Transitioning From Employee To Independent

Kent recalls how he was able to successfully transition from PayPal to being a full-time educator.

Kent attributes a lot of his success in becoming independent to building his personal brand. He double dipped with the value he produced while employed by creating content to share publicly. Kent also made sure to interact with people and answer questions on twitter.

The key is not to try to get as many followers as possible, but instead to try to have an audience who is committed to you and your message. You can't do this by trying to force engagement with viral tweets, you have to produce real value and share it with people.

Transcript

Michael Chan:
Hey, Kent.

Kent C. Dodds:
Hey, Michael.

Michael Chan:
So, I have a bunch of questions for you about how to make that transition from employee to independent. You've done it. I've seen some other people do it. I think it can look really effortless at times, because you don't see all the stuff that's going on behind the scenes, but then also it can feel really tricky. Like, how would I ever get to that point where I can make my own money consistently? So, I just want to ask you about your history with that, the events that led up to it, and how your mindset has changed as you have kind of made that transition. So, let's kind of back up. What did it look like? What was your leaving moments from PayPal and the things that gave you the excitement and the brazenness and the boldness to just jump out on your own?

Kent C. Dodds:
I mean, it really all started during my first job when I started doing Egghead videos and started making money on the side, where that first course that I released for Egghead paid my mortgage every month. Then I started making more courses. And of course over time these courses make less, and now that first course makes me like nothing. It was about AngularJS and JWTs for authentication. So, it was pretty good. But right from the very start, I never really thought I would do it full time, but I thought, hey, this is cool. I'll be able to get my mortgage paid off a lot faster in having this extra income on the side.

Kent C. Dodds:
I just kept on ... For some reason, there was something that motivated me to hustle on the side and acquire that extra money. I think a lot of that actually came from my just total fear of debt. I hate debt. I don't want any debt. I know a lot of ... I actually had somebody tell me that, instead of paying off your car, you can put that money into some investments. And if you make more return on your investment than you do paying interest on your car, then you end up with more money at the end of it. Right? So, it makes sense. And the same thing could be said for your house. So, if you had $500,000 drop in your lap, would you pay off your house or would you put that into investments and then ... One of those, you're going to end up with more money. But I will pay off my house every time, because I just don't want debt. So, I think that's probably what motivated me to work on the side and get this side hustle is like, the sooner I can get out of debt, the better.

Michael Chan:
Yeah. Because you have this ... If you have a house, you have this mountain of debt. It's not really your house until 30 years in the future.

Kent C. Dodds:
Right. Yeah. And that's just a normal thing now. Back in the caveman days, they threw a couple sticks together, and they're like, "This is my thing. I made this." But we don't do that. It's just a normal thing to have a ... Or to rent and just never have anything, any real estate or anything. So, anyway, I think that's what motivated me. It was also really fun and interesting, and then I was able to start speaking at conferences. All of that was really, really cool.

Kent C. Dodds:
But when I was at PayPal was when ... It was during my time at PayPal is when I started to think, hey, I could actually do this full time. I think it was about halfway through my time at PayPal. So, I was at PayPal for three years. Around a year and a half, I was starting to think, things are going pretty well with Egghead, and I was doing Frontend Masters at the time too. I wasn't quite making my salary at that point, but I thought, if I'd worked on this full time, then I think I could work my way up to it. And if I save up a little bit then give myself some runway, I could make this happen.

Kent C. Dodds:
So, it was just an idea in the back of my mind, but then when I was coming down I think about a year later ... And actually at the time Joel from Egghead also suggested that I could work for Egghead and make courses at the same time. So, he wouldn't pay me to be a full time instructor. He was talking about maybe helping, consulting, actually building, that kind of thing. So, I was seriously considering that about my two-year mark at PayPal.

Kent C. Dodds:
Then six months later after that, I had started doing more testing workshops, and that's when I started thinking, hey, I could turn these workshops into courses. That was like my bread and butter, double dipping step. It's a blog post, and then it's a talk, and then it's a workshop, and then it's a course. It doesn't always follow that trend, but they all kind of come from each other. I quadruple dip on this stuff. That's when we started talking about testingjavascript.com as this extra thing.

