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CTO Think Podcast

CTO Think Podcast

By CTO Think
A pragmatic podcast about leadership, product dev, and tech decisions between two recovering Chief Technology Officers.
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Vue, Vuex, Auth, and State Management
June 23, 2020
BLM, White Privilege, Accountability, Guilt, Responsibilities, and Helping
The world feels like a different place from just a couple weeks ago, but it's not. The United States is still in the same place it has been for a long time, if you're a minority. Randy and Don discuss the Black Lives Matter movement, police accountability, racism, privilege, guilt, and where they might fit in to not being part of the problem.
June 09, 2020
From Manager/Dev to Non-coding Manager
Right before the COVID pandemic hit, Randy was asked to take on the management of two new teams, which changed his typical role of manager-developer to strictly people management, meetings, and project tracking. Don and Randy discuss the change as it affected Randy and what he thinks is the most important factors for folks in the same boat.
May 19, 2020
Big Ideas Getting Planned, Part 2
Don and Randy continue their discussion about the business plans in the Big Idea Gator Business Plan Competition, this time about the best entries and how the competition played out. Coconuts!
May 12, 2020
Big Ideas Getting Planned, Part 1
Don brings in a few examples from an upcoming Big Idea Gator Business Plan Competition in which he's playing the role of a judge. We discuss the importance of good writing, identifying the problem, and setting reasonable goals and metrics to give folks the notion you have some idea what you're doing. In Part 1, we discuss the weakest entries before tackling the better ones in Part 2.
May 05, 2020
Difficult Choices and Hard Conversations
Don and Randy talk about what's been going on with the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected their firms, jobs, and side projects. What does it mean to talk to folks under your wing? What kind of leadership does it take when the real world seems out of your control?
March 31, 2020
Growing Up and Losing the Fun Parts of App Development
Don asked Randy about what he's working on, lately, and Randy exclaimed, "nothing fun," which actually turns out not to be true. Randy details the additional mix of people, communication, and risk management around mature application development and it becomes the setting for a larger-picture discussion on how things change with app dev as you age.
March 03, 2020
Improving Visual Communication for Remote Management
Randy is making efforts to improve the communication of visual examples via remote video meetings. We discuss his first attempt to achieve online whiteboarding using a Macbook Pro, a Wacom One tablet, and a Google Jamboard.
February 25, 2020
Security Concerns Keep Coming
In Don's role as CTO for AspirEDU, he has a number of security audits posed by potential customers and increasing complexity around third-party hosts. Randy keeps wanting to talk about the XFL (Part 2).
February 11, 2020
Proposed Project Approach and the Wonders of Sous Vide Cooking
Randy pitches to Don an approach for a CMS project and then rifs on the cool new toy he recently purchased for the kitchen: A sous vide cooking device.
January 28, 2020
Viable or crap? Discussing Blockchain, VR, Autonomous Cars, and Drone Delivery
This week we take a look at the state of a few hyped technologies and see where they really are in terms of usefulness, adoption, and long-term viability. Don thinks VR will never go mainstream and Randy wants a drone to bring him something, ANYTHING, right now.
January 21, 2020
Modern Content Management Options
Don and Randy discuss content management options from the old-school Full Stack apps, WYSIWYG SaaS, and Headless + Static Site Generator options
January 07, 2020
A Deeper Dive into Building Power Apps
Don takes Randy along for the ride of his latest applications using Microsoft's Power App platform. They discuss building an application that uses Twilio, Trello, Flow, Power Apps, OneDrive, Adaptive Cards, and Microsoft Teams without much code, if any.
December 31, 2019
Automation vs Programming
Don describes his work on moving his company to Microsoft and his use of Power Apps. This leads to a discussion of the automation vs programming strategies and how this might be the future for all non-coding employment.
December 17, 2019
Headless CMS + Static Site Generators
Randy's been approached, both at his job and from an external firm, about the need for a CMS. The old stalwarts of Wordpress and Drupal don't seem to work, but the idea of a Static Site Generator and persisted content does. Randy and Don discuss the new products out there that can potentially serve both needs.
December 10, 2019
Twilio Segments, Pricing, and Proxy
Randy has been working on Twilio a bit since the team last worked on the Chasms project and updates Don on some of the interesting features Twilio has brought to market. In addition, they discuss a few gotchas about SMS pricing that might needlessly cost developers a few extra bucks.
November 19, 2019
Switching to Services
Randy is part of a team focused on building a Service Oriented Architecture with Go. Don figures out he has always been using services, but the SOA acronym seemed to involve more than simply work. Randy explains further the use of messages, queues, and other approaches to request buffering.
