're gonna get it. All right. <laugh> digital nomad. What is a digital nomad? Because you know, I travel and make some content, but I don't think I'm anywhere near sophisticated as you.

Guest: Pauline

Oh my gosh. Okay. Um, so essentially what digital nomad is, it's someone who can work from anywhere in the world, um, with just their laptop and all they need is their laptop and their an internet connection. And because GI PODD is a fully remote company, we're fully distributed around the world. We don't have an office. Uh, I can work from anywhere. And, uh, it was actually my first go this year being a true digital nomad where I spent a few months, uh, outside of where like I'm based in, like I said in the UK and I just worked from a different country, uh, for a couple of months. And it was really scary, but also amazing because I got to chase the sun a little bit around the world. <laugh> um, and I'm, I'm a very summery person and I love, I love the sun and in the UK, we are famous for not having as much sunshine compared to the rest of the world. So I just, I think I'm generally a nicer person because

Host: Jon

I'm nicer. When I get some sun, if it's cloudy, it's gonna be a rough day

Guest: Pauline

Genuinely. I'm not even kidding. Um, but yeah, that's what I did. Noma is just someone who like, uh, goes around the world and uh, works from anywhere. And they are more like location independence. Uh, usually they just, uh, like live off, uh, from their like backpack or suitcase. And that's what I did for a couple of months this year. And it was absolutely fantastic. Um, in terms of like I could geek out right now about my setup because actually in our initial call, Jon let's,

Host: Jon

I

Guest: Pauline

Remember we went down that rabbit hole of different equipment and different setup and we could go into that. Um, but

Host: Jon

I, I gotta give you a shout out for our call before that we had a set of is cuz you allowed me to geek out because this whole episode is about you. So, uh, there's all, I mean, we could do this back and forth all day long about things, but I'm really curious about your setup and how you fit everything into your backpack.

Guest: Pauline

Yes. So, um, I have a 40 liter backpack that I use to travel everywhere. Um, it's actually a little bit broken and I'm traveling next week, so I need to like patch it up very quickly. Um, and yeah, so in terms of like, um, everything I need, uh, yeah, everything I need is in that 40 liter backpack, including all my equipment. And as you can see, as if you're watching this on YouTube, I've got like a 4k camera. I've got like lighting, I've got my microphone, I've got a standing desk. I've got like, I've pretty much got the whole, wait

Host: Jon

A second. Do you pack your standing desk into this back? No, I'm just kidding.

Guest: Pauline

No, but this is why I have at home. Um, so obviously I can't bring all of that. Although I would love to, I'm still actually debating if I should bring my camera, my 4k camera on the road, cuz I bought a little travel tripod, which I can then put in my backpack. Um, but, but yeah, so when I'm on the road, so the first few, um, times I was like traveling around and working, I genuinely just had my MacBook air cuz I don't need like a pro or anything because get PODD I code in the cloud, so I don't really need it. Um, and so I have my MacBook and then I have a roost stand. So one of the stands to keep my laptop, uh, like eye level when I'm working have an external keyboard, a track PADD and this microphone that you see here, I actually pack this as well, but I can't bring the arm.

Guest: Pauline

Obviously I just have the little tripod that comes with it. Um, and then all my charges and things, but all of that actually fits perfectly in my, in my backpack. And then on top of that, I am quite of a like minimalist. I don't get bored too easily with the clothes that I wear and I tend to travel to like hotter places. So I tend to just pack quite lights. Uh, the only time I would wear like heavier and things for more of the winter is actually when I get to the airport from the UK, cuz it's cold <laugh> and then apart from the clothes that I wear, like my travel, uh, clothes, I end up just packing very light soy clothes anyway, anywhere I go. And so as you can imagine, it's genuinely like I think six, 60% of my, um, of my, uh, backpack is probably all of the tech stuff.

Guest: Pauline

It like fits in quite nice. It's 60% of it. And then the rest is like clothes and just other things that I would need, but I don't tend to bring a lot of things because at the end of the day I do like long stays as well. So I tend to book out a place for a long period of time. So I have like kind of a base wherever I go. Um, and so I, I can always shop for new things. Like if I need, if I desperately need something, then I could always go to the shop and buy something, but it all works. It all works out. Uh, and 40 liters is all you need. Um, and it's actually quite liberating because I don't have to like check in my bag or anything. I, I use it as a carryon on most flights and it's fine.

Guest: Pauline

And also I can just walk around with all of my stuff and everything I ever need. And it, I don't know, it's like a sense of freedom I've never really had before. And it's, it's fantastic. I highly recommend it. It's actually weird because when I got back from my recent, uh, trip, I got back here at home and I was like, oh my God, I have so much stuff. <laugh> I hate it here. You know? But at the same time, it's been nice to be comfortable with all of the things. Um, but yeah, it all fits and it's possible. It's possible. I, I have had to get better at learning how to pack. Well, cuz it becomes like a gate, like a little puzzle. It's like

Host: Jon

It's like Tetris in your backpack

Guest: Pauline

Tetris. Yes. It's it gets a bit frustrating because you really need to be intentional. You can't just throw things in. You have to be like, okay, this fits here and this fits here, this will protect my laptop a little bit more. So yeah.

