Resources Blog Wicked Good Development Episode 32: Java queens at Devnexus ...

Wicked Good Development Episode 32: Java queens at Devnexus 2023


Prepare for an insightful discussion with Java Champions Erin Schnabel, Emily Jiang, Mary Gygleski, and Holly Cummins at Devnexus 2023.

They sit down with Sonatype’s Kadi Grigg and Theresa Mammarella for an unforgettable conversation about making an impact in the tech community.

They cover topics like:

  • Their unique journeys in tech
  • Embracing the mindset of a lifelong learner
  • The power of goal setting for personal growth 
  • The essential qualities of a great leader
  • Why conference talks, like this one, fuel their passion and drive

Don’t miss this chance to learn from some of the brightest minds in the industry. 🔥

Listen to the episode

Wicked Good Development is available wherever you find your podcasts. Visit our page on Spotify's

Show notes



Relevant links


Kadi Grigg (00:11):
Hi, my name's Kadi Grigg.

Theresa Mammarella (00:13):
And I'm Theresa Mammarella.

Kadi Grigg (00:14):
Welcome back to another episode of Wicked Good Development. Today we have a special treat for you: a live conversation recorded at Devnexus, the largest Java conference in the U.S. That's right, folks. We've gone rogue.

Theresa Mammarella (00:26):
You'll hear from distinguished leaders in the tech industry: Erin Schnabel, Distinguished Engineer at Red Hat and Java Champion, Emily Jiang, STSM, Cloud Native Architect and Advocate at IBM and a Java Champion, Mary Grygleski, Developer Advocate at DataStax and Java Champion, and Holly Cummins, Senior Principal Engineer at Red Hat and Java Champion. Join us as they share their insights in getting into tech, embracing lifelong learning, and thriving in this fast-paced industry.

Kadi Grigg (00:58):
You'll experience the speakers in their element, unwinding after a day of knowledge-sharing, surrounded by the sounds of engaging conversation and the aroma of fresh coffee. You'll also enjoy some lighthearted moments such as technical glitches, stories about their careers, taking them far and wide, and insights into being a leader. We hope that you'll discover the journey matters more than the destination, regardless of where you come from and what privileges you may have. Dedication to your craft and the power of dreams can help you forge your own unique path. So grab your headphones, prepare to laugh and be inspired. You won't want to miss this one.

Erin Schnabel  (01:39):
I'm Erin Schnabel. I was at IBM for 21 years and at Red Hat for three-ish, almost. I'm a distinguished engineer now. Oh gosh, I think I got-- I started when my dad brought home my first-- our first computer when I was eight.

Kadi Grigg (01:54):
What computer was it?

Erin Schnabel  (01:55):
I actually have it on my Twitter feed. It was a "portable"-- those on the podcast cannot see the giant air quotes-- it was a port-- it had a handle, but the thing was like 20 pounds. And it had two 5.25 floppy drives. Those big ones. That had like no RAM. It had like the little flip-up monitor, which we immediately took off. But the thing was like 50 pounds. "Portable" Computer.

Kadi Grigg (02:22):
So, your parents were kind of ahead of the times then if they had a computer?

Erin Schnabel  (02:24):
It was like a cast-off from work that my dad-- that was like all of our first things was dad bringing home things from work that they didn't need anymore.

Kadi Grigg (02:31):
That's awesome.

Erin Schnabel  (02:32):
And so then the next computer, like it was, oh gosh, probably a 386. And I was the one that put the modem in it. But I taught myself to type playing King's Quest, because if you typed more, you had to type correctly or you would die, and then you had to type all the spells right before the wizard came on.

Kadi Grigg (02:50):
That sounds way more entertaining than like Mavis Beacon that I had when I--

Erin Schnabel  (02:53):
Oh, I had that too. We had that too. We had both, but it was definitely more entertaining to try to type all the spells really fast before the wizard came on.

Kadi Grigg (03:01):
That's awesome. Thank you for sharing. Holly?

Holly Cummins (03:05):
I think I might have had the same computer as Erin. So yeah. So, neither of my parents are in technology, but my dad really had an interest in technology. So again, at some point he like brought home this computer, and it was, yeah, it was a box, like the size of a large bread bin, and it was called "portable." And really it was like a suitcase. Yeah, it was a box the size of a suitcase, and you could sort of unfold it. It was a CP/M machine, and there was this game on it, which was the most amazing game I've ever played. It was like little text-level game. It was very cute. But I didn't immediately go into technology. I did physics in university, and then I stayed in university until it wasn't practical to stay in university any longer. And then I realized I had to get a job. So, I realized that all of the problems I'd been doing, I'd been sort of trying to turn into computer problems even though I was studying physics. So, I thought rather than trying to sneak computers in, I could actually just get paid for playing with computers. And I think it's incredibly lucky, because I still get paid to play with computers.