November 12, 2019
Power Apps for the People
Don has been hearing Randy tell him to quit coding so much and finally does something about it: He decides to build an app without writing a line of code (but not delegating it to someone else) by using Microsoft's Power Apps platform. This week, we discuss everything about PowerApps and how this might be THE FUTURE!
November 05, 2019
Is Accessibility a Worthwhile Focus?
Domino's Pizza recently lost a lawsuit regarding the lack of accessibility features for their online ordering platform. Don and Randy discuss the ramifications of the decision and whether accessibility is worth the time and effort product managers might put into making their products more inclusive.
October 29, 2019
A Front-End Dev That Can't Build a Website?
Chris Coyier recently posted a tweet regarding a front-end developer he knew that "could not build a website." Is this strange? Shouldn't every developer that claims front-end skills be able to prop up a basic site?
October 15, 2019
How Should a CTO Use Their Time?
When a CTO is juggling multiple responsibilities, people, and projects, what is the best use of their time? Randy, once again, tells Don to put down the keyboard and quit coding stuff!
October 01, 2019
Clean Code is Covered in Caca
This week, we shall rant! The term "Clean Code" is a vague and irresponsible phrase to use regarding programming and Randy will have nothing of it. It's time Uncle Bob's cute money-making catch phrase was put to pasture.
September 24, 2019
Organizational Train Wrecks explained by College Football Dumpster Fires
In honor of the second week of the college football season, Randy and Don discuss three programs, UCLA, Tennessee, and FSU, falling into disaster scenarios and compare each with CTO failures at technology firms. We keep the football/sportsball strategy discussion to a minimum, but we do eventually call out Tennessee as the "Steve Ballmer" of college football schools. Go Rocky Top?
September 10, 2019
Using a Framework Before Mastering the Language
Following a tweet from Ben Hong @bencodezen about whether people need to master JavaScript before using a framework, Don and Randy discuss how they have used, shipped, and been paid to use framework and applications many times without knowing the base language beforehand.
August 27, 2019
Should Startups Avoid Hiring a CTO?
A recent blog post by Philip Thomas of Moonlight titled "Startups Should Not Hire a CTO" sparked a conversation about why blanket statements like "Startups Should Not Do X" that are clickbait and should probably be avoided as good advice. Instead, we discuss letting your needs to drive your hires, instead, and the kinds of people you probably do want to hire to lead technical efforts. Randy's cats don't like anything about the recording, in addition to the article.
August 20, 2019
Developers, Ageing, Naps, and What Are We Talking About, Again?
Don and Randy discuss the changes that ageing has on their development skills and focus, how to combat it (or adapt to it), and stay somewhat off the "old person joke" train... sort of.
August 13, 2019
Authentication: Buy it or Build it?
With hacking stories dropping on a seemingly daily basis, the question keeps coming up about application security: Should you build your own user authentication or use an external service? This week, Don and Randy discuss the Buy vs Build debate around auth, and whether the high costs of outsourcing outweigh the high risks of rolling your own.
August 06, 2019
Breaking down bootcamps
Randy reacts to a Tweetstorm about Lambda School using his former experiences as a bootcamp teacher to add some perspective
July 30, 2019
Getting going with Go!
Randy starts his new position and Go (or Golang) is one of the main languages used there. He reviews what he's learned so far and what's ahead.
July 23, 2019
2x CTOs talk about 10x developers
In reaction to a Twitterstorm about the concept of a 10x engineer being important for any startup, we discuss the downfalls of such a thing and what positives exist.
July 16, 2019
Post-mortem on Randy's Job Search
Randy is about to start a new job and has a number of opinions about the job search, hiring, negotiation process he recently went through. Don tries to play Devil's Advocate as the employer/hiring side, but Randy's not hearing any of it! Don uses coconuts as the example of currency and Randy somehow manages to quadruple the asking price for labor in the Hawaiian produce marketplace Don tried to set up.
July 09, 2019
Using Cypress for Integration Testing
Randy and Megan recently worked on a Single Page App and Megan learned how to use Cypress for integration/acceptance testing. Don and Randy discuss how Cypress works vs the old stalwarts, like Selenium. Automated testing for the win!
June 25, 2019
Ditching Wordpress vs Free-time Driven Development
The show begins discussing setting up a product roadmap for AspirEdu, but things devolve when Don mentions he is considering swapping Wordpress for the marketing website with a static site builder. Randy thinks adding more developer dependencies is a bad idea and coins the term "Free-time Driven Development" (tm) and can't wait to make T-Shirts and Medium posts promoting the brand.