Kent C. Dodds:
So, it was around August ... I left in February of 2019, and so in August of 2018, so a couple months before, is when we were really talking about Testing JavaScript. I was thinking, I think this will do pretty well. And if I build more things like this in the future, then I think I can make this a full time thing. And I talked to John Lindquist about it too and his experience of being a full time teacher.

Kent C. Dodds:
My number one biggest concern with this, and this may not be a concern for everybody listening ... Some you may be thinking, "I want to build my own product business," or "I want to do a consultancy," or maybe you do want to be an educator. And for me, my biggest fear of going into education was that I would be going to sell courses or do workshops at these big companies, telling them how to ship products at a big company, but I was not at a big company anymore. So, that's interesting, something to really consider. That was my biggest fear.

Kent C. Dodds:
I talked to John about that, and he's like, "You know, that's not really been a problem. I just stay on top of things." If you follow John, he knows his stuff, and he's been doing this full time for years. So, that's a testament to still being with it, even though you're a full time educator. So, I thought, okay, I think I can make this happen.

Kent C. Dodds:
Then Testing JavaScript was launched. I made way more money than I expected from that. Then I decided, okay, this is legit going to happen. I decided to hang on for a little bit longer so I could get all of my stock to vest, because that's what big companies do to you. And you know what? Those last-

Michael Chan:
The golden handcuffs.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, the golden handcuffs. Yeah. Those last couple months, I did some really great things at PayPal. I started the React Component Library at PayPal that they're still using, and I started PayPal Scripts during my last few months at PayPal. Actually, it was my last year at PayPal was working on PayPal Scripts, which most apps that PayPal, most front end apps at PayPal are using PayPal Scripts now as their ... It's like Create React Scripts sort of thing. So, that's really validating. I was able to do some really cool things toward the end.

Kent C. Dodds:
But, anyway, the transition from full time employee to full time on my own was actually so smooth. And this is a question I get a lot from people who are asking about this kind of thing is was it scary. It was not scary at all, because I already had years of experience doing this. I'd spent so much time building this audience, and I'd had an out of the park success with Testing JavaScript. So, I knew that I would be successful going full time as an educator, and it's worked out super great. So, it's been a good time.

Michael Chan:
Now you mentioned that fear of kind of losing your edge but not being too concerned about actually making it work. I'm curious, did you have in mind while you were kind of building your audience at PayPal, that this would be an eventual move for you? Was it always your destination, or did it just kind of happen, as you mentioned, because it was available and you didn't have a reason not to?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. Actually the decision was kind of difficult, made more difficult too because I was enjoying my time at PayPal so much. I thought, I could keep going. Actually my director said, "Hey, listen. You don't want to go full time educator, because as cool as that is and as good as you are, building products is where it's at. You can ship stuff to millions of people. You can't get that anywhere else." And, yeah, okay, but you're pretty incentivized to say that. So, I'm going to take that bias for what it is.

Michael Chan:
You're like, "Well, I made these things that I'm going to continue shipping to millions of people, because I made these abstractions, so ..."

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, yeah. That's right.

Michael Chan:
Now you have both.

Kent C. Dodds:
I do the open source thing, and I can still ship to millions of users. Yeah. For the last few months, it was in the back of my mind, like, "Okay, I'm leaving," but before that, it really wasn't. For me, building an audience and my brand and everything like that, all of that was motivated out of I wanted to be able to ... Aside from getting rid of debt, like I'd already talked about, but actually building that brand was I want to be able to say that, if PayPal were to fire me for one reason or another, like I make a giant mistake or something, I don't know, then I wanted to be able to just tweet out "Hey, I'm looking for a job," and have my pick. And that's what a brand can do for you. It's not the only thing that a brand can do for you or to you, but that was a big part of all of it for me. Then it just so happened that that played in really well to switching into a full time educator.

Kent C. Dodds:
Actually, I would also say that I recognize that not everybody listening to this wants to be a full time educator. I would still suggest that you invest some time into this, because when you go out on your own to build React apps or whatever it is you want to do, you want to have a pool of people that you can hire or a pool of people that can connect you to their company to build, to consult, or whatever it is that you want to do. So, being well known in the community and effectively communicating the value that you can provide is ... I cannot emphasize the value enough. It's really, really helpful.