Mary Grygleski (04:08):
Holly should not be shy. That PhD in physics is in quantum.

Erin Schnabel  (04:13):
Holly's going to undersell her physics here.

Kadi Grigg (04:22):
Alright, Mary?

Mary Grygleski (04:25):
So, mine may be a little longer, but okay. So, I actually grew up with a crazy brother. Turned out that two years ago he was diagnosed finally at age 60. He actually has autism-- some autism spectrum. But anyway, he's just extremely talented in computer stuff or any kind of digital technology, electronics, mechanical. He would take things apart and put things back. It's just his natural thing. But the rest of his life is just handicapped. He cannot do any other thing. But that's him. Anyway, so I grew up with him, but at the time didn't know he just has this special-- everybody knew he was smart, but nobody knew he had that autism kind of missing piece. Anyway. So, it seems like too, whatever he said, he would naturally have some weight in what he said.

Mary Grygleski (05:11):
So, when I was growing up, actually he would be such a snob. I ask him questions. "How Do I solve this math problem?" All these things. And he would be like, "I'm not going to tell you, because you're a girl, you won't understand." He really said that. I remember it just got me mad. And I remember going on "space mission." That was something we used to like to play, where we put chairs, and then he was, "Oh, we're going on space mission." He's older by the way, older by three years or something. Anyway, then he was just saying that, "Okay, I will be the captain." And I said, "I want to be." And he would never let me. So anyway, so I was kind of developing a bit of a resistance against technology just because of him. I felt like, "Okay, that's his space. I don't want to deal with him."

Mary Grygleski (05:48):
So, I didn't do anything with it until I got to college, and I decided to come to the U.S. And so I came here. At first I thought I'd major in sports physiology, because I was very active in sports. But then there was chances to work with computers. And of course too for me, growing up in Hong Kong, I did not really have much exposure anyway to computers back then. And because PC was just coming out at that time. So, in my case too, it's that I got to the college and there was student information systems. You need to enter all your stuff-- starting to get into computers. Actually, that was running IBM mainframe I remember. But it was fascinating to me. So I thought, "Oh, this is pretty cool." And you actually enter something in the old style as request-response.

Mary Grygleski (06:32):
So, kind of like "okay, enter your name and your address," all these things. So, I was doing it, and I thought, "Well, this is fascinating." I never had it before, but I was very good in math. So, then I thought, "Well, maybe." The first year I didn't go straight to computers, but I did take an introductory to computer course. And actually the professor who taught me actually turned out to be a distinguished engineer at IBM. And I found that out. It was so funny, I said, "Oh wow, you're the person to get me into computers." And I took his class. So anyway, he was very good too. So, I think that's how I became interested. And then I switched my major in my sophomore year as a result. So, that's how I got in. Yeah, so ever since then, I've been in computers, working with it, like it or not, and now I'm an advocate, which I really love. Absolutely love. So, yeah. So yeah.

Kadi Grigg (07:22):

Mary Grygleski (07:23):

Emily Jiang (07:24):
I shared a story at this morning's "Women in Tech" at Devnexus at the conference. I have a completely different background with all of you, because I grew up in China. In northeast China it's pretty modern, like things developed so fast. But back 30 years ago, really underdeveloped. I had not even seen a computer before I went to university. So, basically the first time I heard of a computer is after I finished my A-level study. Also, basically, my family is quite poor. One thing I want to do is I want to earn a lot of money. So, I said, "Oh, okay, because I did really well in school's A-levels, so I can choose the best most popular subjects, which is computing." And also I said, "I want to go to the most modern places, which is Shanghai."

Emily Jiang (08:35):
So, I choose Shanghai and study computing. So, my starting level is like a few years behind. But I know I can do it. I said in my heart, "No, that's kind of, even now, it's difficult for me, but I can learn." So, it's basically I can learn fast. And also I find myself interested in it, and I can get all the logics and etc. Yeah, I'm quite happy. And did my degree. And then I went to university to be a lecturer. I started teaching computing, teaching programming, and then quite comfortably living a happy life. And then my husband said, "Oh, I want to go to the U.K. To do something different." So, basically at that time, I throw away all the things I built up in China and started to build up my English skills.

