August 2, 2023

Becoming a Software Engineer Without a Degree with Garrett Graves, a Twitch Software Engineer (DF#108)

Becoming a Software Engineer Without a Degree with Garrett Graves, a Twitch Software Engineer

Insider Tips To Kickstart Your Career

In this episode, we sit down with Garrett Graves, a software engineer at Twitch who has built a thriving career without a college degree. Garrett shares his valuable insights, practical advice, and proven steps for aspiring back end developers who are eager to kickstart their careers but don't hold a traditional degree.

In this episode, we talk about:

- How to break into the software engineering industry, even without a college degree or work experience. Garret provides practical steps and resources to help individuals navigate their way through self-learning and gain the skills needed to succeed.
- How to stand out and get hired as a software engineer. He shares strategies to make a strong impression on potential employers and increase your chances of securing a job.
- Garrett's personal journey from dropping out of college to securing a position at Twitch, a leading technology company. He discusses the challenges he faced along the way and the lessons he learned, providing inspiration and motivation to those who may be considering alternative education paths.
- Invaluable career advice from Garrett for individuals just starting their careers or looking to break into the software engineering industry. He shares insights on building a strong professional network, seeking mentorship, and staying motivated in the face of challenges.

Tune in to this episode and gain valuable insights and guidance from Garrett Graves, as he shares his journey, tips, and advice to help aspiring software engineers carve their own path to success in the dynamic and ever-evolving world of technology.

Enjoy the episode!

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Links and Notes from the Episode

Episode Transcript
Please enjoy this transcript or our episode!

Please note the transcript may have a few errors. We're human. It can be hard to catch all the errors from a full length conversation. Enjoy!

Hello, folks. And welcome back to degree free. I am super excited to have today's guest on with me. Garrett Graves. Garrett, thank you so much for making the time.

 

Garrett:

Yeah. Appreciate it. Super excited to be here.

 

Ryan:

Garrett, I would just like to start with a little bit of your background and what you do for a living. I'll say for the audience, You are a software engineer at Twitch. You're degree free. I would love in this conversation to dig into your past and how you got there in an environment where everybody seems to be asking for a college degree.

Garrett [00:03:01]:

Yeah. So to talk about my backstory a little bit, I have to go back to when I was a kid I wanted a MacBook really bad 1 year for Christmas. I I've always been into tech and computers, and I wanted a MacBook 1 year really bad. instead of that, my parents bought me the Steve Jobs Autobiography. You know anything about Steve Jobs. He was a very eccentric individual, and he ended up dropping out of school and founding probably one of the most valuable companies of all time. And so I was I think I was 9 or 10 reading this book about this guy who basically did a bunch of psychedelics and dropped out of school. And ever since then, I was like, that's what I wanna be. From that point in my life, kinda when I realized I wanted to drop out of school just because I wanted to do things my way. My mom's a 1st generation college student, so she was very adamant about me going to school, getting a degree. My dad doesn't have a degree. He dropped out 2 weeks into school and, you know, started his own company. And so my mom was pushing me to get a degree. My dad pushing me as well. It got to a certain point where when I was in school, I realized that the degree I was currently getting was not going to get me where I wanted to be. I wanted to go work in San Francisco Tech, and I realized very quickly that the degree and the path that I was currently on was going to not get me anywhere near that. So I basically had to go back to the drawing board and figure out, okay. Well, I'm very far away from where I wanna go. Things don't look good right now. How do I get to where I ago. So I I had to basically, through dumb luck, I ended up getting a job as a software engineer when I was in college making, like, $12 an hour. Building fairly complex applications, but I was really frustrated because there are kids that worked at the Panda Express on campus that were making more money than me at the time. And so I was like, wow. This sucks. But I did find out that I really enjoyed software Engineering. I always thought that, like, oh, you just sit in a cubicle and code and that's all you do. You don't interact with anybody like software engineers. They sit in the basement, and turns out, I actually like that a lot. And it's also a lot more collaborative than you would imagine at first glance. So once I got that job, I I realized how much I like doing, you know, working with code and building software. And so I got that job my sophomore year in college and was obsessed from that point on. I I spent almost all my free time learning, writing code, doing things outside of work, inside of work. And then when the pandemic hit, I ended up getting laid off So I was making no money now. And during the pandemic, I remember sitting there writing code for 10 to 12 hours a day for no money just to just to try and get better eventually stumbled into real time communication. I posted a video on Twitter of something I was playing around with, and this one guy who was really deep in the in the WebRTC real time communication industry, saw my video on Twitter and basically reached out to me and was like, hey, man. What you're doing is really cool. you ever have any questions or anything you ever wanna know about this stuff, feel free to reach out. And I saw that he was a software engineer at Apple who had dropped out, and I messaged him and was like, hey. I'd love to talk about how you got to where you were because I I really wanna drop out of school. I I hate going to school, and I realize it's not gonna get me where I wanna and he recommended that I keep working with the stuff that I was working on, launch an open source project, and posted on this site that I'd never heard of. So I ended up doing that. posted on the site. It went viral on the site. I had, like, 50,000 people view my project. In the 1st day, it was up. and it went around the Internet quite a bit. And so I ended up taking that project and leveraging it to get an offer at a startup in San Francisco. That is amazing. There are so many threads to pull at first, but I'll start at the end with

Ryan Maruyama [00:06:30]:

that person that worked at Apple What is that person's name? Like and why was that person so willing to

Garrett [00:06:37]:

help you? Yeah. His name is Sean Dewey. I don't know if he's gonna get mad at me for mentioning on this or not. I just had a conversation with him a couple hours ago today just catching up. I haven't been able to chat with him in a while, and I asked him that. shortly after. And I was I was like, what like, why would you go out of your way to help me? And he basically said, it's really cool to see new young people getting into this area of the industry. He said, you know, there will come a time in your life where you have the opportunity to do what I did for you. He's like someone did what I did for you to me. He's like, when, you know, when that opportunity comes, just pay it forward. That is amazing. If you do things in public like how you did. Right? Like, You did this WebRTC thing,

Ryan Maruyama [00:07:18]:

and he reached out to you because you were already doing things. Right? Like, you didn't really have to help you that much. He knew that you had the drive to get this project up and going, and you saw that you had promise. That's what we try to tell people here is when it comes to networking, a lot of people say, I don't have network. I don't know where to start. Where I usually say is to start building a project and start doing something in public. And if it's just posting it on Twitter, if you have no Twitter followers. It's okay. It's fine. The algorithm is gonna do its magic, and, hopefully, it's gonna get you to the people that it needs to get to. And then they're gonna see, like, hey. Look. Garrett is busting his ass doing this project, I can reach out to him and say, hey. Good job. I couldn't agree more. Like, that that's one of the things that I didn't understand about network Either my mom always told me network network network. I was like, I have no idea what that means. Like, I don't have anything interesting to say to these people because I don't know anything. When you're building your network in my mind, you have to start from somewhere. You have to go and build a scale of some sort. You have to be interesting to the people that you're trying to network with. Nobody wants to talk to you if you have nothing interesting to say. the really interesting thing was is, you know, after I'd gotten my job, I was catching up with Sean a couple months, you know, later and thanking him and everything. And I was like, why

Garrett [00:08:31]:

why did you do this? And he was like, well, I told you to go and do this. He's like, first of all, I didn't think you were gonna do it in the time span that you did it in. And, also, I didn't think you were gonna do it, period. And he's like, when you went and did what you said you were gonna do, like, that's someone that I can attach my name to because he's like, I know that where if you get a job because of my name, you're gonna go and perform because you went and did this for free. I was in my mom's basement. Avery set me on that path. I was home for the holidays. and was just sitting there writing code on my laptop like a cave dweller. I had no idea if it was gonna even work. All I was doing was just to get him to email some people that he knew and be like, hey. This guy knows a thing or 2 or he built a thing. But what ended up happening from that is, like, it ended up blowing the point where, like, I started at Twitch a couple months ago, and I was randomly interacting with this person, and they saw on my GitHub page, which is basically, like, Twitter for engineers. He he saw, like, that repository was there, and he was like, wait. Did have you worked on that? I'm like, oh, well, I was the guy that built just random people now know me because of this project, and it I never thought that that was gonna happen. The thing I think about now is it's all about shots on net, especially when you're in early in your career, you just gotta do something. Like, give yourself permission to flail and fail a bunch because that one thing is gonna take off, and it'll become apparent the path that you need to start chasing down.

