If you’ve wanted to learn programming and web development through Suncoast Developer Guild’s excellent bootcamp, but couldn’t take 12 weeks off work to do so, they’re launching a new program that might work for you. It’s called Night Shift, and it’s their bootcamp program, but as a part-time after-hours course that you can take while keeping your day job!
Suncoast Developer Guild’s 12-week, full-time immersive coding bootcamp is an excellent program. I know the folks at SDG. I’ve done guest presentations at their classes. I’ve met many of their students, and have even worked with their graduates (and yes, by and large, they’re good).
But not everyone can drop their job to devote 12 full-time weeks to a course and cover the costs of tuition.Night Shift allows you to keep a full-time job and still learn take part in SDG’s well-regarded course by stretching the course over 36 weeks, with online lectures on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and lab work in your spare time.
Think of it as more than just learning while still being able to cover the rent or mortgage. Think of it treating your day job as an angel investor in your new software development career.
I can tell you that having programming skills — especially in combination with other talents — is valuable. They can future-proof your work, open opportunities unavailable to many people, and help you weather seismic job market shifts like the ones COVID-19 is bringing about.
And now, the warning. In addition to devoting time to participating the Tuesday and Thursday evening lectures, you should expect to devote a couple of hours on most nights to your lab work. If you’re new to programming, you’re not only going to learn a lot of new concepts; you’ll also have to apply them in order to make working software. You’re also going to have to be creative, because you’ll have to come up with an idea for your end-of-course capstone project.
On the bright side, if you have a Netflix or videogame addiction, Night Shift is an effective (and productive!) way of quitting those “cold turkey”.
The folks at Suncoast Developers Guild aren’t just capitalizing on our software-driven economy to run a coding school. They’re key players in and supporters of the Tampa Bay tech scene. They support their students beyond just the coursework. If you think you can handle both your job and night classes (and a lot of time on your computer),Night Shift might be your first step into the world of software development.
I did my research — because of course I did my research — and Auth0 turned out to be a very interesting opportunity for a number of reasons:
The position leans heavily on two skills that I have that aren’t seen in the same person that often: Programming and communications. I have lots of experience in these areas, and can bring my “A” game to the position.
Auth0 is in a business that is hot: Systems and information security, which is in demand as computing and networking becomes increasingly ubiquitous. The attractiveness of a hot business is obvious.
Auth0 is also in a business that is boring: To put it a little too simply, Auth0 is in the business of logins, which doesn’t sound terribly exciting. Here’s where things get counterintuitive — why would I want to get into a boring business? Partly because of an idea from entrepreneur and NYU marketing prof Scott Galloway, which is that boring businesses make money. It’s also an idea of mine, which is that “boring” businesses produce essential products and services. And in a world where identity and access control are crucial, and identity and access control service is essential. I’m all for this kind of boredom.
Auth0 is one of the standouts in a field with a few key players. There’s the companies that specialize in identity and authorization, such as Okta and Ping Identity, and then there are the giants such as Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle. If the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Access Management is to believed (and you should always read these graphs with some healthy skepticism), it’s at the top of the “Visionaries” quadrant:
Everyone in the desirable top right quadrant, “Leaders”, is either an old guard fingers-in-every-tech-pie company (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle), or has been in the identity/access business for over a decade (Okta was founded in 2009; Ping Identity goes back to 2002 — when there were iPods, and they had click-wheels). Auth0 was founded in 2013, and of all the up-and-comers in its space, it’s at the top. That means room to grow, opportunities to apply my talents, and a chance to shine.
Auth0’s approach is developer-first. Authentication and authorization should be almost invisible for users; what they really care about is the application or service for which the authentication and authorization is the gatekeeper. It’s the developers who really have to worry about authorization and authentication, and that’s why Auth0’s focus is on developers. Not only is the platform developer-focused, but they devote a lot of time and energy into educating developers — and not just about Auth0, but identity topics, and even programming in general.
Auth0 is remote work-friendly. When CEO Eugenio Pace and CTO Matias Woloski started Auth0, they did so while 7,000 miles apart. They’ve kept it up to this day, while people working from all over the world.
The numbers above aren’t for the position I applied for, but for other Senior Engineer positions.
I really wanted this job. In order to beat these odds, my number one priority for the six weeks to come was to crush this funnel.
Step 0: Sending in an application
This is a software-as-a-service company, and in the time honored tradition of indexing in software, the first step was Step 0! This involved filling out an application form and including the following “cover letter” which was actually a large text area on the application form.