Emily Jiang (10:42):
Because in China, I can read and write English without any problem. However, I didn't practice speaking and didn't even understand or think much about speaking either. So, when I go to the U.K., basically I've become like basically don't understand people and nobody understand me. So, it's completely-- I finally climbed up through like halfway, and boom, I jump to the bottom of it. And then I went to university. So, I did my master's degree at the same time and learned English as well. So, it's kind of the meaning is the reading and writing. So, it's-- not writing-- listening. Listening, comprehension, and speaking. And yes, it is also learn-- basically learn Java, learn all the things. In China in the beginning of the nineties, I think Java was not heard of in China either.

Emily Jiang (11:21):
So, I started to learn Java and self-taught Java. And I studied really hard. So, I did well in Reading University. And then I was lucky, because I did well. And then also I can do computing on a good job. And I've been working in other companies, and then graduated, and I got a job in IBM as an experience, not as a graduate, took a exam and got through all the interviews and etc. I have been working for IBM like 16 years, I think. I love it.

Mary Grygleski (11:21):
That's impressive too.

Emily Jiang (11:21):

Kadi Grigg (11:22):
So, I have to ask, are you a lifelong learner? Because I feel like learning a new language and learning computing at the same time, like my brain would be just bleeding all the time. That's a lot.

Emily Jiang (11:32):
Yeah, I think it is-- if you choose computing, you have to learn every day. Yeah, all the time. Actually to share with you another story, because I went to Shanghai, so it's finance and economics. And a lot of them left computing went to work for banks, for accounting. The only-- one of the big attraction points is they don't have to learn everyday. When they heard, "Oh, Emily is still working on a program? You are you mad? Is she still learning? Is she enjoying life?"

Erin Schnabel  (12:14):
Best things since slight spread.

Emily Jiang (12:17):
Yeah, absolutely.

Holly Cummins (12:18):
I know it's time to shift roles if I stop learning.

Emily Jiang (12:21):
Yeah. So, this is one of the best things. If you are in IT, you have to keep learning. And then nothing is boring, right? It's quite nice.

Kadi Grigg (12:32):
And I feel like we're coming at these shows anyways and all of you are speakers. So, it's like constantly educating people. People are coming here to learn, but you guys are also going to learn at some of these other talks.

Holly Cummins (12:41):
Oh, totally.

Emily Jiang (12:42):
Oh yeah. Yeah, I learned a lot today.

Kadi Grigg (12:46):
So, what has been most Interesting-- We're all at Devnexus. What interesting talks have you guys been to today or yesterday? Anything stand out?

Mary Grygleski (12:54):
Mine might be biased just because I was real busy. My talk just happened. So, I didn't have time. Except then my colleague's presenting, it's actually on Pulsar client for Apache-- for Spring, so I should say. But that was new too. Some new library. So, that's where I went to. I thought that went very well. But that's kind of biased. Well, I have to say it's a bit of a niche thing. A topic, yeah.

Kadi Grigg (13:17):

Theresa Mammarella (13:17):
We should ask what everybody talked about, since we were all too busy to go to talks.

Emily Jiang (13:23):
I didn't-- I haven't been down for any talks.

Erin Schnabel  (13:27):
I went to a couple talks, but it was so Devnexus actually is a learning experience for me for the last couple years. But that's basically because I do conference-driven development. So, for the last couple years I have deliberately submitted talks for things I don't know on purpose.

Kadi Grigg (13:45):
Oh really?

Erin Schnabel  (13:46):

Kadi Grigg (13:47):
Wow. That's kind of cool.

Erin Schnabel  (13:47):
So, that means I have to learn it and write the thing and be able to articulate it. But it also means when I'm standing up there that anybody else that doesn't know it, I didn't know it either. So, I'm not coming at it from a point of being the expert. Right?

Holly Cummins (14:01):
But I think that can be a really strong way of doing-- I mean not necessarily doing it at the last minute from position of panic. I've been there too. But sometimes I've seen talks from people who really know something so well, and they don't understand what you don't get because it was so long ago that it was confusing to them. Whereas when you're coming to it new, you can sort of really articulate, "Okay, here's the gotchas. Here's the bit that's not obvious. You know, I tripped over this, but here's how you fix it."

Mary Grygleski (14:35):
That is very true.

Erin Schnabel  (14:36):
But then the other thing that I recommend people do-- I do it every year because I'm stubborn-- is Advent of Code. It's the best. So, it is an Advent calendar, but for people who are nerds to write code. In fairness so nobody beats themselves up, I only get through Day 16, because then my family comes. But it's like an Advent calendar. You get a new puzzle every day. But my game, the way I play it, is not for speed. Some people are like, "I want to be able to do it in two hours." No, no, no, no. That's not the way me and my friends play. We deliberately handicap ourselves every year. We do it in a language we do not know.

