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Office Hours: I’m Ali Spittel. I lead Developer Advocacy at AWS and my blog WeLearnCode has been read by 1.5+ million people and reaches up to 200k people a month. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Ali Spittel, the founder of WeLearnCode, where I write beginner-friendly posts on web development and software engineering careers. My blog has a readership of over 1.5 million people and my ebook “What I Wish I knew Before Learning to Code” has over 8k downloads and reached #4 on Product Hunt.

I started my career as a backend software engineer focusing on building data science pipelines, but I transitioned into teaching code a few years later.

I also co-host a podcast with three other women in tech called Ladybug Podcast where we talk all things career and code.

Outside of work, I live in Denver and spend a lot of my time in the mountains skiing and hiking with my dog and partner.

Ask me anything about self-teaching and learning to code, running a podcast, being a developer advocate, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @aspittel!Elphas – please ask @aspittel your questions before Friday, March 4th. @aspittel may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Since having learned from you at GA DC WDI 20 (maybe 19? It was late 2017), I'm always excited to see your name pop up in my inbox! How do you recommend self teaching outside of the common frontend projects? "Build a cat website" tutorials are everywhere in every framework, but I don't always see the same for backend or infrastructure tools. I'm a very kinesthetic learner, and just reading the theory or reading examples doesn't always stick.
Ah so glad to see you! Hope you're doing well! I would pick a project that is challenging and interesting to you first and foremost - what are the skills you're trying to learn and how can you combine them into a project. I learn a lot this way too, instead of following one tutorial setting out to build something bigger and then learning all the little pieces along the way.Also, scientifically we learn best if we learn the same material in multiple modalities (ex video AND building something or a podcast AND a blog post)!Here's a longer list of learning tips I wrote out as well! https://welearncode.com/learning-tips/
Hi Ali!What would you look out for in a junior frontend engineer? What attributes stand out to to you the most when you're hiring juniors?Thanks for your time!
- Willingness and ability to learn. Jrs aren't going to know everything day one, which is 100% expected! So learning becomes really important. If you don't know something in an interview answer "I'm not sure, but I would love to learn about that, I've learned x and y myself and could use that knowledge to learn this other tool"- The ability to work well on a team. Collaboration and communication.- The ability to ask good questions, you should ask lots of them! But do your research first and organize those questions in a way they can be answered easily by the respondent (for ex, if you're stuck on a bug, share relevant code snippets, what you've tried, what you've tried to research, the expected output vs. what you're getting etc)
Can you talk about how you marketed your blog and ebook? Are there any marketing resources you recommend?
I haven't ever done any traditional marketing with ads or anything like that. I just built a social media following over years of work by being consistent, engaging, and focused on building relationships. I also was very clear on who I was writing for and my niche which I believe helped. I started an email newsletter early on too. For the book, I mostly just tweeted about it, which got a lot of attention and then it got to #4 on Product Hunt for the day (someone else hunted it!) which led to a lot more readers!
Also curious about this.
1.5M readers is WILD - so impressive!! I'd love to hear how you approached building your blog (and brand) from 0 to the first 100 to 1000 readers.
Thanks so much! I started off off with only the goal of learning new tech stuff myself and used blogging as an accountability mechanism for that. I was really blogging for myself more so than anyone else - and I think that's one of the reasons I was able to stick with it early on. Initially readership is going to be low no matter how good your posts are, and so just putting yourself out there is a huge part of the early battle. When I started, I published every week and having that consistency just increased the number of chances I had at something reaching a bigger audience and was great practice to figure out what resonated.Then, I started writing to beginner developers because I was working at a coding bootcamp and wanted to document my advice to students, and that resonated much more widely.A bit more tangibly, my advice would be to:- have a clear persona you're writing for. If you're trying to appeal to everybody, you're appealing to nobody because a beginner has wildly different needs than an expert etc. I wrote documents on who my ideal reader was, what their pain points were, and where to reach them.- I started engaging on social media, you can repurpose parts of your longform content as shortform content (and text as video etc). If you have a social media following, there are more people to share your posts with.- Email lists are awesome because there isn't an algorithm for them really - you aren't relying on Twitter putting your post on top of their feed.I've also written about this and hosted workshops:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZI4mqQGNSg&t=417shttps://welearncode.com/blog-post-workflow/
How quickly do code stacks change? It seems like every time I turn around there's a new coding language. Are there a few you've seen that you think will stick around or are the big ones like Swift, Kotlin, Javascript (react? Typescript?) Python here to stay?
Tech stacks do change; however, I think there's some stability in the last few years. React has earned a lions share of the frontend industry and ecosystem, and the backend languages that are popular have been that way for a while as well. I see JavaScript (frontend and backend) and Python as two with a lot of staying power because of the size of the communities and level of investment over the years.https://insights.stackoverflow.com/trends?tags=java%2Cc%2Cc%2B%2B%2Cpython%2Cc%23%2Cvb.net%2Cjavascript%2Cassembly%2Cphp%2Cperl%2Cruby%2Cvb%2Cswift%2Cr%2Cobjective-cAnother tangential piece of advice I'd give is that even though the languages change over time, once you know one really well switching to the next one has a much lower learning curve, so that investment in learning doesn't expire.
Hi,What does a developer advocate do? What does their daily work life look like?
Every day is different, and developer advocacy can mean a lot of things (can report to marketing, product, engineering, etc!) BUT I can speak to my role a little bit.I'm in management with a small team, so I still do IC work as well. I do a lot of product feedback through things like friction logs and reviewing proposals. I also then educate folks about how to use the product I work on through blogging, creating videos, code samples, etc!