Michael Chan:
Well, it's interesting, because it sounds like so many of things that you've mentioned as motivators are really just freedom, freedom to leave when you felt the time was right or to have something to move to if you got shown the door, freedom to not be in debt anymore. I think that is something that is maybe a hidden value ... Something that we don't really necessarily think of when we're building or wouldn't necessary articulate when we're building a brand, building an audience, that this is giving you some level of freedom.

Michael Chan:
Your path was to go educator, but this could be building a product, just freedom to find the next thing super easily, all of these things. Or even just to take more with you than you would have based on your resume alone, between can be a real thing too. As complicated as levels and seniority and all of that kind of stuff are at companies, it can be hard to sometimes communicate like, "Well, I was doing this kind of work at this level, and that doesn't really translate to what you're going to hire me for." It sounds like, through audience building, you were able to kind of secure answers for some of those concerns and questions in your mind.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, absolutely. I think that's a very good point, that it's removing uncertainty and ensuring for myself some freedom to be able to do things. I benefit a great amount from privilege and everything. It's a lot easier for me to secure myself some of those freedoms. But I think I was really intentional ... I may not have thought about it as securing for myself some freedom, but that is what the result was. I wanted to get out of debt. I wanted to make sure that ...

Kent C. Dodds:
Really, if we think about the future of AI taking over the world, or there's a really bad downturn, these are the types of things that I thought about actually a lot, and I still do think about these things. So, if there's a economic downturn, there are only a handful of developer jobs, I want to be the developer that everybody knows ... We can only afford one developer, because the economy is so bad, and he's the one that I want.

Kent C. Dodds:
So, it's a bit of a rat race in thinking about it that way, but those are some of the thoughts that I had that really motivated me to make sure that my skills were well known, whatever level they were at. Even when I was a pretty new developer, I wasn't afraid to say "I don't know," but I was very intentional about my communication of my skills and abilities, and that was important to me.

Michael Chan:
Yeah. Now, we're going to talk about brand building in a later episode, but I do want to kind of articulate, at least right now, what some of those skills are, because it feels like there's a bunch of them. So, the ones that come to mind right now is just communicating about code, being able to write code through open source, and then also writing, technical writing, and being able to publish on those fronts. Are there other skills that you've felt were really critical to kind of making this jump from employee to independent?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. I think that being self-driven is so important. You don't have a boss breathing down your neck, saying, "Hey, how's the sprint coming?" or whatever. And even in a friendly way. They don't have to be breathing down your neck. But having somebody there to tell you, "Hey, this is the next thing you've got to be working on," or whatever, I think that is ... You don't appreciate it til it's gone. So, you want to develop the ability to be just self-driven. If you had a month off, would you get any work done during that month? That's probably a good introspective question to ask yourself. Maybe if you get a sabbatical from your company or something, give it a try, or maybe just take the sabbatical. [inaudible 00:14:25]

Kent C. Dodds:
But that is something to keep in mind. You don't have a boss telling you what to do when you go full time on your own, and that is an important skill to take. Otherwise, you're just going to go back to work. Which, I mean, that's not a bad fallback, but if you want to go on your own, then you don't ... That's not an optimal one either.

Michael Chan:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Now, you mentioned this agency thing and being able to kind of have control over yourself or ... What do they call that? Executive function, I guess, being able to kind of say, "Hey, Kent. You're doing this today, whether you want to or not." And I'm curious, how has having to be your own boss changed the way that you think about open source, the time you spend on Twitter, all of these things that are kind of tangential to actually writing code, writing blog posts, doing podcasts, shipping courses?

Kent C. Dodds:
Oh, man. That's a great question, Michael. It's bad. I'm on Twitter way too much. The problem is that, when you're an educator and a brand builder, you see ... Boy, brand builder sounds so gross. Sorry.

Michael Chan:
It just feels gross coming out of your face, right?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, it feels gross. Yeah. We've got to get over the whole personal brand is gross, but we can talk about that later.