Mary Grygleski (15:10):
So, what was it last year?

Erin Schnabel  (15:12):
So, actually the last two years I did Rust, and for two years before that I did Go, because I didn't know either of those. Ironically, the language I still don't know is Python. I don't know Python. So, the last two years-- and I meant to do-- I was intending, fully intending to just use boxes, which in Rust is using Heap. I'm like, I'm going to do everything with boxes. But then I'm like, "I don't even remember the syntax." So, I guess I'm just back to basic Rust this year, because I don't remember anything from last year. But what I found is if you do that, even if you just make it through the first couple days with a totally different language, the nature of the puzzles-- it's very algorithm-centric. If you took algorithm classes from a million years ago, you can either try to brute force or use one of the libraries-- your call. But by the time you're done, you know the basics of the language. And so that's why I do it. So, I do it with a different language every year or a language that I don't know. And I use that as a reason to learn a new thing.

Theresa Mammarella (16:15):
I had one year where-- my husband's a very beginner programmer-- and I was doing Advent of Code in Java, and he was doing it in Python. And it was really fun to then compare the different approaches we had and how the languages handled some of those problems.

Erin Schnabel  (16:31):
So, with my crew, my sister last year was doing Python, my friend Jeremy was doing TypeScript, because he does TypeScript otherwise Ozzy was doing Streams-- he was doing everything Java Stream, everything had to be a Stream. Ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous the way those came out. And then we had, oh gosh, Elan and some of the other folks, they do the craziest-- we had somebody doing Kotlin, and we had somebody doing Crystal, and someone else doing Julia, like the most random assortment of languages. But then we can all compare notes, and they are all very different, which is just--

Kadi Grigg (17:09):
That'd be interesting to compare.

Erin Schnabel  (17:10):
Exactly. It's like, oh, that's how that language works. And it's, it's really cool.

Emily Jiang (17:14):
Yeah, there was a suggestion they learn new programming language each year. So, that makes you think of the languages you are using from different angle. So, it is a-- yeah, it's great. One year, I want share, I was a lecturer-- basically, I became a lecturer immediately after my university graduation, and a teacher undergraduate in a different university. You know, in universities, I feel like these four years, you learn so many things actually just on the surface. And I couldn't go to the platform to do a one-hour presentation and with very minimal knowledge and learn in one single subject, because a single subject you just learn like one hour per week sometimes. It's not much. I think this is transformed to be the presentation-- to be at a conference talking-- actually you have to think, "Okay, I need to educate others." If I want to give one hour of knowledge actually myself, I need to put in maybe at least 50 hours, 100 hours as time. I think in two years I studied many books. I think I studied probably eight years undergraduate courses in that two-year lecturing experience.

Theresa Mammarella (18:51):
So, it's not so much the going to the talks-- that does give some continuous learning-- but the writing talks is also hugely beneficial.

Emily Jiang (19:01):

Mary Grygleski (19:02):
Definitely. I think definitely. I think, like Erin says, if you do something that's brand new, it's actually even better. And actually that's what's happening to me these days. "Oh Yeah, I haven't done it." Okay, let me write a talk and write it up. And then I wait until the last minute, "Oh my gosh, I've got to do it. Ok, ok, ok. Yeah." But somehow too, it works for me too. I have to be under pressure, then all of a sudden it comes in, then I'll be all focused like that.

Emily Jiang (19:25):
Yeah it forces you to do it. Yeah. Sometimes this is why goal setting is ever so important. You set a goal at that time, "Oh, that's a good goal." I set it up and, "Oh, I need to achieve that." And then yeah, if you don't set a goal, no bother.

Holly Cummins (19:48):
I mean a conference talk is accountability and action, isn't it? Because otherwise, you set the goal and you're like, "Well, maybe I do it, maybe I don't." Maybe with the conference talk, if you don't do it-- public humiliation.

Emily Jiang (20:02):
Yeah. Yeah.

Kadi Grigg (20:04):
So, all of you who are leaders, right? Some of you are Java champions, you're deeply technical leaders in this.

Emily Jiang (20:10):
All of us!

Holly Cummins (20:10):
I think all of us are. Yeah.

Kadi Grigg (20:15):
I know this is a news flash all a sudden. Hi, here we are. And I was just curious, what other things have you seen along your journey into leadership roles that has helped you get there? So, lifelong learning seems to obviously be a key theme in all of your lives, but is there anything else that has helped you on that journey to leadership?