Ryan Maruyama [00:09:54]:

Yeah. Absolutely. That point is really important. And the tasks that you do and the things that you're gonna have to shoot are gonna be different in every step of your career and every step of the business that you're building or the project that you're doing. Like, even to this day, I'm sure that you have things that you're just like, Yeah. I need to get shots on goal on this specific thing, but they're totally different than what they were 2 or 3 years ago. Right? Like, 2, 3 years ago, you were just like, okay. I just need to be a cave dweller and sit down and and do this. And now I'm sure that your sights are set higher

Garrett [00:10:30]:

but you still have to have that same mentality. Yeah. I'm starting to notice more and more, like, the cyclical nature of your career life in general. You'll go through periods where it's time to, like, alright, I'm just gonna disappear. You're not gonna be able to reach me. I'm gonna go and I I got a lot of work to do. I gotta go push this way. Everybody's telling me don't do I gotta go do it because it's what I want. And then you're gonna have periods where it's like, alright. I've made a step up. It's time to relax a little bit and enjoy the fruits of my labor and settle in. And then the work you need to do in order to keep improving as a person changes. And so it's like, okay. Now we gotta go and, like, work on some soft skills. Now we gotta work on how to navigate, you know, large organizations or stuff like that because there's there's just, like, any career you're in. It's never gonna be, like, one thing that you're doing. You have to be versatile, especially in, like, job markets like we see right now. Like, tech is a bloodbath. It's really rough for people in tech right now. And, basically, you have to fight so that when, you know, if something if layoffs come up, and someone looks at your name on that piece of paper, and they're like, I see, I don't wanna get rid of that person because they can do all of these other things outside of what we pay them to do. You have to be a multifaceted employee in my mind. At the end of the day, you're just a problem solver. When you're in an organization, that's all you are. It doesn't matter if you're an engineer or you're marketing. or you're in sales. All you're doing is solving problems. The problems look differently, but you just have to figure out how to come up with creative solutions for those problems, and you'll be fine. Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. I did wanted to find our terms just a little bit. When you're talking about WebRTC, I really don't know what that means. Could we define that for the audience and for myself? They're my the audience, for me. Yeah. I'll try I'll try to keep the technical jargon do a minimum. This call that we're using right now, the way that I can see you and hear you and you can see me and hear me is through a standardized protocol called WebRTC. It's a it's a way to send audio and video over the Internet at subsecond latencies. It's used by Google Meet. So it's it's a standardized protocol, which means basically there's a bunch of really boring documents out there outline how all of these different things interplay with each other, and there's a standardized specification for how all this stuff should work. So it's supported in web browsers, it's supported on your phone. It can be supported on servers and stuff like that. So it's it's just a standardized way of communicating, and then you can go and implement that in any programming language you want because there's a standardized definition of, like, if this happens, then this should happen.

Ryan Maruyama [00:12:53]:

With your project, what was the project called? It's called project light speed. If you could break down what it does in layman's terms, that would be great. Is it just another

Garrett [00:13:04]:

API, or is it I mean, what does it do? So there's a piece of software called open broadcast software that live streamers use for, like, livestreaming to Twitch, YouTube, all those platforms. Back in 2018, 2019 mixer, which is the Microsoft and streaming platform that's since gone under. But they developed a ingest protocol that would allow them to do live streams at very, very low latency. What I did is I took that ingest protocol, reverse engineered it to build a server component for it, and then figured out how pipe the media from that protocol into WebRTC on a server so that people could go and deploy their own server similar to, like, what they would do with, like, a Minecraft server or something that. And they could stream to their own server and have their friends view a web page and watch their stream at very low latency, like, under a half a second.

Ryan Maruyama [00:13:59]:

Amazing. Amazing. When you were in college in your sophomore year, you kind of realized that it wasn't going to work out or at least the direction that you saw wasn't gonna work out. And then you were coding and you're teaching yourself How were you doing that? How were you teaching yourself? What were you coding? There are a lot of people that are listening to this program that are like, you know, I keep hearing that I need to learn how to code. but I don't have no idea where to start. Yeah. So one thing I wanna touch on before I dig dive into that is, like, realizing that it wasn't gonna work out what that felt and looked like is, like,

Garrett [00:14:35]:

I looked around at people that were graduating at my peers that were graduating in my major and going and getting jobs in, like, the types companies that were coming to the job fairs at my universities and the companies that I was talking to and realized, those are not the companies that I wanna work for. I was gonna go and be working in Midwest tech. I was gonna be making, like, $60,000 a year writing Java, which I don't particularly like to do. and not building anything interesting, but building internal systems, not building software as a product. So I was gonna be a cost center for the company. the company was gonna be spending money and I wasn't gonna be generating any revenue. And, also, I wasn't really gonna be working on anything that was interesting to me. So when I say I was just, like, coding this is the thing that I tell every all my friends that they reach out to me. They're like, how do I learn how to code, this, that, you know, think. Like, you have to first of all, you have to be interested in it. My advice is not to go learn how to code. Right? The only reason I'm where I'm at is because I love this. I'm addicted to it. You could give me all the money in the world. I'm gonna be doing the same stuff I'm doing right now. Like, it it's addiction level bad. Like, I can't get off the computer at night to go to bed. because this is all I can think about. You need to find what that is for you and you will be successful. Don't go learn the code if you don't like it because you're never gonna get to where I'm at because you're be able to work as much as I have worked at it. So what was I coding? Well, I I was interested in sneaker botting and, like, I was I'm I'm big into sneakers in fashion. So it's like, okay. Well, like, how do I build code that will go and buy sneakers for me? Started getting into ecosystem and talking to people that that were in that. And I was learning about, like, oh, how does HTTP work? How can we what's a cookie? How do we take this stuff and, like, make it look like I'm a I'm a person on a browser? How do we bypass this bot protection? How does that work? So I was going and I didn't build anything that was super meaningful there. I built like a Chrome extension that would automatically go and check out for you, and I built kind of some crappy sneaker bot that didn't work. But I learned a little bit, and then I was like, always really interested in video games. I was like, how do I build a game engine? I'm really curious about that. So I went and just built this game engine that takes in a 2 d map tile and, like, chops it up and renders it and then renders a physics engine on top of that so your characters can bump into each other and have have MPCs in there that are walking around, and it was just these different aspects of things that I was curious in. I was like, how do I go build that? is like the equivalent of someone that's interested in radios, taking a part of radio and seeing how the different components work. I was just curious about all these different things is how do I go in and how do I build that. That eventually landed me into the real time communication area because I was like, well, I'm interested in live streaming. How do we make the latency lower? And it's like, oh, this is how this works, and it's you pick up nuggets working on these different projects that you start to get a better understanding of how software works, period. I think I'm at the point right now where it's I understand how systems are built how software is built so I can go and attempt to build anything that I I basically would set my mind to. And it's a really empowering spot to be in because it's like, oh, cool. The world is my oyster I can build whatever I want. But going and basically chasing down my interests in these different areas and seeing how, you know, my other interests intersect with software and playing with those things is what allowed me to learn because, you know, it takes vastly different rules when you're building a game engine versus when you're trying to build sneaker bot, which is versus when you're trying to build a live streaming server, but there are common patterns that you pick up across all those things. that intersect. And then, also, when you're working on a certain problem, let's say I'm working on a problem in my day to day now or I'm like, okay. I need to do something with this media, and it's like, oh, well, I remember when I was dealing with, you know, a render loop for my game engine, I had to come at it this way. Like, you pick up tools for solving problems that you can then overlay onto different aspects.