June 18, 2019
Microsoft Bounces Back: Monopolies, Ballmer Years, and Open Source
Don and Randy discuss the "New Microsoft" and how a change in leadership has led to a completely different experience with one of the largest technology firms in the World. We also take a road trip back to the early days of developing on the MS platform and laugh about how badly Steve Ballmer did with predicting the future. Bonus: Clippy gets a mention!
June 11, 2019
From Hands-on Dev to CTO: Jess Szmajda, CTO of Axios
We have an exceptional guest for our 50th episode in Jess Szmajda, CTO of Axios, and we cover a whole lotta ground: From building "horrible PHP sites", to constructing retail tech teams from scratch, we then tackle the subject of taking on the role of CTO of a fast-growing media firm, being a trans CTO, and promoting a more diverse community in technology. Whew! We start out discussing the difference between a CTO and Director/VP of Engineering, title creep, and whether the idea of a "software architect" has any relevance at all. We then cover wider ground with managing small vs large teams, the adoption of Spotify squads/pods in team management, and adding new business (TV) that is vastly different than the core company product (online publishing). The subject matter covers a vast amount of ground, but it's all valuable in today's tech community.
June 04, 2019
Trying to find a product-market fit
Don and Randy discuss the latest installment of the Chasms app saga. Don heads out to Denver for a sales conference loaded with potential customers of the Chasms text-to-chat system, but finds no takers. Further research finds a well-funded competitor, named after a dubious fruit. Is the Chasms project dead on arrival?
May 28, 2019
Stages of the CTO Lifecycle
This week we review an old, but good, blog post by Andy Skipper named "Looking at the life of the CTO through the stages." We discuss our own experiences across these stages and the ones we haven't reached, yet. Randy also continues his rant on tech developer/manager hiring practices, so no surprise there!
May 21, 2019
Testing with Node and JavaScript (Finally!)
After years of testing with Ruby on Rails and rspec, Randy never had quite the flow with testing on the JavaScript and Node side of things... until now. We discuss the value of testing with Node, Express, and in the context of Firebase Functions and why Randy is happier with TDD, or at least, Test Something, Sometime, Somehow development.
May 14, 2019
Benefits of Continuous Integration
Over the past two decades of working in tech, the use of Continuous Integration (or CI) has become a mainstream approach to product development. Randy and Don discuss the systems they used before (or lack thereof), what they use now, and why Continuous Integration meets the hype.
May 07, 2019
Managed Hosting Rocks! WPEngine, Pantheon, and Heroku
Randy is working with a client that uses Pantheon for Drupal hosting and he loves the tools. After spending a good decade using cPanel on cheap hosts, the stability that WPEngine and Pantheon gives PHP developers the best hosting options around. The conversation moves into discussion of Heroku, as well.
April 30, 2019
Business Metrics and the Lack of Context
We discuss business metrics, reporting, statistics, and how many of the numbers, without context, lack much value. Can your business deliver the Five Nines? Does it even need to? What kind of performance can you guarantee when upstream providers are involved?
April 23, 2019
Typescript Pain. Is there any Gain?
Randy is diving back into the Chasms backend using Firebase Functions, which is written (by him) in Typescript. We discuss the ins and outs as to why Typescript was chosen, some pain points that cropped up along the way, Randy's attempt to rip it out, and ultimately why sticking with Typescript was necessary in this particular case. Alternative episode title: Typescript. Do I need this crap?
April 16, 2019
Writing a Job Description for a Non-specific Job
Don's firm is looking to hire a non-senior Python developer to help spread the workload of the engineering team. We discuss how he's writing up the job description, who he's really looking for in the role, and what kinds of skills the person must have to be effective in the role.
April 09, 2019
Document Datastores and Many-to-Many Relationships
While continuing work on the Chasms app, Randy asks Don for his two cents on an approach to solving a document datastore (firestore) schema involving a many-to-many relationship. A discussion ensues to make sure the whole approach to the project is right.
April 02, 2019
Customer Perspectives and Managing Expectations
A customer claims the service provided didn't meet expectations despite them choosing the more “economical” solution. Another client’s manager felt a contractor “yelled” at them, but the contractor felt they barely raised their voice. This week we talk about the human side of handling different opinions and trying to prevent problems like these in the first place.
March 26, 2019
Building an App (and Learning) with Vue.js
Randy has started working on the Chasms project again, and after the previous episode with David Rogers, he chose to use (and learn) Vue.js to get it started. Don and Randy discuss the various libraries being used to build the app, along with some strategies for other folks to get started with the framework.