Kent C. Dodds:
But it's so easy to say, "Well, Twitter is part of my job," and it is. So, I spend an entire morning on Twitter answering people's questions. I'm not just scrolling through cat videos or something. You can justify it, but-

Michael Chan:
At least not most of the time.

Kent C. Dodds:
Not most of the time, yeah. Sometimes. So, it just can be so easy to justify time wasting as brand building or sharpening the saw or whatever, and, yes, those things are important, but there have been times in the last year and a half since I went full time that I have gone overboard on things that don't actually contribute a whole lot to my bottom line or to my goals. It's not just about the money, but my goal of making the world a better place. Definitely spending time on Twitter or going really deep on some open source stuff that doesn't actually impact me a whole lot, I'm just doing it either because it's kind of fun or, even more, because I feel that I have a responsibility to people who actually aren't paying me anything. So, I actually don't have any responsibility to them.

Kent C. Dodds:
So, it can be a bit of a challenge, especially when some of these things are justifiably part of my job. And it becomes a real problem when work does come home. So, when Twitter's on my phone and somebody asks me a question or Discord and somebody's asking me a question, or any of these things, it becomes really ... It actually becomes more difficult for me to separate work from home when I went full time educator.

Michael Chan:
I'm curious, has this necessitated that you become more metrics driven, that you have to ... I don't know. It's kind of a foggy question, I guess. But you mentioned being able to kind of casually be a part of Twitter before and feel like that was brand building, and now you have to be more intentional about it. Has this driven you to think about things more in terms of metrics and what people engage with, et cetera? Or, do you have other strategies for knowing what you should be focusing on and prioritizing your time?

Kent C. Dodds:
I don't often think about what I do on these platforms as brand building. I more think about them ... I know that Elon Musk isn't a popular person right now, but I'm going to reference him anyway. And there are good reasons that he's not a popular person right now. But he has some really good ideas, and so I'm going to reference him. Tesla does not advertise. They don't have a budget for advertising. They have a marketing budget. Somebody's taking the camera and making those B rolls, but they don't advertise. And what Elon Musk says is he says, "If all the car companies and just all companies were to take the money they spent on advertising and just make the product better, they'd be better off." That's the way that I kind of see the time that I spend on Twitter.

Kent C. Dodds:
I do see some people on Twitter who are very obviously trying to build their platform. I have done that before, for sure. I don't think I needed to do that, and I don't think that type of an investment ... And what I mean is they'll tweet something really generic like, "What's your favorite sock to wear when you're coding up this thing?" Just something very ... They're obviously trying to make it viral. Those things don't contribute to a committed following that I think people are looking for. And especially for me, I don't actually care how big the following is as much as I care about how committed they are to me and my message.

Kent C. Dodds:
So, that's why I'm not super intentional ... There are definitely things that I do to facilitate or to remove barriers from people joining my tribe, but I don't try to manufacture people following me. So, it's never super intentional, the things that I tweet. I don't tweet something and think, "How can I make sure to maximize the number of people that see this?" I'm not sure if that's a great answer to your question, but it's some of the thoughts that I have about it.

Michael Chan:
No, no, no. I think it's something that I've been interested in, because so often, as you mentioned, you do see people in a brand building phase or a ... Maybe not even brand building. Like a follower gaining phase is maybe a better way to put it?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, I think so, because the brand building is more like, "This is what people think about when they ... Or what people think of me." But a follower gaining is just like, "I want a bigger number."

Michael Chan:
Right, right, right. Interesting. Now, how has it changed your open source? We've talked a lot about open source had really kind of gotten the better of you at one point, and you had to set up some rules. Automation played a big role in that. But is this is taking away from time where you can actually ... As open source now takes away from time that you can invest in people and invest in your product, what does that look like now?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. That one was a little tricky. So, before the change, I kind of had this idea that "Oh, sweet. I'll be able to work on open source more." And that was what I wanted. I wanted to be able to do more of that. In retrospect, the open source work that I did with PayPal, I only really worked on stuff that I was actively using, and I only actively used stuff that I was doing at PayPal. So, I could very justifiably and with approval be able to work on open source on the clock. So, before, PayPal was paying for me to work on open source, and now I do. And I'm not paid very well to work on open source. So, it was an interesting change.

