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I'm Officially an Expert!

Sunday, April 7th 2019

I'm excited to announce I'm officially part of the Google Developer Expert program specializing in Web Technologies. I think it's going to be a good opportunity to further explore the kind of mentoring opportunities I've gravitated towards the past few years, through speaking, writing articles, working with and being and advocate for new developers and generally trying to promote and protect the "good" things about the web.

The idea was planted in my head during my last talk at C'T WebDev. I'm happy I followed up on that and saw it through. Now I'm part of some very interesting groups and Slack channels discussing and sharing lots of cool, bleed-ing edge stuff coming to the web, hopefully sooner than later!

The process was pretty quick and largely painless. For those curious or interested it looks something like this:

  • You need to receive an invite from someone already in the GDE program
  • Once invited there's a form you can fill out sharing some of the work you've done, why you think you'd be a good expert and what you hope to be able to do as part of the program
  • If you look good enough on paper you'll have an initial interview scheduled with a community member—another GDE person.
  • If that interview goes well you'll be scheduled for a second interview with someone at Google.
  • After the second interview they'll let you know if you're in.

There are different areas of specialization. My focus for the application was on Web Technologies. During the course of my two interviews there weren't any technical questions I recall. No writing a progressive web app by hand on a whiteboard or anything like that.

In both my interviews it felt more like a friendly, professional conversation where I got to talk about my experience as an independent developer and discuss the topics I like to speak about at conferences. I got to share why I feel they're important and express my outlook on the unique challenges posed in keeping-up with the latest in web development.

I can't vouch for what kind of questions other interviewers might ask or if different topics have more technical interviews, but that was my experience. I think the way I was able to talk about my experiences, the fact I've been doing this for solidly over a decade and my body of work doing mentor-like activities the past few years all played a role.

I'll end things on this observation: This whole experience reminds me of a Steve Jobs quote. He's lionized to a degree in our industry that's really unhealthy, which is almost certainly a topic for a different post, but I can't deny he had some good quotes.

I think about this quote sometimes:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Two and a half years ago I gave a five-minute lightning talk at the science museum about my year traveling around the world. Why did I do that? Because I'd signed-up to do it seven or more years earlier, on a whim, and just happened to still be on the mailing list. It went well enough that I thought maybe I could start giving presentations at conferences? Another way to go out and see the world, I thought.

My talk idea was based on something I'd made for a music project years earlier to satisfy my own curiosity—using a music protocol to do silly, non-musical things. It was a fun, goofy idea that came to one one weekend that I never expected to meaningfully resurface.

It was niche-enough to pique the interest of a few conferences, including one in Russia. I nearly deleted the Slack invitation because it was in Cyrillic. So I ended taking a ridiculous weekend trip from Portland, Oregon over to St. Petersburg in the middle of the 10-week bootcamp I was leading. That goes well enough and here I am, a couple years later, a healthy number of other conferences under my belt and a body of work that looks good enough to open a door into the GDE program. I'm excited to see what other doors await.

To get back to the quote; I had no intention of doing anything like this a few years ago. An old mailing list, an old art project, a lifelong interest in traveling and seeing the world coupled with lots of luck led me here. The dots only make sense looking backwards, like the quote says.

I look forward to adding more dots.