Ryan Maruyama [00:18:19]:

I love the fact that you dug into the decision of, you know, you saw that it wasn't working out for your peers and the people that were ahead of you and defining what not working out was It takes a lot of foresight and forethought to look at the outcome and then be like, I don't like that. People that are listening to this podcast They are going through major career transitions. A lot of them are either in college. They never went. or they're, like, a server at a restaurant and they're thinking about making a transition into tech or really into any other field, and they're worried about Okay. I don't know which field to hitch my wagon to. One of the things that we always talk about is trying to put your career in a profit center, making more sense than putting it in the cost center. because exactly what you were talking about or what you've said before, which is when layoffs come, they're gonna look, and they're gonna be, like, cost centers are the first places to go. largely in internal companies. If it's not an HR agency, HR is, like, one of recruiters. Those are usually one of the top people to go because you're doing exactly the opposite from recruiting.

Garrett [00:19:36]:

And a lot of people don't even know to ask that. How did you know in college to have that forethought? Like, how did you even know that call centers existed? Well, I don't wanna seem too clever and act like it was, like, this mystical prediction that I made. And, you know, I was looking far into the future. I always told myself when I was, you know, sixteen, I'm like, I'm a go to school. I'm gonna get into tech. I'm gonna make 6 figures. Had zero clue how that was gonna happen, and I very quickly started seeing, like, that's not gonna happen. That's not a reality. That's not in the cards now. And so it was more so fear of, like, oh, shit. What do I do now? That was more so just like, okay. I I wanna make money. And then coupled with okay. I actually love software. The 2 intersected very nicely. In terms of the whole cost center versus, you know, revenue center, was always something that kinda just made sense to me. I think it was because my dad owns his own company, so I'm used to being around business speak and stuff like that. So it kinda just makes sense. Right? You wanna be able to tie your effort to money for the company. Otherwise, what are you doing? You know? When the going gets tough, you're gonna be the first one to get out. What does your dad do? He owns, like, a landscape company and a, like, a garden center. Amazing. Amazing. Have you ever worked for him? Have you ever, like, when you were a kid or Yeah. I did everything from sweeping the floors to building Boulder walls. I did landscape design and sales for a little bit, which was really cool because I was this kid that had no experience in landscape design, but I knew how to do the CAD program. Like, I taught myself how to do designs in the CAD program, so I did get $250,000 escape design and a CAD program one time and going out and estimating everything and figuring it out. So it was it was cool, but, yeah, I knew that wasn't where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Totally.

Ryan Maruyama [00:21:17]:

I wanted to talk about learning to code or really learning any skill, but especially coding. So it sounded like the best place to start is to find a problem. Right? Like, find an interest that you have and then find a problem that you have and then try to create a solution for that. Oh, for a lot of people listening to this, that is gonna be the number one thing to do. Okay. Let's assume that they've identified that, though, and it there is a problem. Like, you were talking about a sneaker bot something to maybe if you wanna connect this application to this application and maybe send emails easier, something like that. But then What you run into once you define the problem is the mechanism of learning gets really tough because especially if it's a unique problem, you get caught in, okay. Well, how do I figure out and identify which languages to learn? Or how do I identify? Like, I'm sitting here googling, and now, like, I'm sitting here asking Chachi Preeti, I'm trying to create this bot to do this. What languages should I learn? And then it'll tell you, oh, well, you can do this in JavaScript. You can do this in Python. You could do this in you can do this in PHP, and you're just like, Those all sound good as somebody that doesn't know anything. So how do you identify

Garrett [00:22:37]:

which resources to use, you know, which languages to learn first? Yeah. I'm super super happy you brought that up. So the first thing you have to do actually before you identify the problem, you gotta understand the rules of the game that you're playing. You have to know enough about the way that the world works before you can start trying to solve problems. because otherwise, you're gonna do exactly what you just said. You're gonna start going down this rabbit hole where you're like, I don't know what I don't know. So the first thing I would say is start with JavaScript and then just start learning when you load a web page what happens. How does the Internet work? how do servers communicate to each other? What's the difference between what happens when I load a web page versus what's going on on the server? What does that basic communication look like? Right? You have to understand the rules of the game that you're playing before you can dive in to be like, okay. Cool. Now I'm gonna go architect this solution. The second thing you're gonna do is don't get paralyzed because you don't know. Write bad code, write it a lot. I write bad code all the time. I I purposely write bad code. When I when I'm trying to solve a problem, the first solution I build is the worst solution. I just get it done. And over time, you'll build up the mechanism of being like, nope. Don't do it this way. Do it this way. And so your worst solution will get better and better over time. But there's always room to improve what you've written. And the best thing about Software is it's very easy to change unless you're working on something that is going to Mars where, like, they can't update the code because there's no way to send that much information there. But, you know, if you're just building something in your side project, write something that breaks all the time. Like, don't be like, oh, no. This guy that's giving this tutorial, he's some genius that knows everything, and I don't know anything. Like, I don't know what's happening. My advice would be, like, get a good fundamental understanding of how the Internet works, what an HTTP request is, what happens when you load a web page, how that stuff works. And then just build something small. You're not gonna solve every problem the first time. like I said, I built a lot of different things, and I still I still build crap all the time just because I'm curious and I wanna learn. I'm still just playing around with different things. Then from there, just start literally go watch somebody build a website, copy their code, and then just start playing with it. Start changing it. What I always do when I follow tutorials is I never copy paste the code always force myself to type it out because I think it forces you to pay attention to it a little bit more and kinda pay attention to what you're doing. But from there, software engineering is incredibly complex. It is very easy, but it's also very complex at the same time. Once you understand the laws of the game, it becomes much easier and then the problems you you start solving or it's a lot harder, just stay focused and put the time in, continuously learn and watch new tutorials about new types of technologies. Like the other night, I was scrolling on YouTube board, and I was watching some dude make malware on Windows I don't ever want to write code for a Windows machine ever, but I was curious about what he was doing and and some of the things that he had to do. So I was just watching it. It was like a 15 minute video, and I learned some things about how to write c code on Windows. I don't write c and I don't write code for Windows. But who knows? Those things might be useful. You have to be a sponge and try to go try to go wide as as opposed to, like, really deep when you're first starting. And then from there, once you start getting a good understanding of being like, oh, okay. Cool. I have a problem in kind of think I know how I could solve it. You'll know when you know enough to be dangerous. That's when you start going and writing the bad code and watching it blow up and fail, and then you're like, okay, well, no, this isn't gonna work, and now I have to fix this. And that never goes away. And if you don't like that process, this definitely is not a field for you. because it's tedious at times. I mean, it's still it's tedious for me, and I love this stuff. So that would be my advice there. Just to

Ryan Maruyama [00:26:18]:

summarize that. For the starting languages at the very beginning, you were saying JavaScript and learning how the Internet works. That's