Host: Jon

<laugh> I think we need a recording to do an episode on you packing this and this, see like

Guest: Pauline

Dubin. I should make a talk.

Host: Jon

Ah, speaking of that, I, I think by since the first time we talked, I actually made my first one. So I don't

Guest: Pauline

Remember you saying yes, I need to watch it.

Host: Jon

Oh, I'll put it in Jon Myer podcast. You can go and search it. I actually did it off my studio and set up it. But anyway, this is not about me. This is about you. We talked about digital nomad. I know we only talked a little bit about it, but my last thing that I want to touch on is I heard you're a competitive gamer and this is gonna open up a topic. I know, I

Guest: Pauline

Know this. This will be another half an hour, Jon, are you sure?

Host: Jon

<laugh>

Guest: Pauline

Yeah,

Host: Jon

Well we've got some time <laugh>

Guest: Pauline

  1. <laugh> um, so yeah, what do you wanna know? What

Host: Jon

Specific, okay. I wanna know one. How did you get into gaming? Well, obviously when you opened this up, you talked about doing the gaming, but what type of gamer were and why are you so competitive at it?

Guest: Pauline

I think, okay. Firstly, I'll start with the, uh, latter question and the reason I am so competitive is because it's in my nature to be competitive. I was born competitive <laugh> I

Host: Jon

Dunno why as most folks could tell from this conversation. Yes.

Guest: Pauline

I'm a very competitive person and I dunno sometimes that's a good thing, but sometimes it's also a bad thing. I actually have learned over the years to balance it a little bit, cuz I, I have been a bit too competitive and it's actually had negative side effects. So I'm trying to be a little bit better with that. Um, wait,

Host: Jon

Are you telling me that you would throw equipment? No, I'm just kidding. <laugh> just, you don't have to disclose that on this

Guest: Pauline

<laugh> that's a whole thing. Yeah. Um, no. And then the other thing was, what was your other question? Sorry.

Host: Jon

Like what actually I wanna ask you, what was the game? I mean, is it multiple games every game or is there a specific game?

Guest: Pauline

Okay. So, oh my gosh. I can't believe how to say this. Yes. Um, so it's actually multiple games. Um, one of the games, um, I forgot it. Mm. It, it was like an MMO and it was a, it was actually a mobile MMO and I really, really enjoyed it because it had just launched by, um, a company called the game company was space, time, space, time studios. I can't believe I still remember that. So the game developer space time studios had just launched a mobile game. That was uh, multi, uh, what was it? MMO? No multi online. What what's the NM? Mm M MMO, MMO

Host: Jon

Say that three times fast. Yeah,

Guest: Pauline

I know I was losing it then. Um, no. So it was like an online, online game on your mobile and it was like one of the first to be ever done. And I think I downloaded it and just absolutely just, I loved it. And I, as one of the first users of that, that platform, the game that I was playing, um, I quickly found that the more I used it, the more, uh, my name, uh, would show up on leaderboards. And I think that is actually where the competitiveness came from. That's where it hit, where I was like, oh my God, I am across the world. I am number five across the world. And I became super competitive to try and maintain the, the fifth spot globally for like, I don't know, like VE kills or something like that. Um, so, uh, yeah, and then there was also, uh, and then not just maintaining, but going up the leaderboard. And I think I still have screenshots of this game where I'm like, I get to like number three competitive

Host: Jon

Much.

Guest: Pauline

Yeah. <laugh> I would get to number three and I'd be like, oh my God, they're like, I'm catching up. But that was just one game. But then I took that same attitude elsewhere and I ended up playing like, um, so people know the, uh, company Bunge and they make like games like halo, destiny and things like that. And I got, I got very competitive on destiny. So the first ever destiny game that I launched. I remember I actually cued up for it at midnight at my local game store, because I was so excited that they, it was releasing and it was very similar to halo. And I had had been a big fan of halo over the years, but this one super excited, very different world. It was a whole thing and it looked beautiful. I really wanted to buy it. And then I was one of the first people to like go into the store at midnight. And you know, it was a whole big event. I dunno if you've ever been, if you've ever been sad enough to wait

Host: Jon

To, to

Guest: Pauline

Then. So, cause it's a whole, it's like a

Host: Jon

Whole event. I, big thing, I know the excitement, I know the excitement waiting in line and getting into, uh, have done a lot of sporting events of excitement or tickets that you want to get queued up. Yeah. Uh, gaming type, uh, events that you were going for. So I know the whole thing around it and being so super excited to be like, I'm one of the first ones who got it.

Guest: Pauline

Yeah, exactly. And then like, as on my way out after I paid for it, I would like, there were like pictures and people were like celebrating. Cause it was just such a big deal. I was one of the first people to get it. It was awesome. Um, so yeah, I did that. And then when I played, uh, destiny again, as one of the, one of the like first ever players ever, I got competitive, competitive on there. But in that one that's actually, when I became even more competitive and I used to be, I used to be that person that had like an Xbox, uh, I was playing on Xbox, had like the headset, I was on Xbox live yelling at people because I was like, why didn't go left? Why didn't you go <laugh> I told you to throw the, but why didn't you do that?