Applicants were encouraged to explain why they should be considered for the job. I first wrote it in a text editor, saved it for my records, and pasted it into the form. Here’s what it said:
I’m a technical evangelist, developer, and tech community builder, and I would love to help Auth0 make the internet safer as a Senior R&D Content Engineer!
Even though COVID-19 caused my last job to evaporate, I’ve managed to keep busy:
I’ve spent the past five weeks in the inaugural cohort of the “UC Baseline” cybersecurity program offered by Tampa Bay’s security guild, The Undercroft. All the instructors will attest to my ability to not just absorb new material, but to communicate, cooperate, and share knowledge with others.
Finally, I made revisions for the 2020 edition of the book iOS Apprentice, which teaches iOS app development by walking the reader through the process of writing four iPhone/iPad apps. I co-wrote the 2019 edition with Eli Ganim for RayWenderlich.com, and it spans 1500 pages.
In addition to this recent work, I’ve also done the following:
I’m the author/developer/presenter for the video tutorial Beginning ARKit, which teaches augmented reality application development by writing four ARKit-based iPhone/iPad apps.
I was the top-rated presenter at the RWDevCon 2018 mobile developer tutorial conference, where I gave both a four-hour workshop and a two-hour presentation on augmented reality programming for iOS with ARKit.
I have years of experience in technical communications and instruction, having done the following:
Provided wide-ranging partner and developer training as a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, from providing presentations to partners, to writing articles and editing the Canadian edition of MSDN Flash to running hackathons, giving presentations, organizing conferences, and doing interviews with technology media. I was also Microsoft Canada’s most prolific blogger.
Provided technical expertise to SMARTRAC’s partners as they used the Smart Cosmos platform and SMARTRAC RFID technology to keep track of goods and physical assets as they are manufactured, shipped, and sold.
Whenever someone asks me for advice about identity or authenticating and authorizing users in their applications, my stock answer is “Go with Auth0. They’ve already figured out the hard stuff.” With my unusual skill set and experience, I could do that in a more in-depth way at Auth0 as Senior R&D Content Engineer.
Step 1: A phone conversation with Wendy from the People Team
The application must’ve worked, because I made it to Step 1, the “recuriter screener” phase, where I talked to Wendy Galbreath from the People Team. As the Auth0 blog puts it, it wasn’t a tech interview, but “a high-level conversation about my experience — especially with remote work, interest in Auth0, the role and expectations.”
As I blogged that day:
All dressed up for a 📱 PHONE ☎️ interview. Sure, they won’t know I’m dressed up, but I’LL KNOW.
The interview itself took about a half hour, and I did about 90 minutes of prep beforehand, looking into at the Auth0 site, checking recent news about the company, and reviewing Wendy’s LinkedIn profile.
She went into detail about the perks of working for Auth0, which further reinforced my desire to join, and I told her about my background and work experience, and why I thought I’d be a valuable addition to the team, using my best “radio voice” while doing so.
Step 2: Zoom interview with Tony, Head of Content
I passed Step 0, which meant that three days later, I had a zoom conversation with Tony Poza, Auth0’s Head of Content. This conversation was a little more technical, where I talked about my experience developing software, overseeing the development of software, doing developer evangelism, and creating content.
This interview was just over an hour, and I did around 4 hours’ worth of prep and background reading, including the Auth0 documentation, articles on their developer blog, and looking into the OAuth2 protocol, which Auth0 uses.
I enjoyed talking with Tony, and the interview only made me want to work at Auth0 even more.
Step 3: Zoom interview with Holly and Dan, two Senior Engineers
I passed that second interview, so it was time for another Zoom conversation, this time with Senior R&D Content Engineers Holly Lloyd and Dan Arias. If hired, I’d be working with them every day, so it was in their best interest to get a better feel for who I am, what I can do, and if working with me would be a good experience.
This interview was also a shade over an hour, and I’d done around 8 hours’ worth of prep, background reading, and some noodling with Auth0 and Python.
The conversation was a lot of fun, and I left it thinking Yes, I can definitely work with this team.
Step 4: Technical exercise — article + code
I’ll admit without any shame that by this point, I was checking my email very regularly for messages from Auth0.
I didn’t have to wait long. Hours after the Step 3 interview, I’d been notified that I had moved to the Step 4: The technical exercise!