March 19, 2019
Hiring Good Consultants
This week we talk about how we’ve hired consultants in the past, where we’ve failed, and the perspective of consultants that might help tech leaders understand who they’re hiring.
March 12, 2019
Just Doing It Yourself Because of Liam Neeson
As a continuation to a previous episode, Don discusses why he's going to roll up his sleeves and handle a data-gathering project himself. He attempts to support his choice using a reference to a Liam Neeson movie quote and Randy begins berating Don with more Liam Neeson movie examples than is appropriate. Along the way, the discussion covers some good considerations about business management, outsourcing, training in-house, and how hand-on work can ruin actual job duty focus.
March 05, 2019
This week we discuss the various C-Level titles in the tech world: CTO vs CIO vs CDO vs others. What do folks with those titles tend to do and do the titles really matter? Also, Randy talks about his newest hobby: Kitten pictures!
February 26, 2019
Switching Frameworks to Vue.js with David Rogers
We interview David Rogers (a.k.a Al-the-X) about his career path among the front-end frameworks and his latest roles for firms switching from Angular and Backbone to Vue. A very valuable discussion takes place about why both firms chose Vue.js against a "shootout" of Angular, React, Ember, and RxJS, and how aspects of Vue worked well for the switch.
February 19, 2019
When a Third-Party Service Fails
Don's company ran into problems when their email provider, Mandrill, suffered a significant outage. Randy and Don discuss how they handle outages, prepare for switching to other providers (before or after failures), and how to go about communicating those issues to clients. Don debates whether using a scooter rental requires a helmet and Randy tells him to ignore his mother's advice. References are made to Matthew McConaughey, and we apologize, in advance.
February 12, 2019
Learning JavaScript and Accessibility with Megan Schemmel
Don follows-up with previous guest Megan Schemmel, who is learning how to be a full-stack web developer. They talk about how she went from being a non-developer to knowing HTML and CSS, launching websites with Wordpress, picking up skills in accessibility, and what she's learned about JavaScript so far.
February 05, 2019
Pushing Your Team and Self to the Limits
Following up on another Elon Musk communication, we discuss the side effects of working too many hours, burning out, and how you might be guilty of causing extra-hour angst with only a simple email sent after work.
January 29, 2019
Products are Fun, Promotion is Not, and Preventing Perfectionism
We begin talking about the career aspirations of sports officiants (tennis gigs) and upcoming technology projects Don wants to tackle, but it slowly morphs into a discussion about outsourcing, build/buy, and trying to maintain perfection simply because you have Subject Matter Expertise in a particular area (yes, the code stuff). The result was a great episode about self-reflection as you try to figure out what your role should be as you climb the management ladder, while still loving to build apps.
January 22, 2019
Setting Goals for your Team
Don is setting up goals for AspirEdu for 2019, which takes us into a discussion about how to set up big projects and campaigns for small firms that have lots of small tasks to get done at the same time. How do you get executive buy-in, maintain momentum, and prevent project goals from fading away amongst other distractions?
January 15, 2019
Discussing Firebase Authentication
Randy has a possible conference presentation coming up in the next few weeks, so he gets Don to listen to the outline and poke some holes in the outline. Along the way, they discuss what Firebase Authentication is, why it's a worthwhile consideration for app builders, and what Randy needs to research to fill in the blanks.
January 08, 2019
Brainstorming the Tech, Managed meetup
As we move into 2019, Randy and Don discuss a new meetup concept they aim to create called Tech, Managed. With goals to build upon the growth of the CTO Think and This Old App audience, the Tech, Managed meetup will create a learning space for managers and founders to learn about technology at a management level.
December 31, 2018
Follow-up with Mark on Flutter,, and Family
About a year has passed since we last spoke to Mark Thompson about his journey through a solo developer application build for using the new framework, Flutter. This week we talk about missed deadlines, family focus, Flutter achievements, and the upcoming launch (finally!) of the app. A great episode for those folks trying to build their own way.
December 27, 2018
Kubernetes Exploits, Bernie Madoff, and Minimal Skepticism
Don and Randy discuss a recent exploit that came to light in the Kubernetes container framework that seemed to fade off as a widespread concern. This leads to a discussion about how much diligence is required by technology managers regarding the risks posed by distributed services, such as AWS, Heroku, and even small players, like Honeybadger. At some point, Randy compares Bernie Madoff to AWS and completely takes things off the rails.