Guest: Pauline

<laugh> and it was like PV, um, PVP. So three of us as player. That was the one I really, that was when my competitiveness like peaked. That was when I was like, I need to be like high up on the leaderboards. And I was, I was like one of those people that formed teams with specific people that I'd met, who were good players. And I always stuck with them and yeah. And then there's like, I've, I've taken like screenshots and like pictures of, um, when I was the first like number one in a game, cuz like I was like the one that scored the most points and things. I don't know, I just loved it. <laugh> but that's where my competitiveness comes from. I, I have to admit, I did start playing, uh, destiny too, which is the sequel in last year. And I remember I was playing it again and I just got so frustrated because I wasn't as good as I was before. Cause I used to spend a lot of hours on it obviously. And now I have a life and <laugh> and also work and other things that I do. Um, but yeah, I wasn't as good. And I remember thinking, wow, I'm a lot older now.

Host: Jon

<laugh> <laugh> it's catching up to you where I can't spend, you know, two, three o'clock in the morning to go play this game and get better because I haven't get up for work. Yeah.

Guest: Pauline

Well

Host: Jon

Maybe I could be sick tomorrow. No, I'm just kidding.

Guest: Pauline

<laugh> no, no, but it was also like, I genuinely can't focus for that long because I usually do do like Theora technique where I like spend 20 minutes on task and things and then I have a quick break and I need that for the games. But like, you know, I can't keep up with, with these kids who play for hours on end. I just, I can't do it, but still it was a good, special part of my life. And I think it really shaped me my character. I would say <laugh>

Host: Jon

Okay. You sound like somebody who would be playing fortnight. Have you played it?

Guest: Pauline

I tried fortnight, but again it's more like for gen Zs. Oh my God. I saw <laugh>. I sound like such, I'll go down this whole route. About how much? Like I'm not like a gen Z. Although some people consider me as a gen Z. I don't think I am. I'm like born 1996. I'm not a gen Z. That's not, that's not gen Z. Is it? I don't

Host: Jon

No. I'd have to look at the, the gen Z. I won't get into little stuff. No. Oh my

Guest: Pauline

God's the whole thing

Host: Jon

<laugh> I will, I will. My kids played it. Uh, my son likes watch and a lot of the stuff on YouTube, I attempted to play with them and I just, yeah, I dunno what good. Yeah,

Guest: Pauline

No, but that's just too fast now. They like, I don't, they like hold the controls differently or they just get really good. I don't know. Also I think fortnight it's like more of a PC game. Isn't it? Like I,

Host: Jon

Yeah, you can play. No, he plays on um, oh, what's it. His Xbox he'll play on the Xbox.

Guest: Pauline

Oh, okay. Cause I'm a console gamer. I'm don't really do like games. I never do.

Host: Jon

I I've, I've never really been into like the PC games actually. I haven't done cons console games for a while. Yeah. I won't even date myself on that one last time. I <laugh>, I ain't got time family. I got content creating. Yeah, exactly. Who's got a little time to play some games though. They are nice to just like mentally, you know? Yeah. It, it is, it is nice, but no, this has been pretty cool. Pauline. I'm gonna wrap things up because I think we need to have a further conversation on so many topics and so many things that you're doing ahead to the community before we do Pauline, where are you gonna be next? What's your next event that people can actually follow?

Guest: Pauline

Oh, amazing. I really like that, uh, question. So, uh, I hope that this episode is like, uh, shipped before the actual in person event, but I'll be at con in Detroit, uh, in October. So I think it's October 24th for the whole week. So I'll be there. Um, with GI pod, I'll be at the booth. Um, and so if you want to learn about how to use gift pod, if you wanna see a demo from me or you just wanna meet me and the rest of the GI PODD team, I will be there. And I would love to meet as many people as I can. I actually got back from the Valencia Kubecon earlier this year and I just felt so energized meeting so many people. So yeah, please don't uh, be afraid to say hello. And also just generally like, uh, I'm also just, I live on Twitter, so <laugh>, if you wanna follow me on there, um, I'll uh, send you my handle as well. If you, if you wanna, um, connect on there as well. Um,

Host: Jon

Pauline, I'll put that in the link in the description below, not only on your handle, but also your website for your blog post, because you did provide that. And I think that gives you a little bit of insight on who Pauline is. This will be out in September, so don't worry. I'll let everybody know where you're gonna be. I'm hoping or maybe a possibility that I'll be at coup com. Not sure. It all depends on where my roles take me or sponsorship, by the way. If anybody wants to sponsor me to go to co con, let me know, be happy to oblige.

Guest: Pauline

<laugh> I love that. I should do that more often. <laugh>

Host: Jon

You gotta get that plug in. At least I love it. Yeah. Hey, you know, I've been doing this a little bit. All right, Pauline, thank you so much for joining me.

Guest: Pauline

Thank you so much, Jon. It was been an absolute pleasure,

Host: Jon

Everybody Pauline Narvas Head of Community at Gitpod. I'm your host Jon Myer. Don't forget to hit that light subscribe and notify because guess what folks as always we're outta here.

 

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