Garrett [00:26:28]:

your suggestion. Yeah. JavaScript is nice because you you can write code for the browser and for a server using the same language. This is what everybody wants to do I'm guilty of getting wrapped up into this every once in a while. It's like there's these holy wars about which language is best for x, y, or z, and everybody is so passionate about why language is terrible for x or z is good for w. Like, it's not a worthwhile debate to get into in my mind. When you're building software, you're building a toolkit. Right? So it's like, I know a bunch of languages. You could ask me to go write any language right now I would go do it because I know how to learn languages at this point, like it's not hard. What you wanna do is try to look at it not through a I'm learning this language, but I'm learning how to write code. Because it's printing something to the screen in this language. When you need to go write a different language, all you do is Google how to console log in x language or how to do y in this language. Once you have an understanding of the concepts, it's very easy to take those put them into Google, and then it's like, oh, cool. Here's some code. You take that code, and it works. And then you tweak it to exactly what you need to do. But you have to, like, learn the fundamentals of what's going on. And I think JavaScript provides a really good playground for that. It's it's fairly easy to write. And then from there, I found out I didn't really like front end engineering. And I didn't really like, oh, just building rest APIs is what they're called. Basically, what applications interface with, you know, when they're interfacing with the database and stuff like that. I was like, this is boring. Like, once you build a REST API, like, you've built them all, I wanna build stuff on the server that's really interesting. And so I started getting into more, like, a back end position. I guess I'm technically, like, a full stack engineer. I've written everything from client code to deep low level server code. But you'll start figuring out what you like and what you don't like. And then from there, it's like, okay. I really wanna write server side code. If you wanna write service side code in 2023 at like a Silicon Valley Tech company or like a big tech company, my advice would be learn Golang. I think with TypeScript, JavaScript go lang, you can basically do everything you need to do. Perfect. That is amazing. And that's exactly as somebody who has thought about and dabbled around learning how to code. I have literally struggled with these exact same

Ryan Maruyama [00:28:40]:

questions that I'm asking you. And I whenever I talk to people, in our audience and in our community, they always ask that same question, which is, you know, where do you start? Because as you were just saying, you don't know what you don't know. Here's another thing, the programming language is not gonna make you a good engineer, and it's also not gonna make you a bad engineer.

Garrett [00:28:58]:

Like, it's it's what you can build with it. that matters. If you wanna go learn the language because you wanna go learn it, then go do it. But if you wanna optimize for higher ability and in terms of covering things that you can build, like, TypeScript, JavaScript and Golang are, I would say, the 3 best to learn right now. I wanted to ask a couple more questions about your past before we kinda start talking about the president and possibly the future. When you're talking about problem solving

Ryan Maruyama [00:29:24]:

in work and in your own job. How did you become adept at problem solving? What are some tips for people to, like, even identify problems? There's a lot of people, like I said, listening to this. They aren't even sure what problems exist in the roles that they want to get into. They don't even know the problems that exist in their own roles. Like, what problem should I solve to make myself a better you know, cashier at a, you know, convenience store, things like that. I think the biggest

Garrett [00:29:57]:

thing that sticks out to me about the way I approach problems is I always chunk them into the smallest absolute unit that I can get them down to. Right? It's like, okay. I'm working on this thing and ears like on a high high level of what it needs to do. And it's okay. What are the smallest steps of things that I need to do to get it to do what I wanted to. Right? I built a project for the the conference talk I gave last week where I was doing basically using WebRTC to take audio decode it into raw audio, run it through some AI stuff, and then take the output of that which is text, turn it back into speech, and then send it back over WebRTC. is like, okay, cool, that's the big system. But it's like you're not gonna sit down and write all that at once. There's just too much going on there. Okay, first, First thing I need to do is I need to get the audio, and then I need to I need to get it into the AI. So then I start looking into it. I'm like, okay. So the AI thing that I wanna use, it requires PCM, float 32, little Indian audio. What is that? Okay. Off to Google, we go. What is the difference between PCM audio that's a little Indian and a big Indian? And then why float 32 versus float 16 versus in 16? So then you start spend a little time there. It's like, okay. I know enough to be dangerous in that area. Cool. We'll get away from that. So I guess the 1st phase is, like, chunking and understanding what you don't know about the problem. So you dive in, you figure out it's like, okay, cool. So I need to end up with an array of float 32s that are in little Indian form. cool. So now what I wanna do is I wanna use WebRTC to get that audio. Okay. So I connect to my WebRTC call And I've got these packets coming in. What are these packets? Okay. These packets are containers around raw binary data. What's in that binary data? Well, that's an OPUS audio packet. which is an audio container format. Okay. Well, I need to get it from that format to PCM in float 32. How do I do that? okay, how to decode Opus Audio in Golang. Okay. Cool. Here's a library that I can use that allows me to take audio from Opus and turned it into float 32 Little Indian. Oh, great. Here we go. Now I wire up the plumbing around that where it's like, okay, I'm taking these packets now. I'm grabbing information, and then I'm turning it into the stuff I need. And then you start wiring up the pipeline, it's like, oh, cool. Now I have the first chunk done. Alright. Great. Now we're on to the second part. Now I wanna take the text that I'm getting, and I wanna do some stuff to it, and then take that output and work backwards. You start with what you wanna do. Work backwards and then identify the gaps and things that you just don't have a clue about how they work and go and and try to plug those gaps. And then continue once you start knowing what you don't know, you're like, okay. Cool. Actually, I can only decode the int 16 PCM audio. So now I need to figure out how to convert it from in 16 to float 32 or, okay. Well, like, when I decode, it's at this sample rate, but at actually, this model over here needs to use a different sample rate. So it's like, you start to identify more gaps, and then you go and fill those gaps, then you're left with, like, a pretty good idea of, like, small little steps that you can go through. And especially for something that you're working on as a side project, it's nice to chunk up like that too because it's like just writing down on a to do list and you can sit down and 30 minutes. It's like, okay. I checked off these 2 little chunks, and it's like, alright. Cool. Well, like, up and I'm away. Another thing is is persistence. Rome is built a day. You're not gonna sit down and write, you know, a supercomputer system in in a day, just put in the consistent effort. And then when you chunk things really small, it makes it easy because it's like, alright. Cool. Like, I only got 30 minutes sit down on my computer today. Let me try to get one thing done, or half of a thing done, or let me try to learn a little bit more about something that I don't know. And it's amazing how

Ryan Maruyama [00:33:36]:

quickly all of that adds up in knowledge and in practice for you. I mean, if you do that for a year too and not even about coding because I don't I don't know about coding, but I'll just speak for myself. Maybe it's about operations in a business or maybe it's about marketing or advertising, things that I've done in my career and with my businesses. That's exactly the approach that I take is just breaking it down into small things. Okay? I know that I need more customers. Well, how do I do that? Oh, okay. Well, they keep talking about, like, a customer journey. What the hell is that? Right? And then you go to Google and you figure it out. That's one of the things that we try to stress is employers oftentimes, they don't care that you don't know the answer to things. That's normal. Not knowing things is incredibly normal. They also know that they're gonna have to train you when they hire you. but they do wanna know that you know how to solve the problem. They want to know that you know where to look for those resources. For a lot of times, it's Google. Sometimes you have an internal a database that you need to be able to query. It could be something as simple as, like, a binder. Maybe, like, you're at a old school customer service role, and they have, like, those binders that are, like, 6 inches thick, and you're just gonna have to know how to flip through that binder when somebody says something to breaking it down into those small parts and knowing where to find the answers and then articulating to future employers like, I might not know the answer to this, but I, for sure, can learn

Garrett [00:35:16]:

where to find it, and I can figure it out. Yeah. You start to develop frameworks over time as well that you can then overlay and you like, it it doesn't take any cognitive load now. Like, I don't have to, like, sit down and do a bunch of planning when I go to start something new. Like, it's all just firing in my head. I'm I'm getting ready to go in in under take some new things that are in an area that I have never done before. I have no idea what's going on. I don't know what I'm doing. You know, I can take this map and it's like, alright. Well, we're just gonna chunk it up, and we're just gonna start pushing. And we're just not gonna stop pushing, and we're just gonna do a little bit here and a little bit there. And, eventually, who knows? Something might end up where I want it to be. One of the

Ryan Maruyama [00:35:53]:

most common threads, we have a lot of degree free people like yourself, very successful in various industries you know, throughout the corporate world. 1 of the main threads that I've seen between these people is your drive and your motivation. And I don't know how how else to say it other than, like, a chip on your shoulder. And I don't know if that's accurate, but where does that confidence? Where does that drive? Where does that motivation? Where does that come from? honestly, I don't really know. I