Holly Cummins (20:36):
I mean, I think it's about lifelong learning for us, but then making sure that there's lifelong learning for those around us as well. And I think that's a lot of what defines a leader is bringing people with them. Sharing that love of learning, but then also actually sharing the particular elements of learning and the flip as well. So, part of it is teaching the people around you, but then it's also learning from the people around you because often they know more about it than you. And so then it's giving them that opportunity to be a teacher, which then grows them in a different way too.

Kadi Grigg (21:05):
It's true. Is like the see one, do one, teach one type mindset where you're like, "Okay, I'll learn this and see if I really know what to teach them."

Mary Grygleski (21:12):
Yeah, I think definitely teaching. Plus also, I lead the Chicago Java User Group, so it's a technical community. So, I think that's where too, I feel it kind of becomes kind of spontaneous. I have to be leading. I have to make a decision. People are coming to me, and speakers and partners and sponsors, all these things. So yeah, definitely too I think running a technical community too definitely helps too with leadership training, self-learning, self things. So yeah.

Emily Jiang (21:44):
Yeah, I think the other thing is-- for defining to be a leader-- the other thing is that, okay I think the commonly understood leader, okay, oh, you are great at all times. I think that the other thing the leader needs to make sure when they are not there, things will continue to be on the right track. So, that's really-- in the beginning I thought, okay, every crisis I'll jump up. "Oh Yeah, we need to do this." And then eventually you find out, like I think, "Oh, deferring the decision to me is doing this. I don't want to be the bottleneck." I want to sometimes move on to do other things. So, that's why sometimes I say see it as bad, because yeah, some people directly point at me and say, "Oh, can someone else?" I directly put their name up, but can you go and help it out? Basically, you leave some space for others to go there, and so you can move on to be another leader. So, basically broaden your vision as well. This is very important.

Kadi Grigg (22:53):
That's true. I think that's a good point though about leaving that space for someone to learn too. And you have to factor in the fact too that people all have different learning styles. So, some are visual. I'm an auditory learner. And then what's the other one? Kinetic? Like touching you, just rolling up your sleeves and doing it. I think your site says you just love being up in elbows and coats. Maybe that's your learning style?

Erin Schnabel  (23:14):
I can't stop. I can't learn from YouTube. That's why I do conference-driven development. I must be thrown in. I must be thrown in. I can't. I can't. No, that's not entirely true. I have had cases where I needed to bootstrap on a topic really fast. And so I did ingest the entire internet worth of YouTube conference recordings about a topic, because it's like there's only so many hours in the day, and I still have to fold laundry and do dishes and do other human grown-up adult things. So, actually at KubeCon last week I was asked to do a talk about career development and my whole career journey. So, this whole conversation is kind of surreal to revisit on that. But I had-- my dad is amazing, and he had a couple things that he would always say that really shaped how I grew as a person. One of them was to Emily's point, you train your replacement.

Erin Schnabel  (24:08):
So, you always train who's going to step in after you, because that means you can leave, and you don't leave any-- you train your replacement. He also said never to stay anywhere for longer than five years. I obviously blew that, because I stayed at IBM for 21. But to that point, we moved around. Liberty was maybe seven. I had five years on the pieces before Liberty, probably before that. I had five years-ish on some of the traditional WebSphere stuff before that. So it was about every five years changing to try to do something new. His point was very much like at the same company, because he was always like if you stay there for longer than five years, it just gets harder and harder for you to leave, because they have all the incentives and all the other reasons for you not to go.

Erin Schnabel  (24:52):
He wasn't wrong. I didn't listen to him. That's fine. Those were the two big ones. But my dad also-- I always had around the kitchen table a very-- and I worked closely with two of the people at this table, with Holly and Emily, and they both know how assertive I am at the table. Always very strong voice. My dad doesn't tolerate bullies. And I grew up with stories of him coming home-- he was in the automotive industry in the 80s.

Kadi Grigg (25:22):
Spicy time to be alive.

Erin Schnabel  (25:24):
Spicy time. And he would always-- if a bully left an opening, he would take it to show him, not to like re-bully the bully, but to basically show everybody else this person's just a bully. You don't have to be afraid of them kind of thing. So, I've never had any fear ever, ever.

Kadi Grigg (25:41):
I love that.

Erin Schnabel  (25:42):
And it's like, thanks dad. And I showed him-- I had to do this pre-recording for the session, and I gave it to my dad. He's like, "I was just trying not to screw up too bad." I'm like, "You're so adorable." But it's like everything about how I approach, really, I'm concerned for my 70s is all I'm saying, because I am turning into my father. It's like, "Whoa."