I was now at this point of the funnel:
This was a good place to be. With the major interviews done, passing was no longer subject to the vagaries of me having an off day or one of the interviewers being in a bad or at least unreceptive mood. This stage is all about proving that I could do the job and do so while working with my prospective teammates.
Most other engineering candidates at Auth0 are being hired to build, fix, or maintain the Auth0 service, so it makes sense that their exercise is to build some kind of technical project and then present it in a “demo call”, where they walk the interviewer through the project, explain their design decisions, and demonstrate the working solution.
As an R&D Content engineering candidate, my primary work output won’t be software, but content — documentation, instructions, articles, guides, and other material of that sort. My assignment was to write a “how to” article and the accompanying project. The idea is to showcase things like:
Problem-solving and data sourcing technique
Writing and language proficiency
Attention to detail
The assignment: Create a tutorial blog post explaining how to build and secure an API with Spring Boot, Kotlin, and Auth0.
My first thoughts:
Securing an API with Auth0. That makes sense.
Kotlin — nice! That’s definitely in my wheelhouse.
Spring Boot? I know what Spring is, and have made a career out of avoiding it. What the hell is Spring Boot?
Since the exercise is partly a test of creativity, I was free to determine the kind of API that the reader of the tutorial would build. I thought I’d make it fun:
It was an API for a catalog of hot sauces. For the benefit of the curious, here’s a summary:
Simply returns the text **Yup, it works!**
Returns the entire collection of hot sauces.
Accepts these optional parameters:
brandNameFilter: Limits the results to only those sauces whose brandName contains the given string.
sauceNameFilter: Limits the results to only those sauces whose sauceName contains the given string.
descFilter: Limits the results to only those sauces whose description contains the given string.
minHeat: Limits the results to only those sauces whose heat rating is greater than or equal to the given number.
maxHeat: Limits the results to only those sauces whose heat rating is less than or equal to the given number.
Returns the hot sauce with the given id.
Returns the number of hot sauces.
Adds the hot sauce (provided in the request).
Edits the hot sauce with the given id and saves the edited hot sauce.
Deletes the hot sauce with the given id.
The article I wrote first walked the reader through the process of building the API. Once built, it then showed the reader how to secure it so that the endpoints for CRUD operations require authentication, while the “is this thing on?” endpoint remained public.
I wasn’t alone during the exercise. They set up a Slack channel to keep me in touch with the team I was hoping to join, and it’s standard procedure to assign you a “go-to” person (Dan was mine). I maintained a good back-and-forth with them, keeping them apprised of my progress, asking questions, and once or twice even sharing photos of what I was making for dinner.
While they said I could take as long as I felt I needed to complete the project, I figured that I needed to keep a balance between:
giving myself enough time to handle all the unknowns and deliver a finely-honed article and accompanying project, and
not taking so long that I end up being disqualified. As Steve Jobs put it so succinctly: Real artists ship.
On Day 2 of the project, while I was deep into working out how to use Spring Boot, a house down the street got connected to Frontier fiber internet. In the process, our house got disconnected. Luckily, I saw the truck down the street and straightened things out with the tech while he was still there.
I spent one Saturday working on the project with my computer tethered to my phone. Had I not caught the tech in time, the soonest I’d have been able to get someone to reconnect me would’ve been on Wednesday, a good four days later.
There came a point when I decided that the exercise was done and ready for evaluation. I made my final push to the repo and notified the team on Slack:
@channel I’d like to extend my most heartfelt thanks to everyone for this opportunity. It’s been fun, and I learned quite a bit in the process! As always, if there are any questions that you’d like me to answer, or anything else I can do for you, please let me know.
And then it was time to sit and wait. I checked Slack and my email a lot over those couple of days.
Step 5: BOSS FIGHT!
(Actually, an interview with Jarod, Director of Developer Relations)
I got an email three days later — a Friday afternoon — asking if I would be up for a last-minute Zoom interview with Jarod Reyes, Director of Developer Relations, who came to Auth0 in June from Twilio, where he was the Developer Evangelism Manager.
Naturally, I made myself available, and Step 5 took place late that afternoon, only a couple of hours after I got the email.
The webcam lights I’d ordered had arrived earlier that day, so I set them up quickly…
…and I had just enough time to do a quick screen test for the interview. And yes, the accordion didn’t just happen to be there; it was strategically placed in the shot:
The interview was friendly, brief, and half of it consisted of me asking Jarod questions about his plans for developer evangelism and content at Auth0.