Garrett [00:36:28]:

have always just kinda had to chip on my shoulder my whole life, but it has been amplified as I have started to see it work. As you start to see things pay off and as you start to basically prove to yourself, that you can achieve things. Like, you can build this positive feedback cycle that will just continue to compound on itself. And as long as you keep putting yourself in uncertain situations and you keep forcing yourself to need to overcome challenges, it will continue to And, like, my my biggest problem that I fight right now is I'm in a very comfortable position in life and, like, trying to not let myself stagnate or stay here. I would say the biggest challenge I have it. This is all great, but at the end of the day, I still work for somebody. I could get laid off tomorrow. I can do everything in my power not to. You can try to optimize and not get laid off, but certain point, it might come. So it's like, okay. How do I how do I keep pushing? When I was in college, I went to really low points where I just didn't see a way out didn't know what was going on. Like, it was just like, I'm a loser and I'm stuck. But at the end of the day, what got me through those was just I was too stupid to quit, I guess. It was just like, no. I'm just just keep pushing, and that's kind of the mentality I have now with. I guess when I look back, the first thing that ticked was, like, getting in shape, being able to see, okay. If you put time in over a long enough span, like, you'll see positive results. And then from there, you know, you can start applying that to different things. And now it's a point where I've become successful. I've proven to myself that I can make things happen. It's like, okay. Well, now we have to just keep increasing the scale of thing that I'm attempting to make happen. And constantly, like, putting myself into uncomfortable situations. Like, I don't know. I go out of my way to do dumb things, I guess. We had the opportunity to go to India on, like, 2 weeks notice last month. We were not going to India on a tourist trip. We were in some very off the beaten path places, and I was like, yes. I wanna go sign me up I'm terrified. I've got my passport in February. Didn't really leave the United States until this year. And I'm like, let's go to India just to go and have it be wild. And then went to Thailand after that. My friend was like, oh, we should get tattoos. I'm like, that seems like a terrible idea. Let's do it just because it's, you know, it's uncomfortable. It's weird. And so I I, like, try to find new ways. Even outside of just, like, career and stuff, continuously force you to be in uncomfortable situations.

Ryan Maruyama [00:38:48]:

That is amazing that you just got your passport in February because and then you've already been to India, Thailand, And, currently, I know this because we spoke offline. You're in London right now, and you're normally based out of San Francisco. Right? Yeah. Yep. And that's so that is amazing that you are just getting that travel bug, and you're able to do that now. Talking about you know, keep pushing forward. Keep pushing forward. I'd like to give for the audience some ranges of what the top tier engineers in your industry make so that they have some sort of goal to shoot for. And then after that, a follow-up question to that would be where do you go from there? because offline, we were talking about how in your career, you seem to be in the top tier of where

Garrett [00:39:43]:

you can go in your career. Where do you when you're at the top tier, where do you go? Yeah. So it's it's hard to say how much do you make as a software engineer because there's it varies so wildly. It varies between startups and large companies. It varies between Midwest versus you know, Bay Area. Like, if you want the top of the pay scale, you're gonna be Bay Area Large Tech Company. So that's Twitch, slash Amazon, Meta, Google, Netflix. Companies like that, you're not gonna get any more money anywhere else from there. When I started, I went to later stage startup in the Bay Area, and their offer to me was a 120,000 a year plus sign on bonus and some stock options. From there, I was able to get a raise within my 1st 6 months and then get promoted 6 months after that. So I went from 120 to 168. And then from there, I moved to San Francisco, which you get a quality of life increase when you move there. So I was at 185 when I left that company. And when I joined the company I'm at now, I'm wanna say the exact number, but I'm making over double, basically, than what I was making there. That comes with, you know, more more perks. We get lunch and breakfast at the office. Obviously, all the equipment everything he's paid for as well as, like, trip to India that was a business trip. We were out there collecting network data, but that's still, like, a once in a lifetime trip. I spoke at a conference last week that travel was paid for by my company. So it's like, you get perks on top of that as well. And so I'm I'm technically a software engineer too, so I'm in the not the entry level, but I think it's 2 rungs up from there. Next would be senior engineer. From there, it's like staff engineer and then principal or something like that. The money as you go up in levels continues to increase. I don't know the exact pay bands for for the higher levels, but I don't think I could go get any more money anywhere else. I would say that, unless I got promoted to senior engineer. If I were to stay in my career track right now, like, that's that's what I would do. I would need to basically work to get promoted to the next level and that's how I make my more money and then continue and basically climb the corporate ladder. Now there's a very big gap between debate area and the rest of the United States, I will say, in terms of pay. The 120 they gave me, that was no degree. They knew I didn't have a degree, and that was basically no experience. My job in college, you could classify as experience, but what I was doing there versus what I was doing at my previous company didn't even come close to comparing. I don't think you're gonna find a company anywhere outside of San Francisco that would pay that kind of money. And also one thing to note as well is, like, I have highly specialized knowledge. My mentor told me there's maybe a couple thousand people in the world that know how to deal with WebRTC and have experience with it, and most of them are older. So they're gonna be senior engineers. They're gonna be principal engineers. You're gonna have to pay them more just because they've been in the industry for that long. And so specialized knowledge is the number one way to add money. The companies will pay for specialized knowledge, and it also makes it a lot easier to get a job. because you're like, actually, I'm not just some other dude. I actually know something interesting, especially when that is coupled to revenue for the name. But I think in New York, you could probably get a gig, an entry level gig, 90 to a $100 or something like that. In the Midwest, you're probably looking 75,801,000. I don't really know what the job market looks like right now, but I remember back when I was looking, it was, like, 65 to 70

Ryan Maruyama [00:43:17]:

somewhere in there. How did you land that job with little to no experience? I mean, you went from your job in college to this a $120,000

Garrett [00:43:30]:

a year job. How did that happen? I mean, did you just apply? And, I mean, did you just interview? That's another thing. I have never gotten a job I've applied for in my life. I've just never never gotten 1. So, basically, due to the specialized knowledge I There was a Slack channel, which is called Video DevSlack. It's for people working in the video industry. At this point, I'd already stopped going to classes. but I didn't have a job. I had some offers, but I didn't really like them. One of them was for a company that I was like, your business model doesn't exist after the pandemic, so I'm not gonna go work for you. turns out that they had a pretty bad time after pandemic left, so I'm glad they didn't go there. Another company was, like, a lot it was, like, half of that original offer. So I was like, okay, that's probably way too low. So I'd stop going to classes. And at this point, I was like EYikes. I interviewed with Amazon at the time. They were like, hey. You're definitely an Amazonian because you have to go through the culture leadership principle interview loop. You're definitely an Amazonian, but we don't think you know how to code. Okay. That's bad. So now I was like, okay. I'm failing all my classes now, and I don't have a job lined up. And so the CEO of this company posted in this Slack channel is like, hey, we're looking for someone with WebRTC experience. Like, please let me know if you have experience or you know anybody. So I replied to that and sent him my project and was like, hey. You know, I have some WebRTC experience. I built this project. Like, we'd love the we'd love the interview. Ended up having a chat with him and then went through an interview loop. And at the end of the loop, they're pretty much like, yeah. We know this is your 1st gig, and we know, like, you know, you've got a lot of learn, but we think you'll to do it because of your project and and and what you've already built. Amazing. Amazing. And then you said that you got a promotion or you gotta raise and then a promotion in about 6 months 6 months.

