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Chloe Condon, a former musical theatre actress and Hackbright Academy graduate, is a Developer Evangelist at Sentry. Perhaps the only engineer you’ll meet who has been in “Hairspray”, “Xanadu”, and “Jerry Springer: the Opera,” she is passionate about bringing people with non-traditional backgrounds into the world of tech. If you’re trying to place her face, yes, she’s the young woman giving the awkward thumbs up in the “What It’s Like to be a Woman at a Tech Conference” article (which she also wrote). A quick Google search of her will provide you with getting started with Docker videos, theatre reviews, tech blogs, and videos of her singing—enjoy!
In this episode, Derek and Ron chat with Chloe about her role as a developer evangelist as well as her background in musical theatre and what insights can be gleaned from comparing and contrasting tech and theatre as industries. Chloe also shares a high-level overview of Sentry, the cross-platform crash reporting and aggregation platform.
Where to find Chloe Condon
On the web at https://medium.com/@chloecondon
Enjoy the show and be sure to follow Ardent Development on Twitter.
Ron: Welcome to the Ardent Development podcast. I’m Ron Smith.
Derek: And I’m Derek Hatchard. Today we’re talking with Chloe Condon. Chloe is a former musical theater actress and Hackbright Academy graduate and she is now a developer evangelist at Sentry. She is perhaps the only engineer you’ll meet. I think the only one that I know who has been in Hairspray is Xanadu and Jerry Spinger the opera. She is passionate about bring people with non-traditional backgrounds into the world of tech. If you’re trying to place her face she is the woman giving the thumbs up in the what it’s like to be a woman at a tech conference article, which she wrote. I found that on Medium and there might be other places, Chloe can correct me in a second. And a quick google search for her will tell you that she has a series of getting started with docker videos. You find some theater reviews that she’s on, tech blogs and I think the hilarious videos of her singing after. So Chloe welcome to the show.
Chloe: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Derek: So Chloe, you’re a developer evangelist at a company called Sentry and some of us have bumped into plenty of developer evangelists in our time. But for those listening who don’t really know what that role is. Could you really unpack it for us? What is it? What do your days look like? Tell us a little bit about that experience is like.
Chloe: Sure, so it’s kind of funny. Usually when I tell people who aren’t familiar with the role they say “Oh is that a religious thing”? And my answer is usually well in a sense. But basically I call myself an extroverted engineer. The title I go by is developer evangelist. Other people go by DevRel, developer advocate. There’s a lot of different flavors and varieties of us. So personally I got into the evangelism space because I have a non-traditional background. I come from theater world. And when we were presenting our projects at Hackbright I discovered pretty quickly like oh wow nobody likes to do public speaking. This is very interesting. So that’s kind of part of what I do. So oftentimes I will go to conferences and I will speak about various thought leadership topics. Right now I’m doing a lot of stuff around the error blogging you know metrics space, in my previous role I did a lot of Docker evangelism. So it’s a combination of a couple of things, it’s speaking, it’s writing content. So a lot of the times and you see tutorials or walkthroughs on different websites that’s often made by me and our content person. Doing everything from case studies to writing code examples for different integrations and features that we have. I’m organizing our meetup that’s going to be a monthly meet up starting in January. So it really depends what I like about it a lot is my role changes every single day. Just looking at my calendar next week I’m like breaking it down and seeing OK I’m writing this thought leadership blog and then all day Thursday we’re filming all around the city for our meet up, we’re doing a promotional video for our meet up. We just published The 12 Days of integrations gif blog posts where we call ourselves very gif positive here at Sentry every new employee gets a welcome gif. e featured all of our integrations over the 12 days leading to the holidays which involved having our different engineers hold up different ornaments with the logos of our integrations on them. So there are some really fun kind of theatrical aspects of my role. But a lot of it requires this pretty deep understanding of technology and our product and being able to code. So I definitely went in more non-traditional route as a first role in these software engineering role or world, I should say. But I felt that it very much aligned with with my past. So yeah now I’m now I’m here.