December 18, 2018
Viability of a Watch App Concept
Don has an idea for a building a watch app to service American football referees and discusses with Randy whether the concept is viable for a build. Randy provides the customary ref jokes and insults in addition to playing Devil's Advocate with the idea. In the end, the question arises: Are watches and watch apps really a thing?
December 11, 2018
Review of the State of JS Survey
How is Angular doing vs React and Vue? What are the most used and growing back-end JavaScript frameworks. Which strongly-typed flavor of JavaScript is winning hearts? This week, Don and Randy discuss the State of JS survey results for 2018 and review from a tech leader perspective. Anything to get a few more React.js (cha-ching) mentions in there.
December 04, 2018
Crossover Episode - The World vs React (Nuff Said)
The previous two episodes of our sister podcast, This Old App, discussed the rapid development of React and its possible side effects on the development community. For this CTO Think episode, we run our first "crossover" and discuss how tech leaders and management-level folks might view the JavaScript frontend debate regarding the growth of React use, its backwards compatibility issues, and whether a tech leader can afford to "keep up with the Joneses" in the dev world.
November 20, 2018
React-ions and Corrections to Last Week
Last week's episode about the speed of React development either struck a nerve, had enough keywords for a Google SEO explosion, or involved a prominent member of the React dev team (cough, Mr. Abramov) for us to hit our highest ratings, yet. So we continue to try and milk that traffic with a reasonable review of Dan Abramov's Twitter thread about the show and a few noteworthy corrections we thought it was fair to talk about for clarity.
November 20, 2018
Is React the Popular Kid in School?
During Randy's interviewing stint, he spoke to a good number of firms that had needs for different stacks, but one particular framework stood out: React. Startups, small firms, and enterprise firms, alike, all seemed to have projects involving flavors of React running in development or production. This week Don and Randy discuss why React has caught fire and if it matters or not.
November 13, 2018
Should We Open Source This Code?
Don and his company, AspirEDU, decided to open source a small bit of code for the first time for the Django community. We discuss the various considerations--across proprietary, support, and licensing questions--the company made to push forward the release, and why their first contribution is really a big deal.
November 07, 2018
Chipping Away at Project Blockers
Don continues to work on his Azure-backed PDF processing application and describes his process to fix a number of blockers. After making progress, Randy asks him about widget pipeline options, like IFTTT and Zapier, and then attempts to invoice Don for the time he was just saved.
October 30, 2018
Adventures in Interviewing
Randy is moving to Kansas City and exploring new job opportunities both local and remote, which has him in the thick of a variety of interviewing processes. Don and Randy discuss the good and bad about some of the firms' approaches and how Randy is still a bit stubborn about the esoteric coding tests. Don leans towards a less-is-more philosophy regarding interviews, while Randy thinks hiring an exceptional recruiter is step number one.
October 23, 2018
Debugging Azure with Ego Driven Development
In another effort to prevent Don and Randy from working on the same stack, Don wanders off into Microsoft land to build a web app on Azure, and promptly runs into trouble. Through a little troubleshooting, they figure out the problem while discussing the complexities around cloud platforms, coding alone, and ego-driven development.
October 16, 2018
Thinking About Smart Homes
After a two-week break, we return to discuss how Randy's buying a house and is thinking about all the new tech and gadgets he can add to it. We discuss home automation, the unnecessary features added to some appliances, and the cool stuff being added to others. Don discusses the new Alexa hardware and how his Ring front-door cam was hacked by a wise thief.
October 09, 2018
Build vs Buy and Disrupting Processes
We're back after a couple-week break! Don and Randy discuss the ever-debated strategy of building versus buying your software solutions. But they up the ante by discussing how existing workflows and processes are perhaps a bigger consideration than SaaS fees or software development costs
October 09, 2018
To Test or Not to Test?
Do you practice test-driven development or feel left out of the "cool-kids" club of folks that swear testing is a necessity to develop quality code? We discuss our history with testing, how we haven't always used it, the struggle to learn it, and how everyone tests, regardless of the method chosen.
September 18, 2018
Handling Critical Feature Updates
Don's firm recently underwent its first major platform upgrade and we discuss the various ways they prepared, tested, and worked through the changes, all the way up to the dreaded "point of no return."
September 11, 2018
What to Use for Mobile Development?
We discuss the state of development around iPhone and Android development, mainly with using non-native code bases. Randy makes valid complaints about Apple. Don wonders why he isn't allowed to complain about Apple. The subjects of ReactNative, JavaScript, Flutter, Dart, Swift, Java, and Objective-C are discussed, including how Steve Jobs envisioned the Progressive Web App, yet money changed Apple's focus towards native development. Please leave a rating for This Old App on iTunes!