Ryan Maruyama [00:45:13]:

How do raises and promotions

Garrett [00:45:16]:

work in the later stage start up versus the bigger company you're at now. Basically, as soon as I got that job, I disappeared. Like, I had worked. That's all I did. because I was surrounded by these people that just, like, knew everything. And by the way, they didn't make me work. And I actually got yelled at multiple times for working long hours. I'm surrounded by all these people, people from YouTube before Google bought YouTube and stuff like that. Like, early days at these massive companies surrounded by all this expertise, and I'm like, who am I? Like, I'm just there's nobody that knows nothing. This is not good. I need to pull my weight. I need to pull my weight fast. So I just I worked like a psychopath. I just worked all the time and didn't really do anything else. I I would work 10 hour days pretty much every day just trying to learn and get better and understand things and make sure that I'm delivering at least some value. And the reason I had to work super long days too is because I wasn't good enough at engineering to be able to do the work that needed to be done in the time slot that, you know, a normal workday was. You have 2 options in that case. You're like, okay. I put my 8 hours in. I'll come back tomorrow. You know, you do that enough days. It's like, okay. Well, this guy's falling behind. or it's like, I worked until I get what I needed to get done done. And so I worked like a psycho and was able to onboard quickly and learn fast and was able to ship some big efforts ahead of schedule and was able to basically, like, show, like, hey. I'm I'm things are going well. Like, it's it's worthwhile. It wasn't a big raise. It was, like, It was less than 10%, but tech is this magical industry where numbers are ridiculous. So I guess a less than 10% raise is pretty good for most other industry. And then I kept on taking more responsibility, basically, like, throwing my name in the ring for, like, hey. Yeah. I have no idea how to do that, but I'll give it a shot. I was building this cloud based compositing technology that I think I'm patented for. I I don't know if the patent went through or not, but, basically, we would run a browser in the cloud and then record the screen of it and then live stream that out. I ended up building a lot of that technology, which I had no idea how it worked. I put in the time and put in the effort get to there. And then we started working on a real time communication platform where eventually built like this massive multi region distributed system, and I was the 1st engineer hired on the team. And so I basically took every ounce of responsibility that I could take and basically any any piece of work that anybody didn't wanna do or any piece of work that I could get my hands on, I would take that I would work weekends. I didn't care. I'd work late nights. Didn't care to me. I still had a a little bit of a social life, but not very big. I had just moved to Denver. Didn't really know anybody, so it was, like, my weekends were spent working or learning about work. and ended up getting a promotion in January and then continued on that slog for the year after and then realized, like, okay. Yep. I'm I'm pretty much tapped out. in terms of money and career trajectory. And so at a startup, I would say, like, when when the going is good and money is good raises seem to be given to those that work hard, I would like to think, at least. The people that I've seen get promoted and and get raises, they're willing to roll up their sleeves in in get into the nuts and bolts. Now I think for engineers, the cutoff is at the level I'm at right now where it's less about how much you can do and more about how you can scale a team. And it's it's more like the there's a divide between engineering prowess versus actual management scaling output of others and, like, basically up leveling your team, which might be common in every industry. I think I'm hitting that point now where it's like, okay. I have to learn different skills and move in different ways if I if I wanna continue going up. At a big company, I haven't been through a promotion cycle yet. So I I don't I can't really speak too much to it, but from what I've heard so far, it's basically you need to attach yourself to an effort that is successful and you need to have a big impact in that effort. So you need to be a part of a product or a project that is very successful It does good things for the company, and you need to have an outsized impact in that project in order to get promoted. Going from senior to principal is it is incredibly hard. Like, some people will get to senior and that's it for their career. Like, they will never go up from there. And that that happens in tech a lot too. A lot of the principles that I've seen have been hired in as principles. So that's another thing as a software engineer. It seems everybody rides out their 4 years at a company, lets their stock vest and then switches companies. If they're ready to, like, up level or something like that, they generally, like, go to other companies to up level. It's kind of a toxic environment, but that seems to be what I've heard and what I've seen so far. But like I said, I haven't been through a promotion cycle yet.

Ryan Maruyama [00:49:52]:

We were talking about the future, and you were talking about your position now, and you can still get laid off for yourself and the future, maybe 5, 10 years down the line, are you gonna try to continue to go up the corporate ladder,

Garrett [00:50:14]:

or are you gonna try to start your own thing? I'm probably gonna try to start my own thing. That's what I've always wanted to do. Ever since I read that Steve Jobs book, I'm like that I wanna do that. I think that's what I wanna do and and what I've always wanted to do, since I was a kid, I'd be selling myself short if I don't do that. I'll probably try to do that relatively soon as well because that's a large risk, and I would like to take on that risk before I, you know, I don't have any dependents right now. I'm a single guy. I can basically if I go broke, nobody's in trouble except for me, and that's fine because I wasn't I was broke not that long ago. It's like, I can go right back to being broke. That's okay. We'll we'll get back out. it's like, I wanna take that risk now before, you know, you get too used to the cushy tech lifestyle, and you have, like, dependence towards like, okay. Bad things happen to me, bad things start happening to other people now, and that's not a situation I wanna

Ryan Maruyama [00:51:02]:

be in. Right. Totally. And it's once you start to have those dependents, the steady paycheck really starts to look very different. It starts to look much more attractive and have much more difficult to walk away from because the downside risk as you were saying is just so much greater. So, yeah, definitely for all those listening that are young and don't have any dependents you know, now is the time. If you don't mind me asking, how old are you? I'm 23. Awesome. Awesome. You know, we're talking about career progression within the larger companies, and you were talking about how the job changes a little bit. At what point, if any point, do all of those senior engineer, the principal, at what point is it no longer fingers on keyboards, and it's just meetings all day being a people manager. and more thinking at a strategy level. Is it the next level up from where you are, or is it two levels up, or does that never Yeah. There's a from what I've seen in the larger companies, they have different tracks. Right? So there's, like, the

Garrett [00:52:15]:

IC track, which is individual contributor, which is where you go, senior engineer staff engineer, principal engineer, you keep going that way, or you go the management route, engineering manager, and then, like, senior engineering manager, and then, like, director, and then, like, VP or something like that. So there's 2 different tracks in it and it they're different. I don't think you can be an engineering manager if you haven't gotten to l 6, which is seniors, but I'm not I'm not a 100% sure on that. I would say my manager spends 90% of his time managing people managing projects and stuff that. And then the seniors, you still spend a good amount of time hands on the keyboard. But also in the in the natural progression of software development, It varies so much. You'll go through phases where it's like, okay. Well, like, what I'm doing right now is I need to write a document for this problem that we have. that has come down as a business need? How are we gonna solve it from a technical perspective? How do I get buy in on that? I need to get review from everybody. So you're writing a document. You're sending it around. You're meetings. You're getting consensus. You're tweaking. You're refining. And then it's like, okay. Cool. We've gotten consensus. Now we need to get to the lower level implementation details get sets on those. It's like, alright. Cool. Now we start writing code. It ebbs and flows in terms of how much code you're actually writing on a given week. And the nice thing about startups, which I would highly recommend anybody breaking into tech, your first job, go to a startup. Hands down, you'll get to touch things that you'll you'll never get to touch at a big tech company. I'm very thankful that I went to a startup as my first job. I would definitely not be where I'm at if I didn't do that. Because at big companies, everything is so abstracted over, and the the organization is so large it's very easy for you to just focus on what you need to focus on. Whereas at startup, you're putting out fires all the time. There's a team that I'll that probably never even talked to that's touching that tech at Twitch right There's such a difference in terms of what the day to day looks like between size of company and honestly just overall organizational culture. But, yeah, I would say it varies. When deadlines are looming and things need to get done, you're writing code all the time. We went through that shortly after I joined to which we needed to rewrite one of our SDKs, and we were getting ready to launch it. And so we were like, alright. Cool. Got a got agreement on the new design and basically went heads down coding for a couple weeks, and That's always that's always the most fun, I think, but it's never a 100% of the job no matter where you work. The going to start ups as a first job once you're making your transition,

Ryan Maruyama [00:54:34]:

that is such good advice because and that's for pretty much any industry and any role because you understand things at a higher level because exactly what you said, you are just interfacing with with more people. Maybe you're not learning how to communicate in large teams and everything like that, but your job and where that fits in within the business context is very apparent at startups, especially if you're going to smaller startups. Like, if you're the 10th to 20th higher or even sub 10 higher, you're like, oh, my job has a direct impact on this department, this department, this department, and getting that exposure and learning that lingo, learning the language for whatever industry and for whatever role that you're in really helps to project your career once you start doing the interviews at the larger companies. And then you You can say, I know that whatever jargon, this chart, whatever industry that you're in. And you can start to point towards those things that you've had direct impact on and make it clear to the hiring company that you understand in a greater context, your role, as a software developer that, you know, you are shipping the product, and the product is a direct result. Like, having a good product is, you know, what's gonna ensure