With the call done, the weekend began. It’s been a while since I’ve impatiently waiting for Monday to come around.
Step 6: The offer letter
Monday, September 28th: I checked my email a lot, and at 1:15 p.m., this message arrived:
The team would like to extend an offer for you to join Auth0! Please let me know your availability today for a call so that I can share the details with you.
T minus one week
It’s been two weeks since I got the offer letter. Since then, I’ve signed it, filled out the standard paperwork, and even received the dongle for my company-issued MacBook Pro:
There’ve been some longer-than-usual shipping times for Apple products lately, but I’m not too bothered by that. I’m very pleased that I’m in and excited to be back in the developer relations / content game again.
What does this mean for the Tampa Bay tech scene?
For starters, it means that Auth0, a unicorn and player in the security space, has an increased Tampa Bay presence. (I’m not the only Auth0 employee, or “Auziro”, in the area.)
As part of the Developer Relations team, it’s my job to be part of the face that Auth0 presents to the developer community, and conversely, a way for the developer community to reach Auth0. I’m Tampa Bay’s “person on the inside”.
As a public-facing employee of a startup who service overlaps with security, I expect that I’ll be participating in local startup and security events — first virtual ones, and eventually, once we’ve all managed to control the pandemic, real-life ones.
And finally, as a public-facing Auth0 representative, as well as the writer of this blog and the Tampa Bay tech, entrepreneur, and nerd events list, I hope to represent Tampa Bay as an excellent place for techies to live, work, and play in.
Keep an eye on this blog, as well as the Auth0 blog! There are many interesting developments coming, especially if your interests are in software, startups, or security.
The class portion of UC Baseline — the cybersecurity training program offered by The Undercroft, Tampa Bay’s security guild — ended yesterday with the final day of Python 101, which marks the end of classes. Every weekday for the past five weeks, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., I’ve been in a classroom (masked and socially distanced, of course), studying and furiously taking notes in the following classes:
The Undercroft, Tampa Bay’s cybersecurity guild/collaboration space, is offering scholarships to members and non-members for the July 20th cohort of their UC Baseline cybersecurity skills program. Simply put, it’s a chance to learn essential cybersecurity skills from the area’s experts for free!
The UC Baseline program comprises the following courses:
Hardware 101: Gain a thorough understanding about the devices on which all our software runs and through which all our information flows.
Networking 101: Learn how our systems are connected and the ways in which they communicate through these connections.
Linux 101: Covers the foundations of security in Linux environments, the OS on which the internet runs.
Windows 101: Here’s a big challenge — learn the foundations of security for Windows environments.
Python 101: If you’re doing security, you should have some coding skills to automate your work and build tooling, and Python’s an excellent language for that task.
Here’s The Undercroft’s offer:
Are you looking to take control of your personal privacy and security? Are you frustrated by disappearing jobs and want to make an impact in the cybersecurity industry? Do you have what it takes to ensure your economic future and that of others?
The Undercroft’s Baseline program was built for those with the fortitude to fight against daily attacks that threaten our way of life.
In response to the global pandemic and increasing uncertainty in our economy, we are offering a select number of scholarships to guild and non-guild members for our July 20th, 2020 cohort.
Hosted on Butterscotch.com, a technology education video site launched by Tucows (a prior employer) in 2008, Developer Jr. was an online video show for children ages 7 through 12. Our goal was to teach kids programming and other creative things they can do with computers and technology (particularly Microsoft technology). It starred me as the host and tutor, and “Junior”, an impish puppet played by Brian Hogg. It was sponsored by Microsoft Canada and produced at Butterscotch.com’s studios in Toronto’s Liberty Village neighborhood in early 2010.
The premiere episode showed how you could use the code-free game development system Kodu (which ran on Windows and the Xbox 360) to make your own videogames:
The follow-up episode covered making your own movies with Windows Live Movie Maker:
There was also this interview with Butterscotch.com’s Matt Harris in which we discussed the making of Developer Jr.:
Unfortunately, Developer Jr. was cancelled after two episodes for financial reasons. There wasn’t a department within Microsoft Canada who had a budget aimed at the 7 – 12 year-old set.
I’m still pretty pleased with the work that we did during that too-short season, and I’d like to thank Brian Hogg, video wizards Sean Carruthers and Matt Harris for making the magic happen, and Andy Walker for getting the whole thing started!