Theresa Mammarella (26:04):
You had an interesting story this morning about learning to be more assertive and vocal to grow in your leadership.

Emily Jiang (26:12):

Theresa Mammarella (26:12):
Do you want to share that one? Because I thought it was really good.

Emily Jiang (26:14):
Oh yeah. Yeah. It's basically, it's-- againdifferent background. I grew up in China. So, one, I can understand the things people that are adults or the people surrounding me saying being a girl, especially being a child, especially being a girl, "you should be quiet, listen, don't speak up." So, I learned, but basically I learned to be quiet. So, from a very early, early age. I mean like the people, even my relatives and etc. Felt I'm really quiet, basically from school and etc., I'm really quiet. I can do exams and etc., and I can do math. I then I went to university and then, again, came to the U.K, and in meetings, I don't talk much. One thing is because I want to be modest, be quiet, and then even find out like basically people talked over me, and sometimes they don't ask my opinions anymore.

Emily Jiang (27:21):
They just ignore you if you don't have any opinion. And I find out my career actually, it's like static. And suddenly I realized actually what they said is not-- basically I have better ideas. I should speak up. And basically it's probably in the last, I would say probably how many years, seven or eight years, I started just talking-- basically talking in the meetings and etc. And another thing my career just shoot up. And then like why the senior colleagues ask me questions. They say, "Oh, can I ask you some really strange question?" This is a question-- a few other people also get a similar question. "Where Have you been? Why haven't I heard of you in the past." Like you have been at IBM for more than 10 years. "Where Have you been? Why haven't I heard of you? Nobody even mentioned you in the past." So, this really got me. So basically especially for women in IT, speak up.

Theresa Mammarella (28:33):
Visibility and sharing opinions has been important.

Emily Jiang (28:37):
Yeah. Very important.

Kadi Grigg (28:41):
What about you, Mary?

Mary Grygleski (28:43):
Me? I think one thing I do have to say, I think initially too, I didn't like to talk. In fact, I remember myself that I'm just not interested in talking with other people. But it is true, over time as I get older, also to feeling the need to-- something's missing. But I didn't realize. And I also think it's because earlier on in my career, I was mostly with guys. It's always like, I'm the only-- I was the only woman or maybe one of two. Something. And there were some places that were nice, but also most of the places too, maybe people around me weren't talking too much themselves. In fact, there was one place, yeah, sort of not a startup, but they're kind of changing into a bit more from-- they make actually a jukebox, and they're playing music. So, I was actually doing server software for them, but then they're modernizing to digital. So, I was in that team. The guys were really smart-- six guys. But we would be working sort of like a start-up company. You have a big table. You are sitting around each other. And even talking among ourselves, instead of going and talking or yelling out, people are all typing, messaging each other.

Kadi Grigg (29:48):
Talk in your AIM?

Mary Grygleski (29:49):
Yeah, that's right. But I think that's also the time I started realizing, why didn't they talk? And then why didn't I talk? And I think I started doing something. But still, if the people around you-- if it doesn't have the culture, then it's probably not the right place for me to be at. So I didn't stay there for too long. It was a great place to learn. The guys were really smart. But then I didn't stay too long. I knew I had to move on to some other place. And then I did get some chances. Actually, before I joined IBM, I was at a place doing a bit more technical architecture, so a bit more like interacting with people. And then I also started helping with C-JUG, Chicago JUG. So I think that really helped too, C-JUG, because then at the time they had lightning talks.

Mary Grygleski (30:29):
And I remember the very first time 2016, I decided, okay, somehow I had this drive wanting to do a talk. So, for some reason, I think it must be something in me was just suppressed for the longest time. So I was just more scared and unconsciously scared. But then there was this calling-- felt like I should be doing a talk and there was some topic I wanted to talk about. And then I think then I talked to C-JUG to Freddy. Freddy's here too. He's the podcast guy. So anyway, so he was the one who's wonderful. He said, "Mary, just do it. You know nobody's going to judge you." And then I think then it's good there's somebody encouraging me. So, then I said, "Well, why not?" And that's how I started talking. And then since then-- I then started helping more and more C-JUG. And then there was a chance IBM was looking for a Java developer advocate. So I said, oh, why not? Let me try. And then it worked out. So that's how I became-- and then I didn't even realize, I started having to talk all the time. But I think I really, really like it now. It's just maybe some "suppress" kind of thing. Yeah.