Garrett [00:55:57]:

great revenue, so on and so forth. I don't know. The way I look at it is you're building skills. Right? If you don't have a degree, you're out of disadvantage. One thing I wanna make very clear is it's a 100% possible. It is definitely harder. It is not the easier way to go. I would say it's more fun because I like a little bit of chaos and who doesn't like overcoming a good challenge. It's definitely harder. You have to work harder. You have to work more. Point blank. You're gonna have to do more. It's important to put yourself in situations that give you the opportunity to learn more rather than make more money. Because I will say And I guess it's easier to say this when you actually have money, but it gets to a certain point where it doesn't matter anymore. You could give me a 50% raise, and it doesn't change my at all. You can give me a 100% raise, and it wouldn't change my life at all. There's a large gap between, yes, I make a lot of money, and I have, oh, wealth to where I can buy my mom a house and stuff like that. So it's like in the early phases of your career, optimize 4 positions that allow you to learn more and do more rather than chase the check because you'll always be able to go and get the check eventually, and it becomes a lot easier to get the check when you've actually built the skills. I joined Twitch. I immediately was able to hop in and start making changes within my 1st week because I had the skills and I knew exactly the technology that we were dealing with and how it worked. you have to take steps along the road. It's it's a ladder. You know? You can't just, like, skip to the top. So that's that's one thing that I would say. what's so difficult about that. I completely agree with you. And I definitely have

Ryan Maruyama [00:57:29]:

empathy for those people you know, that we were talking about before that do have dependents, and they do have, you know, bills and people depending on them. for their income because that happens so much. People are like, I have kids. I have a mortgage. We have all of these different responsibilities, how can I get paid? Like, just an example, I was talking to a nurse And she makes a $120,000 a year. Right? And but she hates it. She's in the arnurse. She hates it. And the reason why she hates it is because backbreaking work. You're dealing you're dealing with all types of different people that you're not really fond of. And she needs a change, but she's a single mom. She's got 2 kids. But she needs to make a $120,000 a year, but she wants to move into tech. Right? And It's a difficult position to be in. Although largely when you are at the beginning of your career, not necessarily just young, that advice that you gave really holds true, which is if you for some way, you could take obviously, if you can find a $120,000 job entry level like like you did, by all means, go go and do that. But you have to have the willingness to, you know, maybe you find something that pays 80. Maybe you find some find something pays 90, and then you keep your job part time if that's possible, and you just make it happen. Because the things that you're going to learn once you make that transition 2 years from now, you're gonna look back and you're not even gonna recognize, you know, that you used to you know, change bed pans for a living. To give yourself 2 years and dump yourself into it whole, and your life is gonna completely change. Yeah. One thing I do wanna point out, I don't know if I would necessarily

Garrett [00:59:20]:

classify my position that I got as a typical entry level per se. I hit the jackpot in terms of the niche that I specified in. I think that's my number one tip for people trying to get into tech, do something highly specialized. If you're just gonna go make a Twitter clone and you're gonna put that on your GitHub and you're gonna tell people that I made a Twitter clone, please hire not going to do that because everybody and their brother has a Twitter clone on their GitHub. You have to figure out how to do weird things with interesting technologies that are popular. When I released my project, it was the height of the pandemic. So many people were using my technology to stay in communication with each other, which I didn't even know. It was the weirdest thing ever. All these people telling me, like, oh my god. It was so great that you built this so that I livestreamed a wedding on it or, like, I me and my friends play video games and, like, are sharing it with each other and stuff like that. I didn't intend to happen. Right now, my number one tip for anybody trying to get into tech right now, AI. That's all you should be focused on. Artificial intelligence That's where all the venture capital money is going right now. Understand it. Start building with it. Build cool things with it. Think about it. Do weird stuff. build things that are gonna break and fail, start hacking on it. And then when you do something that you think is cool, post it on Hacker News, posted on Reddit, posted on Twitter. You never know. You might get that one that one person that's like, wow. That's really cool. because another thing that happened when I did my open source project is I had venture capitalists reach out They're like, hey. We'll give you money, turn it into a company. And I was like, thank you. No. I don't think this is gonna go anywhere, but I appreciate the offer. So it's like, you you just have to get shots on net and then be loud about it. You have to publicize what you're working on. It's like, I I tweet all the time about stuff I'm working on. I'm working on a new project right now that I talked about earlier where it's basically a bot that joins a real time call that you can talk to, and it will talk back to you. don't know. I'm curious on that stuff. I wanna play with the technology. I'm working on that. I'm probably gonna post it on Hacker News. I don't know what's gonna come out of it, but I think it's cool. But you wanna look at where the industry is going, where is all the money at? In 2021, all the money was in real time communication, online video, all that kind of stuff. where all the venture capital money was going. Ever there's a big hype cycle around it. I happen to catch that at the right time, and turns out a lot of people are interested in real time communication. So it's like, don't just do what everybody else is doing. Try to look at it in a weird way and be like, okay. What if I, like, take that over here and stitch it together with this thing? And pull in some of this, what can I make? I think that is the most lucrative piece of advice I could give to those out there. And now even even for people not in tech, like business development people or marketing or sales or anything like that, this AI stuff, it's not gonna go away. and you can scoff at it. I scoffed at it. But it's not gonna go away. That is something that if I had that back when I was trying to do learn, I would've learned way faster because some of the stuff that this that it can generate for you will save you

Ryan Maruyama [01:02:21]:

hours. Yeah. Totally. AI is crazy, and and as you said, it is going to be I I think it's gonna be much bigger than most people think, and it's going to be in every job or every industry or or largely, it might not take your job, but it's going to be integrated in some way with your job. The way that you would make AI valuable is if it were to able to ingest your company's data with, you know, obviously, security and concerns and everything like that. But it was able to ingest it, and then you were able to manipulate it using that and and ask basically using it as a database for, like, for sales, for marketing, for nontechnical people as at least, like, that's one of the very, very easy wins that I could see right off the bat. As far as what you said about, like, interesting things or interesting problems with technology that's popular. That is such an amazing framework to think about. And I I never thought about that second portion that that you said. Like, I I'm always thinking about different problems to solve, and I I'm always thinking about the different things that we could do, but I never thought about, you know, doing it with technology that's popular. And I think that's That is exactly you're exactly right. I think that that's a perfect way to make a lucrative career and try to steer your learnings to

Garrett [01:03:45]:

Yeah. When I look back at, you know, my project, I I certainly didn't go into it thinking, oh, real time communication is popular. This is gonna be big. when I look at why it was successful, it makes a lot more sense when you look at it like, okay, yeah, this was huge because of the pandemic. And then now you post it on this website. Somebody sees it and they're like, oh, crap. Oh, this is super cool. So I think that's an insight that I've gained kind of reflecting on everything. Yeah. That's amazing.

Ryan Maruyama [01:04:09]:

And, Gary, I don't wanna take up all of your day I did have a couple of questions left for you. 1, where can people follow you, find out more about you follow along on your career journey, things like that. Where can I send them? Yeah. I'm I'm mainly active on Twitter.

Garrett [01:04:27]:

My Twitter is g r v y. DEV. I don't really use Instagram anymore. I decided to remove that from my phone. So I'm I'm usually tweeting sometimes interesting things mainly not interesting things on Twitter.