August 28, 2018
Elon Musk and Leading Your Team to Burnout
Pulled from the media, Don and Randy discuss Elon Musk's interview regarding the personal toll that his attempt to run three companies, perhaps poorly, is taking upon himself. Moreso, they talk about what it means to be in a leadership position and how leading-by-extremes can take a toll on the whole team (or company). Oh, yeah, they also bring in a discussion about college football coaches, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, and even Mark Richt. And for that, they sincerely apologize to those of you who can not care less about sports.
August 21, 2018
Debating (Angrily) the Responsibility of Cross-platform Support
Don runs into a problem with a podcast app as he launches a new podcast of his own, Friday Night Stripes, and wants to deploy his show on Overcast. The issue? Don is not an iOS user and cannot find a way to sign into the Overcast website, which . . . disappoints . . . him. As a happy iOS user, Randy doesn't feel Don's pain and congratulates Marco Arment on making millions of dollars while also ticking off Android folks.
August 14, 2018
Grab Bag - GraphQL vs REST, Websockets, Uber Fusion, Redux Sux, and Firestore Search
Don and Randy get back from a couple weeks of trips and projects and discuss a grab-bag of subjects of things they've worked on or learned.
August 07, 2018
Betting on Vue JS with Gregg Pollack
Covering everything from Rails for Zombies to Code School to Vue Mastery, we talk with one of the original online tutorial creators, Gregg Pollack, and how he decided to invest in the Vue.js community and a new front-end open source project. Gregg also throws in a number of great suggestions for folks that have thought about creating their own tutorials and why CTOs might choose Vue JS among the frameworks out there.
August 01, 2018
Returning to Game Development with Renee Lahoff
We speak with Renee Lahoff, content editor for Moms Can: Code, who began a career years ago as a game developer, left the industry to start a family, and found that a return to the business wasn't as difficult as expected. Topics covered: Unity, Game Jam, Teaching Code Online, and Unix/Terminal Tutorials
July 24, 2018
When People Don't Listen to You
We discuss the inevitable issue of bosses, owners, managers, and clients not listening to every bit of advice we offer up. From ignoring the frustration, the psychological reaction, and avoiding a passive-aggressive response, to the maturation of our process and quitting of the pointing fingers and getting stuff done. We talk about why every decision doesn't need to come from you. But never forget: We told you so!
July 17, 2018
Benefits of Coding While Streaming with Jesse Weigel
Jesse Weigel talks about being a self-taught developer, how he got started live-streaming his code on FreeCodeCamp and YouTube, and how creating a coding community makes him a better developer.
July 10, 2018
When Everything's Going Wrong
How do you get things back on track when everything from the engine to the caboose is falling off? We discuss steps to take when everything and anything is spiraling downward on a tech project.
July 03, 2018
Moms Can: Code with Bekah Hawrot Weigel
After giving birth to her fourth child, and suffering a serious medical issue in the process, Bekah Hawrot Weigel coped by finding a new path in life as a software developer. We talk about how she joined Moms Can: Code, founded by Erica Peterson, and began a new career as both a mother and a developer. We discuss how she got started with Etherium, Solidity, and coaching other folks to follow her path.
June 26, 2018
Stakeholder Types and Working With Them
We discuss the various types of stakeholders that a technology leader may need to deal as being part of a company or a particular product. We discuss the various motivations and communication techniques necessary across Executives, Investors, Regulators, Managers, Engineers, Current Users, and Potential Users.
June 26, 2018
Callbacks! and Promises! and Awaits! Oh My!
We discuss the asynchronous nature of JavaScript, the old-person method of callbacks, the evolution to Promises, and then the shiny new car of Async/Await. We whine about the learning curve of all three approaches and try to figure out why so many blog posts teach it all wrong.
June 19, 2018
Episode 25 - Thinking About Dependencies
What are the considerations do you need to make regarding third-party services and software? We talk about relying on Github after the Microsoft purchase, using AWS or Firebase, and the world of JavaScript, Node, and NPM. And Randy talks about his pet peeve of co-located servers sitting under an upstairs office kitchen.
June 12, 2018
This Old App 12: Relational vs Document DBs
We yell at document datastores to get off our lawns! We talk about the joys of SQL and 50-year-old relational databases we grew up with, trying to make sense of why MongoDB, Firestore, and Dynamo are necessary, and Randy's unhealthy love for Materialized Views. In addition, Lotus 1-2-3 is a database, no matter what Don says.