Theresa Mammarella (31:31):
I'm just amazed to hear that you worked on firmware for jukeboxes.

Mary Grygleski (31:36):
Yeah, I did.

Theresa Mammarella (31:36):
Very fun fact about Mary.

Mary Grygleski (31:39):
I actually worked on SMTP MTA mail gateway too, like porting from Solaris to 386. Actually SunOS and then to Solaris and then on 386 architecture. So, I did that for Lotus Notes. Lotus Company actually was an IBM company. But the reporting that SMTP-- so kind of porting stuff is kind of pretty lower level. And actually I had to install the whole Solaris thing onto 386. I'm like, "How do I do it?" But anyway, so I've done that too.

Theresa Mammarella (32:08):
What was your journey to communication or like being outspoken?

Holly Cummins (32:14):
Yeah, it's a good question, because I was thinking while Emily was talking that one of the nicest compliments I got from my manager was he said, "Holly, you don't speak very much." Which is sort of similar to the before story of Emily. But he said, "Because you don't speak very much, when you do speak, people listen, and they respect what you say." And it's sort of a special occasion obviously.

Kadi Grigg (32:38):
I'll be honest though, I think there's a lot to be said for that, because I used to be in sales. Reformed salesperson, right? So, when I would go into those meetings though, there's always one person in the back who's just sitting there putting you on edge. But I would always look for that person, because I'm like, this person is going to tell me like it is, tell me if it's crazy, or make the decision. So when that person speaks, you're like-- it's almost like a circle of life moment where you're like, "This is what's up." It's very cool.

Kadi Grigg (33:13):
Well, I think we've recorded a lot. So I just want to ask one more question. If you had any advice for people who are looking at going into engineering now-- we've seen many colleges are here today that are looking, and there are sophomore, juniors, some seniors who are looking for it. What advice would you give to future graduates with computer science degree for for their career advice?

Emily Jiang (33:40):
I think they have to first define their interest. They have to be interested in it, and they have to bear in mind that they have to keep learning. If they're not interested in it, if they don't want to keep on learning, they should switch their career. Basically, it's kind of the one thing-- one story I share is I work a lot. Basically it is not nine-to-five stuff. Also work is very flexible. Sometimes I work around a family, like cook dinner, feed the children, and then they go to bed, and then I work again. Then my husband said, "You never stop working. Why?" I said, "Oh, it's become my hobby." So I feel like, okay, I need to get these things done. It's not like it's become a big burden. And even something, "Oh, I need to learn." This is not like-- my boss said, "Emily, you've got to learn this." Basically, it's my own interest. I want to learn. So, this is very important.

Kadi Grigg (34:51):
It's great advice.

Erin Schnabel  (34:53):
I think it's going to be interesting to see for people graduating now. I have a hard time giving advice, because what they are facing in the next 10 years is going to be nothing, nothing like what I faced, because we have AI coming in. AI-Assisted programming is going to be a different animal. It's going to be amazing. But I am-- it's like foreign to where I started. The demographics are different. The expected behaviors are different. All of that is awesome. There's a young woman that I met that I'm mentoring at Red Hat, and they had one of the women's-- she's like, "I don't understand why we have to have these women's programs." I'm like, "Yes! You don't know why that's necessary? Amen. Awesome. Great. That's fantastic." Because I do. I have the scars on my back, and I'm hoping nobody has to deal with some of the stuff that we had to deal with a million years ago. So, it's great. Like that part's great. So, I mean, I showed some people earlier-- my daughter who's nine, texted me today. I sent her a picture of the room where I have to speak. And she writes, she sends me back, she's nine, this perfect little GIF, "No pressure."

Kadi Grigg (36:11):
She's your coach.

Erin Schnabel  (36:12):
She's my coach. But I just mean I know people graduating now. They see the field so differently, but what Emily says is absolutely right.

Kadi Grigg (36:21):
I think there's wisdom though in what you just said. It's the acknowledgement that so much is different now.

Erin Schnabel  (36:26):
It's totally different.

Kadi Grigg (36:27):
It's little different, difficult to give very prescriptive advice. But you know, it's more why--

Erin Schnabel  (36:33):
I would say make sure-- so my thing is, if you're a 20-something, there's only so much you know about yourself. You've only been alive 20 years. I will also say for all of the women that I know, and I don't know if you guys here will agree with me, there's something about hitting your 40s where all the sudden nothing else really matters. "Who The hell cares? I am this." And just go.

Kadi Grigg (36:57):
I'm praying I make it to that point in my life one day.