Kent C. Dodds:
What really changed about open source now is ... I still only work on open source that I want to, because I think it's interesting. I want to, because I want to make sure that it's done right, for one reason or another, or I'm using it actively. So, that applies to the things that I'm working on now. I have babel-plugin-macros, I think is just super interesting. I do use it a little bit, but there's nothing that I need, nothing new out of it that I need. So, there's not really a whole lot of reason for me to work on it, but I do still, sometimes when there's issues.

Kent C. Dodds:
There's also React Testing Library. I'm using that actively in all of my stuff. I'm teaching about it. I'm making money by teaching people about it. So, it's active on my mind. So, most of my time is actually ... 95% of my open source stuff is Testing Library related, and that's actually a lot of stuff. I wake up every morning with at least 10 emails from notifications of Testing Library stuff, and it gets worse as I'm working on it actively.

Kent C. Dodds:
But then there's something like cross-env, which is a project that I don't actually use a whole lot myself. I do sometimes, but not a lot. It's actually one of my most downloaded projects that I use.

Michael Chan:
Wow.

Kent C. Dodds:
It's millions of downloads a month. So, I pretty much ignore issues on that. It's basically done. There aren't a whole lot of bugs. I get issues on it, and I don't really spend any time on it. I could have justified that when PayPal was helping support my open source work, but I can't justify it myself, because not only is it an actual cost of the time I'm taking, but it's an opportunity cost of the other things I could be doing. So, it has adjusted it.

Kent C. Dodds:
My basic principle of only working on things that I kind of want to, and because I'm interested and/or because I need it, that's been my basic principle for open source for a long time. But now the number of things that I want or need has actually decreased, so I do I think probably less open source than when I was at PayPal.

Michael Chan:
Interesting. So, you focused a lot more on the things that actually directly integrate with your business model, and so right now that's the Testing Library stuff.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yep, yep.

Michael Chan:
Interesting. Now you'd mentioned the increase in difficulty in turning it off at the end of the day, not that you are your own boss, and your own boss kind of goes home with you and is tapping you on the shoulder like all the time. Have you found winning strategies in terms of boundaries for how to turn it off, how to reengage with the family and friends and just general living part of your life?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. Well, I don't have any friends, so ... I'm just kidding. Sometimes it feels like-

Michael Chan:
They're all on Twitter, so you have to go on there to talk to them.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, yeah. Sometimes, especially during this COVID situation, it's hard to have friends, but spending time with family is really critical. The nice thing about being my own boss is I can take a day off and I don't have to tell anybody, and I can just go hang out with family. I do spend a lot of time ... I definitely spend more time with my family than I did before. I take more days off and stuff. It's been really great in that respect. It also helps that I make more now than I did when I was working for PayPal. So, I feel like there's less of an urgency to work.

Kent C. Dodds:
But at the same time, I really want to, and I really enjoy working. I really enjoy what I do. There's just something about tweeting an answer to somebody, even if it's a link to my blog post, and them saying, "You're the best," or thanking me in any way, that I don't quite feel when my kid is kicking my shins or something.

Kent C. Dodds:
I think that one thing that I've learned in the last year and a half if that maybe my kids would kick my shins less if I put the phone away. I've really learned that connecting with my children is a great way to make me enjoy them more. Yeah. It's been fascinating. And I'm constantly learning a between this, and it's honestly a real battle, because it takes a lot more effort to connect with my children. It's hard to say that, because it shouldn't. You hold them for the first time. You never forget that moment. It's just unlike anything. They're awesome. I love them.

Kent C. Dodds:
But there's something that just makes it difficult to connect with them and just so much easier to go to the phone and pull out ... And especially when I can justify it, by saying ... And justify it to myself, or sometimes even to my wife, "Well, oh, this is really important," when it's not. It's not. If it's not important enough for me to come down to my office and just dedicate myself to work, then it's absolutely not important enough for me to be distracted by my phone when my kids are around. So, yes, anyway, you asked about strategies. These are just some things that I've learned.

Michael Chan:
Well, I think that's a really important thing, and I think that, as a dad, I empathize with that a lot. It can be so ... You get the endorphin rush when someone thinks you're awesome, and you don't get it when your kid ... I mean, your kids kind of think you're awesome, but also they treat you like their slave.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yes! It's like they're shouting their demands at you constantly, like, "I need milk! Wipe my bum!" And you're like, "Do you know who I am?"