Ryan Maruyama [01:04:40]:

What

Garrett [01:04:41]:

what made you delete Instagram off your phone? Oh, I just I was spending too much time on it and caring too much about it, I was like, oh, let me go to this place to take a picture to put on Instagram. And then I was like, that's an incredibly stupid way to live life. So I just got rid of it. And the weirdest thing happened when I did that. The 1st week after I did that, I felt almost depressed. Like, I could feel there was a certain joy missing for my life. The week after that, everything else in life felt way better. When I did something at work, when something good happened, like, it just felt way better. So I feel like I definitely think there's something going on there with social media and flooding our brain chemistry. And I probably should get rid of all my social media, but I like Twitter too much. Yeah.

Ryan Maruyama [01:05:23]:

Yeah. I hear you. I just yesterday, I was looking at my screen statistics, and I was like, I'm spending way too much time on this phone. So I put it in a, like, a little cigar box that I have, and that's where it lives for the entire day. And I'm gonna try to do that for a month and we'll see how that goes. My last question for you, Garrett, is there anything else that you would like to say to the audience any asks

Garrett [01:05:49]:

or any final thoughts Now I think the thing that wasn't apparent to me throughout this journey was that it was possible. I thought it was, but I didn't know that it was possible to get to where I'm at. And I've also I also never really set out to get here. And I guess I'm not a big, you know, 3, 5, 10 year goal type of guy. I'm, like, trying to make it to the end of the week. I'm not a I'm not a really big planner. And so I would just say that, like, at the end of the day, I I have, like, broad goals of where I wanna be, but I don't really assign timelines to them. And I I try to chunk things up and push push towards those goals, but my biggest thing is, like, it's okay to fail. Let yourself experiment with a lot of things and get bored. And when you get bored, just leave it alone. Don't try to force yourself to do something. The biggest thing that's going to make you successful in my mind is obsession with whatever it is that you're doing. And when you find that thing, it'll become very apparent because you won't be able to let it go. So, basically, look for that thing, and when you find it, dump everything into it.

Ryan Maruyama [01:06:49]:

Why don't you assign timelines to your goals?

Garrett [01:06:53]:

I don't really think the timeline is important. Like, I'm at a point now where, like, I could die tomorrow and I would be like, yeah. I'm good with that. I gave all my effort. You can't force things. The only thing you can really control is what you do. if it happens in 5 years or it happens in 15 years, does it really matter or does the only thing that matters that that happened? I feel like we're in such a rush these days to, like, get everywhere as fast as possible, whereas what really matters is the journey and enjoying the way there. I guess, for example, with Twitch, I interviewed three times, got denied. three times. They said no, no, no, three times. And I had a warm intro from a VP. And then right before Christmas, I got a random email that was like, hey. Do you still wanna come work for us? We we want you in the company. We had some headcount problems. We're gonna go get headcount. We we wanna get you in here. Do you still wanna come? I said, I could have been like, no. You know what? Alright. I'm done. I'm giving up. Screw that. I'm not gonna go there. But the only thing that matters is that I got there in the end. Yeah. Absolutely.

Ryan Maruyama [01:07:50]:

I only asked that question about not having timelines on it because I just started doing something similar, but it was for a different reason, quite the opposite. Instead of enjoying the journey, I stopped putting timelines on my goals because I felt like they were self limiting or rather, I felt like if I would say, oh, I'm gonna accomplish this in 6 months, it would be, like, Parkinson's Law, and it would take me 6 months to accomplish that goal. But if I had just hunkered down and try to achieve that goal, I might be able to achieve that goal in in a month. But by setting a timeline, it's like, you know, the work inflates to the timeline. But, anyway, that's a discussion for another time. For everybody listening to this, we actually stopped the recording, but we started talking offline a little bit I wanted to give Garrett a couple of seconds to talk a little bit about what we were talking about. I was just saying that, like, I I believe really deeply in manifestation.

Garrett [01:08:42]:

I told myself, like, when I was sixteen, I was gonna drop out of school and make 6 figures and everything was gonna be great. And up until it happened, I had no idea how it was going to It became increasingly scary for me to be approaching that point and, like, I'm so far from where I thought I was gonna be. This is not good. And even even simple things like at the end of last year before I worked for Twitch and before I had the means to travel the way that I have been traveling this year, I told myself, oh, I wanna go to Thailand, and I wanna go spend a month in Europe. And, like, I wanna take my mom to Scotland for her birthday and, like, all this stuff. And I had no means to do it at the time, and I didn't even have dates set or anything. But, you know, one thing led to another. All of a sudden, I'm I'm working at a a large company, and then I get a trip to India. And it's like, oh, let me let me go to Thailand too, because I said I was gonna go there. And now I'm in Thailand. It's like, well, I never thought I was gonna be here, Now I am. I've just seen the reinforcement of actually, like, paying attention to the words that you speak, and you have to be intentional about it. Right? Like, you can't just start saying anything. I say outrageous things to my friends all the time about where I'm gonna be and where I wanna go and things that I just they're they scare me because they're so far away from where I'm at now, but it's, like, if you continue to orient yourself and focus yourself on those things and and you're true to your word and you keep pushing in that direction, Eventually, you'll you'll look around and be like, how did I get here? Like, I remember talking about this. I never thought I was gonna be here, though. And once again, that is a very common thread that we see amongst

Ryan Maruyama [01:10:10]:

successful people like yourself that are degree free of just taking I'm just being confident in your vision and not necessarily letting life take the reign, but just being intentional about Here's what I want. I have no idea how I'm going to get there, but I'm gonna get there. And somehow, some way through your effort and through you being constantly thinking about it, your life figures it out. I mean, you figure it out. Obviously, it doesn't happen to you. You are responsible for everything that you do, but, magically, it all happens because, you know, you're talking about your your mom and Scotland,

Garrett [01:10:53]:

we talked about it offline, but you're doing exactly that. Right? I mean, you're taking your mom to Scotland next week. Yeah. And it's it's very weird how it happens, but I mean, even even when things don't go my way and, like, bad things happen like I talked about, I got denied three times from Twitch. After the 3rd time denial, I was super bummed about it. I wanted to work here really bad. It's, you know, to be able to go from no degree to, like, working for this massive, you know, prestigious tech company was a big deal for me because, like, I remember when I told my family that I was gonna drop out, they were freaking out. They were like, what are you doing? What if you get laid off? What if this, that? What if the economy goes bad and all this stuff and just filling my mind with what ifs. And I was like, what if? I don't know. I'll figure it out when it happens. But when I got denied that third time, I was like, alright. You know what? That's fine. I gave all my effort we're just gonna figure it out. I wasn't supposed to go in that door. I'm just gonna keep going forward, and it'll be apparent the way I'm supposed to go. And, like, turns out the positions that I was applying for got eliminated in our first round of layoffs that we did a couple months ago after I joined. but the position I'm in didn't get eliminated because we were more closely tied to, you know, revenue and stuff like that. We're building a new So it's like having the faith of, like, okay. I'm gonna do everything that I can to get here, but understanding, like, when things don't go my way, it's like, alright. Cool. That's water off the back. We're just gonna keep moving. I found that to be like a very important mentality, especially when you're moving in a direction that you don't even know what the angle looks like and you don't know path is, you you have to have the faith of, like, alright. That's fine. I'll just keep going. Garrett, thank you so much for taking the time. Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Ryan Maruyama [01:12:27]:

Yeah. Absolutely. And there is a lot here. So, hopefully, people get a lot out of this, and, hopefully, at another at a later date, we can have you on for around 2. Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, if anybody has questions or wants any more advice, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. I'm always happy to chat. Awesome. Awesome. Garrett, once again, thank you so much, and everybody, for real, for real. That's the end of the pod. Thanks. See you next week. Thank you so much for listening to tuning into week's episode of the degree free podcast. As usual, you can find show notes at degreefree.clforward/ podcast say hi to Garrett on Twitter at grvydev. And once again, I'll put that in the show notes If you would like to join the free community, the degree free network, go to degree free dotcoforward/network, and you can sign up for free courses there to help you get the work you want without a college degree. And that's the episode for this week, guys. I will see you next week, Aloha.

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