Erin Schnabel  (37:00):
But so like I can look back and be like who I was in my 20s and what I wanted and what I thought was important. And then even who I was in my 30s was a little different. And then I've just heard from so many of my women friends, they hit 40, and they're like-- you guys can't see what the gesture I just made, which is probably better. You can guess what that gesture was to the world. But it's been very powerful. This is a bunch of my colleagues, my women friends who have all said once they covered 40, they're like, "Yeah, world is mine."

Kadi Grigg (37:31):
My best friend said same thing though.

Erin Schnabel  (37:32):
But I would say, take the time. There's all kinds of-- I hate personality tests, because they're stupid, and I am always between things, and I hate them. But there's a couple core values, kinds of activities where you pick, you go look at the word list, find the things that resonate with you, what your-- not the company's values or the ethics for the company or whatever-- but like what charges your battery and what drains your battery. And you should be aware of what those are. Early in your career, there's going to be a whole bunch of things that you're going to have to do. Some of them are not going to be pleasant, because you have to prove you can do the thing.

Kadi Grigg (38:08):
Correct. You can't just expect you're going to be "Mr. Manager," because, hey, it's your first day and you're like, yeah, that sounds like what I want. You've got to earn it.

Erin Schnabel  (38:12):
Yeah, exactly. So you do have to show some of that. But it helps if you are aware this is what makes it easier for me. If I can align it with this goal of mine, then I'm a little more engaged, and I can make it worth it, and it's not just a drag. So, I would advise that kind of thing. Just know that when you're in your 20s, you have only maybe some idea of who you actually are. And that's fine. That's fine. You're only 20.

Kadi Grigg (38:44):
Great. Holly?

Holly Cummins (38:45):
Yeah, I think it's about finding the balance between-- I sometimes had jobs where it wasn't working for me, but I thought if I just try harder it will work. And actually with hindsight, I should have left those jobs. And if you don't love your job, your job often doesn't love you. So, it was sort of a real kicker, because at the end of the year I'd get my performance appraisal, and they'd be like, "Well, yeah, you're a bit terrible." I'd be like, "What? I suffered through this job that I didn't really like working really hard. The least you could have done is given me--." But I think it was obvious to everybody around me that it wasn't the right role. But of course, as Erin says as well, you can't just expect it to be like there's never any effort and there's never any tedium. So, it's like, how do I find the right balance between this is the necessary amount of like dish washing and you know, that kind of service--

Kadi Grigg (39:31):
Find your boundaries.

Holly Cummins (39:32):
Yeah. Versus actually, no, this is too much and I need to be brave and make the change to find something that fits better for me.

Kadi Grigg (39:38):
Wise words. Mary, bring us home.

Mary Grygleski (39:43):
I think it's definitely true. Just not be fearful. I suppose if there's something-- you kind of know too, somehow, if that's your calling somehow. And it takes awhile. Like Erin said too, in your 20s, you're not quite sure. But it's definitely, I feel where I am as I'm getting older, I do feel there's a calling, I'm going there, but it might take me a couple tries to kind of get there.

Erin Schnabel  (40:05):
It is your own.

Mary Grygleski (40:06):
Yeah, and don't let other people affect you if that's what you've set your goals to, and just don't give up. Just follow your inner voice.

Holly Cummins (40:18):
I've had some job moves where people around me advise me and they're like, "Oh no, no, definitely don't do that." And it turned out to be a really great job move.

Mary Grygleski (40:25):
Yeah, that's right. So yeah, you just have to know yourself. Yeah. But it takes time to kind of become, yeah.

Kadi Grigg (40:31):
I know we've got time, but thank you all so much for taking the time to do this. This means a lot to me, because I never get the opportunity to sit down with so many seasoned veterans, I should say.

Erin Schnabel  (40:42):
Very definitely with the seasoning.

Kadi Grigg (40:42):
A little spicy here today.

Kadi Grigg (40:57):
Thanks for joining us for another episode of Wicked Good Development, brought to you by Sonatype. Our show was produced by me, Kadi Grigg. If you value our open source and cybersecurity content, please share it with your friends and give us a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Check out our transcripts on Sonatype's blog and reach out to us directly with any questions at See you next time.

Picture of Kadi Grigg

Written by Kadi Grigg

Kadi is passionate about the DevOps / DevSecOps community since her days of working with COBOL development and Mainframe solutions. At Sonatype, she collaborates with developers and security researchers and hosts Wicked Good Development, a podcast about the future of open source. When she's not working with the developer community, she loves running, traveling, and playing with her dog Milo.