Michael Chan:
Do you know who I am?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. For real.

Michael Chan:
There was this series on Apple TV+ called Dads, and it was Bryce Dallas Howard did this really cool documentary with a bunch of dads, interviewing them. And I remember very specifically Will Smith was talking about this with his kids, and he's like, "My kids think I am a joke." He's like, "And I just want to tell them all the time like, 'I am hot. Do you know who I am?'"

Kent C. Dodds:
That's awesome.

Michael Chan:
But I think it's true-

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, I can't even being Will Smith in that position. I'm pretty well known in a very small niche. It should be an honor to hang out with me. No. But, no, they don't care. They don't care.

Michael Chan:
No, they don't care. But I think that's a really interesting thing, just that juxtaposition and how hard it can be to have to turn a switch and go from a domain where people really respect you and want your opinion and crave it and our willing to take whatever scraps you can give them to, like you said, "Wipe my butt! Now!"

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, totally. And that context which is actually often very hard ... It was hard before, but it's even harder now, because I am my own boss. I have people to chat with about things that I'm struggling with stuff, and I can livestream, and that's great. But often I am just kind of stuck in my own brain, thinking through things and trying to figure things out. So, especially on the days ... We all have these days where the day is done, and you didn't finish. And I have this particular struggle with not having something finished, especially when in my mind I kind of think that it's almost done. So, if I have to stop the day and go hang out with my family, my brain is still working, and I have a really hard time turning that off and disengaging. That's a bit of a trip for me.

Kent C. Dodds:
Another thing with that too is, if I've had a really rough day, then I'm not super jazzed about hanging out with my kids and wrestling with them or whatever. I'm just totally drained, and I want to spend some time just vegetating on the couch, do nothing for a little while, just so that I can have that ... I don't know. It's just so much easier to scroll on the phone, and especially when I can justify it. I guess that's pretty much all I have to say about that. It's thought that I'm constantly learning.

Kent C. Dodds:
Oh, and you did ask me about strategies, so I'll just mention a couple things that I've done. I haven't had the Twitter app on my phone for a long time, for over a year. I use just the mobile web, and it actually works out pretty well. I do have it up right now. There it is.

Michael Chan:
Nice.

Kent C. Dodds:
But most of the time, I just go like this, log out, and I just am not logged in. Actually I've found that it's mostly a habit thing. It's mostly habitual that I jump into using Twitter. So, if I pull up my phone and I say, "Okay, let's go to Brave browser," and, oh yeah, I'm logged out, that gives me just enough time to stop thinking just autonomously and actually start thinking, "Oh yeah, what should I be doing instead? Where should I spend my time?" So, of all the strategies that I've implemented, that's probably the most.

Kent C. Dodds:
I've actually been reading this book, or listening, because I don't read books, listening to this book called Thinking Fast and Slow. It's a very popular book. So, this is system one, system two thinking, where system one is just all about just the habit basically. It engages your brain just enough to intuitively do the thing that you're trying to do. I also recently listened to Why We Do What We Do, which is another very interesting book about habits. So, just by putting one roadblock in there, it switches me from system one to system two, which is more analytical and I can process what I'm trying to do. That actually has helped quite a bit.

Kent C. Dodds:
As far as other strategies, I don't really have anything else. Talking with my wife, that could probably be a good thing that I should do. Like, "Hey, I'm struggling with this. It's hard." Just acknowledge that together. She's motivated by me connecting with the family as well. So, she'd probably be interested in helping me be successful and getting off of that step.

Michael Chan:
Now you mentioned having good resources, and I'm curious, in this transition, were there books or people that made a bigger impact on this move than others?

Kent C. Dodds:
One book that I actually listened to pretty recently that is ... So, it didn't help me with the transition, but it's something that I've been thinking about a little bit, is Rich Dad Poor Dad. I can't remember that guy's name. But really interesting, kind of entrepreneurial thoughts or thoughts around entrepreneurship. Now I guess I'm an entrepreneur, which is not a thing that I ever really thought of myself or ever thought I would be, but I am. So, that was one book that I actually would recommend most people listen to. It's very interesting. I almost feel angry listening to it, because it's just like, "Here's how you can bend the capitalist society to your advantage." And I hate that. It's so wrong. But it is what it is. So, it works.