June 12, 2018
Relational vs Document DBs
We yell at document datastores to get off our lawns! We talk about the joys of SQL and 50-year-old relational databases we grew up with, trying to make sense of why MongoDB, Firestore, and Dynamo are necessary, and Randy's unhealthy love for Materialized Views. In addition, Lotus 1-2-3 is a database, no matter what Don says.
June 12, 2018
Thinking About Dependencies
What are the considerations do you need to make regarding third-party services and software? We talk about relying on Github after the Microsoft purchase, using AWS or Firebase, and the world of JavaScript, Node, and NPM. And Randy talks about his pet peeve of co-located servers sitting under an upstairs office kitchen.
June 12, 2018
This Old App 10: Appraising Alexa (and other voice interfaces)
We talk about Alexa development, the strong developer ecosystem Amazon is investing for it, some of the privacy problems it's facing, and a few quips about Apple, Google, Microsoft, and even Samsung.
June 08, 2018
Project Chasms - Part 3, Prototype Feedback and The Bug
We discuss our prototype of Chasms as it's used in the wild, successfully supporting a real business.
June 05, 2018
Learning as a Cultural Component with Griffin Caprio
We speak with Griffin Caprio of Dante32 about his experiences building trust and psychological safety, accepting failure in a positive way, and creating a learning-based culture on teams from the top-down.
June 05, 2018
Appraising Alexa (and other voice interfaces)
We talk about Alexa development, the strong developer ecosystem Amazon is investing for it, some of the privacy problems it's facing, and a few quips about Apple, Google, Microsoft, and even Samsung.
May 29, 2018
GDPR Pain and Projects Outside Your Expertise
We lament about the recent GDPR hullabaloo, our initial reactions to the new regulations, and how we approach projects that we don't have any business handling in the first place, but still fall onto our shoulders.
May 29, 2018
Finding Firebase
We talk about Firebase as a new backend tool for a few projects we're working on and cover many of its features, what is weird about it, and why this seems to be a product in which Google is making a big investment. Hint: It's about the Person, er, people!
May 22, 2018
Compassionate Coding with April Wensel
April Wensel started a company named Compassionate Coding, which aims to "humanize the tech industry." We discuss why she started the firm and how she goes about making the tech industry a better place to work. We also learn that using the term "soft skills" is not the right way to talk about the people side of things if you want to earn buy-in towards change.
May 22, 2018
Project Chasms - Part 2, Debugging and Brainstorming
In another installment related to the Chasms app, we discuss errors with the prototype, finding the right balance of customer/product fit, and the need to brainstorm without adding requirements to the ideas.
May 15, 2018
Meetings, Schmeetings
We talk about meetings, the negative vibe the tech industry has taken against them, how to best run meetings, or finding ways to communicate without wasting so much time.
May 15, 2018
Project Chasms - Part 1, Getting Started
Listen as Don and Randy begin a new side project together from problem/solution explanation, planning, and build approach. We aim to reduce the product scope and target a quicker launch of the prototype.
May 08, 2018
Why do we podcast (and other projects)?
People (and ourselves) have been asking: Why are you all doing this? What is motivating you to podcast? In this episode, we discuss our motivations for podcasting, our side projects, and why we're doing multiple challenges at the same time.
May 01, 2018
Social Media Side-Effects
Would you hire Kanye West if he was a great programmer, despite his social media presence? This week, we talk about social media quality control, public personas, and the challenge of being inclusive while trying to maintain a steady team dynamic. We also somehow bring up Pink, Tim Tebow, and James Damore into the conversation.
May 01, 2018
Networking for Introverts
Having a strong network makes for a huge advantage for career opportunities and learning how to lead. We discuss how to push past shyness and introverted tendencies to grow your own network of relationships.
April 24, 2018
The 30-Day Deadline of Failure and Follow-Through
Mark Thompson gave himself a tough 30-day deadline to build and launch the first version of his app, Setting a goal gave him tremendous motivation, but also served him with a strong dose of feeling failure. Find out how Mark finally followed through and shipped, despite a self-imposed timeline that both motivated and defeated.
April 24, 2018
Learning and Shipping with Flutter
Mark Thompson discusses his learning and launching a native app using Flutter, a new cross-platform framework developed by Google.
April 17, 2018
Choosing a Tech Stack
There are a lot of factors tech managers need to consider when inheriting or choosing a technology stack. We talk about how we chose specific stacks in the past (or didn't) and why we're using a brand new one for a side project.
April 17, 2018
Identity Heft
With hacking, data security, and privacy as huge issues in the press, we discuss how we approach identity management on both products and across our teams.