Kent C. Dodds:
It's just something to think about. It makes me think, I never want to be an employee again, even though I seriously considered over this weekend like, how cool would it be to build the interface that astronauts use when they go to Mars? The Dragon capsule came back to Earth today, and you're seeing them touch the screen, and I know that's Web. That's actually Web Components. I think they're using Polymer or something weird like that, but-

Michael Chan:
Wild.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. So, I was like, "I want to build that." But, no, I don't want to be an employee, so ...

Michael Chan:
Well, it's interesting that ... One theme that I love from that book, Rich Dad Poor Dad ... And I have a complicated relationship with that book as well. There's a couple of good nuggets and some stuff that I really don't enjoy reading. But the thing that I found I think probably just most captivating was this idea of minding your own business. This is something that I think has been represented by all of our conversations so far. Even as you are an employee, you're thinking about how to do things in a way that was very Kent C. Dodds and be able to talk about that in a way that was Kent C. Dodds. And it's not just like, "Oh, I'm doing this thing for PayPal. I'm doing this thing for whatever the company is," but "How can I do this in the most me way possible and communicate that in a way that brings me value and gives other people some value as well?" I think that alone is probably worth the book. I can definitely see those marks all over you and the work and the conversations that we've had so far.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. I think it's like, how can I make this as symbiotic relationship as possible, benefits both of us as much as possible, in a way that ... You already get that, right? Most people think, I get hired, I get benefits, and I get a salary, and I get days off and whatever, and they think that's all the company can do for them and that's all that they're going to accept from the company. And whether I was intentional about it or not, I don't think I was, but I just kind of naturally turned it into "How do I still give everything I can to PayPal and Alianza and Domo and everybody, while taking as much of this into my own benefit as possible?" Yeah.

Kent C. Dodds:
I like that insight, because I hadn't really considered that, but that is absolutely what I have done over the course of my career is like, "How do I optimize what I'm doing for this company to also benefit me just as much?" This is why you're not going to find me using ancient technologies or learning about the intricacies of how we deploy software or the custom-made software that we have a PayPal, learning what this button does or ... I don't care about that stuff. I can't transfer that. So, yeah, just being very intentional about the types of things that I am putting into this brain so that I can keep it and it'll still be useful. That was a big reason why I switched from Angular to React was like, there's too much in here that's just Angular and I can't transfer it to anything else. It's not useful anywhere else.

Michael Chan:
Now, I think this is probably a good reframing of this initial idea that could be helpful to everybody. But as we change the meaning of independent from being you run your business to being an independent person, someone who is able to take a job and do it independently, build a brand independently, think about things as a person, not just an employee. What advice do you have to people who maybe don't want to go out on their own but want to be more independent as an employee?

Kent C. Dodds:
I think that's something great to think about, and especially in the thinking about it from the terms of a job security standpoint where you're like, "I don't really want to work for this company anymore. They started doing some really unethical things as a company, and I don't want to be a part of this." As a software industry, there are people who are coding up the bad things that companies are doing. You're a developer too. You made the choice to code this. It's not just the bad CEOs who are doing this thing. There are developers doing it. They're complicit.

Michael Chan:
Well, we saw this a few years ago in a very real way with BMW stuff.

Kent C. Dodds:
Right.

Michael Chan:
Not BMW. Sorry, BMW. Volkswagen.

Kent C. Dodds:
Volkswagen. Yeah. Volkswagen. Yeah.

Michael Chan:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Where it was like they had to make some hard decisions about how far down they were going to accuse people at, because on some level it's a manager saying, "Hey, you need to do this," and someone just saying, "Okay. Well, it's my job." Right?

Kent C. Dodds:
Right.

Michael Chan:
But what level of responsibility and agency do you have over your own work?

Kent C. Dodds:
Right. Exactly. So, I feel like you should be able to be intentional about your own fireability or firing the company from your life. So, some things to do I think is do a good job of communicating this stuff that you create. Try to double dip as much as you can. You don't have to write blog posts or make videos or anything necessarily if that's not your thing, but find some way to latch on to other people at your company and make sure that they understand how much value you provide to the company. Because, when they hightail it out of there, you want them to bring you, or you want to join up with them and build something together. So, find opportunities even within the company to make sure people understand the value that you can provide.

Kent C. Dodds:
Also, ensuring that ... Try to work on the cool projects, I guess. I know everybody wants to work on the latest and greatest technologies, and so sometimes those are hard to get, especially if you're newer. But if you can't, then find ways to take what you have today and turn that into a really awesome success story where like, "I worked on this super legacy code base, and I implemented a couple of interesting patterns. And now that legacy code base wasn't so hard to work on anymore." Then do that, and then communicate that effectively to the people around you.

Kent C. Dodds:
I know not everybody's super jazzed about writing a blog, but write a blog. It helps a lot. It's not just for other people to see, but it's for your eyes as well. It forces you into this idea of thinking critically about what you've accomplished. When I was on a mission for my church, there was one missionary that I went teaching with at one point for a short time who, after every single lesson, we would get back in the car, and he had a post-it note that he would just write down all of the things that went wrong or all of the things that went well. He would give himself feedback on that. I never inherited that ability, but I think I should have, because he was one of the best teachers that I knew on my mission.

Kent C. Dodds:
I think why that is is because he thought critically about what he'd accomplished and what he had done. And even if he didn't ever look at that post-it again, having written it down, it forced him to think about that critically. And the next time, it just became more ingrained in him on how to avoid making that same mistake or make sure that he didn't forget to teach about that one other thing, that interesting insight, or whatever it was. So, even if you don't want to publish a blog post, write something down about what you've learned.

Michael Chan:
I think this is really interesting, because I know that, as I develop as a designer and engineer, so many times I'm just copy and pasting from myself in the past. Like, "Oh, I know I've solved this before." And as an employee, if I don't blog that ... And I'm really thinking about right now as you mention this. If I don't blog that and I just leave that in the code base, that's not mine for forever. At some point, I'm going to move on, and now I've lost my own ability to copy and paste from myself, which sucks.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, it does. There are definitely some ... PayPal Scripts, I know there are some pieces of code in there that I'd really like to get a hand on, because I forgot how I did that.

Kent C. Dodds:
Of course there's one company that I worked for as an intern, and I pasted some code into Stack Overflow to ask a question, and a year later, after I'd left the company, I had a manager email me and say, "Hey, that was not okay." I think that he didn't see the date on the Stack Overflow or something, but he got it in his mind that I took the code with me and I was using it or something. I'm not sure what ... I was very confused. I was like, "It's Stack Overflow."

Kent C. Dodds:
So, you do want to make sure that you check in and say, "Hey, I want to blog about this. There's nothing proprietary in here. I just want to blog." If you share it from the example or from the standpoint of "I'm just sharing what I'm learning," then it seems less like you're stealing our trade secrets than "I'm just going to copy this and hold onto it myself for use later." So, making it a public blog and making sure that your boss is cool with that I think is a great approach to solving that problem.

Michael Chan:
Well, in our last episode, we talked a lot about having the author mode and the editor mode, but it sounds like in this one we're kind of identifying a third mode, which is that marketing mode. In order to be a good developer, you have to have the author and the editor. But then if you want to really take control over your career and be an independent developer, having this marketing side of you, whether that just be making sure that the people that you work with are going to want you on your team when they move somewhere else, or have the ability to have a wide audience to be able to ask like, "Where's my next opportunity?" Having that marketability of yourself is a critical skill for building up your career.

Kent C. Dodds:
I think that is so key. I know that lots of people don't fancy themselves as marketers, but a lot of my freedom comes from my ability to market myself. So, take that for what it's worth.

Michael Chan:
Well, I think that's a great place to end for this episode. We are going to be talking more about building an audience and public speaking and also how to keep learning. So, thanks so much for this episode, Kent. I'm excited to talk to you in the next one.

Kent C. Dodds:
All right. See you, Michael.

Kent C. Dodds:
(silence)