April 10, 2018
Learning CSS Grid
We have a guest, Megan Schemmel, discuss her new career as a developer, learning Wordpress, and taking on the new Grid functionality of CSS
April 09, 2018
Learning JavaScript (Better)
Don and Randy discuss the steps we've taken to better learn JavaScript, Node.js, React, and React Native. A whole lotta videos and pain.
April 08, 2018
The Intro!
Randy and Don introduce our new, loose-form podcast, and talk about how it contrasts with our more formal, parent podcast, CTO Think.
April 06, 2018
Don't Be Evil-ish?
Where do you draw the line on ethics? How do you take a stand when you want to keep your job? This week, we discuss ethical behavior and the responsibility people have regarding it.
April 03, 2018
Non-Disclosures, Non-Competes, No Way?
Should you sign non-compete or non-disclosure agreements? Are these kinds of contracts binding? Are they even useful for your business? We discuss everything from saying "heck, no," to turning the ask into an initial business agreement test.
March 27, 2018
You're so vain, you think in-office work is about you
We discuss our history with in-office and remote work, why junior devs might reconsider working outside the office, and how requiring folks to work in your proximity is a trait of managerial vanity.
March 20, 2018
Fostering a learning environment with Mark Thompson of Trilogy
We speak with our first guest, Mark Thompson of Trilogy Education, about his approach to creating a productive learning environment both on the job and in a classroom setting. Mark is also working on a side project named Totally Strong, which is pushing his own limits about learning to code while building an MVP (and raising a newborn!).
March 14, 2018
Communicating on a roller coaster of uptime and downtime
Randy and Don found themselves stranded, mid-ride on the Expedition Everest roller coaster at Disney World's Animal Kingdom. Following their rescue, and during an in-person recording from Orlando, they talk about how a tech manager should handle technical downtime, service interruptions, and critical alerts for users, executives, and investors that depend on services.
March 07, 2018
Are code challenges a lazy or legitimate method for hiring developers?
Are code challenges or quizzes a legitimate practice for hiring developers? We debate whether the method of filtering candidates via whiteboarding or code games is plain lazy or a necessary part of the recruiting process for engineers.
February 25, 2018
Skills for a career in tech leadership
If a junior developer is looking at the fork in a technology career path of software engineering or management, what kinds of skills do they need for the leadership side?
February 18, 2018
Developer focus is an excuse not to talk, right?
Is the call for "developer focus" a selfish complaint from precious snowflake employees? What right do developers have to ruin the design trend of great-looking open offices where collaboration magically happens? This week, we discuss how we feel about the need for managers to talk to employees at all times vs the need for folks to get work done without interruption.
February 10, 2018
Your hosting strategy - Choosing from self, managed, cloud, or serverless
How do you choose the best hosting options for your product or firm? This week, we discuss the thinking in a choice between self-hosting, managed hosting, cloud options, and the new buzz word: "serverless".
February 03, 2018
Work-life balance
We discuss the importance of a work-life or non-tech balance for someone building a career in technology. Do folks need to set aside a specific amount of time, or any at all, not working on things related to their job?
January 27, 2018
Does a tech manager need to code to be effective?
Randy is a CTO that codes almost daily. Don has found it difficult to string together multiple days where he's able to code for his current roles. Today, we tackle the topic of whether a CTO or technical manager needs to be able to code to be effective at their job.
January 18, 2018
Antifragile and TDD - What's the value?
Don brings up the subject of chaos, based on a book he's been reading, Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. We discuss the merits of test driven development, unpredictability, and how technical managers can work towards a more resilient product in the face of inevitable failures.
January 12, 2018
Risk and Exploits - Dealing with Meltdown and Spectre
Randy and Don discuss an item ripped from the headlines: What should a technical manager do about the recent Meltdown and Spectre exploits? They move into the CTO modes of research, understanding, translation, preparation, upgrading, monitoring, and, most of all, not freaking out. Randy requests a bobblehead or plush toy of the Spectre logo.
January 05, 2018
Managing tech debt - When best to work on it?
Don faced an issue at his education tech firm: When should you slow down forward progress on new features in order to spend time on festering technical issues?
January 02, 2018
Hiring developers - Who should I hire to build an app?
Randy was posed a question by a potential client: "I want to build an app. Who should I hire?" and he asks the same question to Don.
December 28, 2017
Introducing CTO Think
Welcome to CTO Think, a podcast about how technology leaders think about business, tech, and people problems. Don VanDemark and Randy Burgess, two current and former Chief Technology Officers will discuss the various challenges managers face in a product development environment. We'll cover topics such as team-building, product management, scaling, and software engineering decisions.
December 23, 2017