Derek: So the very first developer evangelist I ever met was a guy at Microsoft, years and years ago. And at the time he didn’t even he wouldn’t use, even though that was his job title he wouldn’t use the term developer evangelist when he was going out around Canada because everyone would look at him like What are you talking about? What does that even? But what’s interesting is that there is. I mean there is a fair bit of showmanship involved in it so I can see how such a good fit given that you have a performance background I think that’s really cool. Do you run into the misconception that because you’re a developer evangelist or you work in developer relations or developer marketing that you know you’re not technical or you’re not a real engineer. Do you run into that bias?
Derek: One of the things that I had that always impresses me with a good Developer Evangelist is how broad they tend to be. So when I worked for sales force for a number of years and I was in Dreamforce one year. I just walked up to one of the hallway demo presentations and someone from the developer marketing team was up and they were using at least a dozen different technologies in their little 15 or 20 minute lightning talk. It just blew my mind at how much breadth and how little credit they get for being able to speak intelligently about so many different things. It’s similar to what you said. The ability to go and represent your product and your developer tools to people who work in many different languages is a it’s a really special skill set. There’s a lot of developers that I’ve known who if that is the complete opposite of what they even want to do. They say I know Java, just leave me alone and I’m going to program in Java. And this what I’m going to do for the next 15 years.
Chloe: And I think there’s really something to be said as well. And obviously my theatre background helped a lot with this of I mean how many times have you seen a talk or watched a tutorial video that is just so monotonous? And you know it’s not the speaker’s fault like they are a brilliant engineer but they don’t know how to present material. So something like unique that I kind of bring to this space is hey I’ve been performing since I was 4 years, old both of my parents were in the theater. I think it was sort of a shock to come to the world of engineering and technology and go to product announcements and conferences and watch people talk about fascinating things that I couldn’t listen to because “we are so excited to present” and it blows my mind. I’m like I said I you know I’m very junior still and people say wow that was one of the best acts I’ve ever seen. And like thank you. I don’t think it was necessarily the best talk you’ve ever seen. It’s just that I know how I have presentational skills. That’s just something that I’ve been doing my whole life.
Ron: When I was preparing to interview you, Chloe I found your Docker video that you had done on YouTube. And you know I could have used that year ago when I went researching on Docker. I was working with a team and they were debating whether they would start using it or not. And there was very little material that was out there that was that kind of a beginner introductory level. You made me laugh about ten times through it. It was a very good video. I liked quite a bit.
Chloe: Thank you. I think it’s funny because I am so used to being this performer onstage I mostly did musical comedies. And so I was putting all these like jokes in my presentation to kind of like get people away because a lot of times your talks are either really early in the morning or really late at night. And now I’ve had to preface my talks in that during my intro and say hey it’s OK to laugh. Please laugh at the jokes because the technical audience is very different. They’re very they internalize a lot of things. And you know I have to remind myself that even as a performer when I go and watch other performers I’m very stoic and I rarely laugh even if I think something’s funny. Encouraging people to you know interact and I think helps a little bit and helps keep people awake.
Derek: Keep pulling on that thread, coming from coming from a theater background, can you compare and contrast with the culture? I’ll call them industries I don’t know if that’s fair to use. What do you see that similar? And what is radically different?
Chloe: Yeah I think you know the first thing that comes to mind. Obviously I left the theater world because I was not getting paid enough for the amount of work that I was doing. The main difference and kind of what led me to tech was you can do theater your entire life and work hard and pound the pavement and audition and audition and you know take acting classes and go to school for it and get a master’s. You can be the most talented person in the world. But if you are not you know five foot three with brown hair. It’s all about look. And it’s very much out of your control. Whereas in the technology world like the number of work that you put in you really get back. And that was sort of mind-blowing for me to realize because I can’t tell you how many talented people I know have been acting their entire life. They moved to New York. No success. And that’s not for lack of trying. I mean this is just pure. It’s a field that involves a lot of luck a lot of good timing. So I actually got interested in technology because my boyfriend is an android developer. When I was first thinking about going to a boot camp he said Oh let me introduce you to some other women who gone through boot camps that I know from my network and my immediate reaction was Oh my gosh they’re not going to want to talk to me. This is a competitive industry. Why would they want to talk to me because in the acting world if I took another woman out to coffee she would of course say you know here’s the places you should audition but don’t take my part. You know it’s a very competitive industry. Whereas oh my gosh everyone in the engineering world was like oh please, please come. We need more women we need more people we need more junior engineers so it’s a very different industry. Not only kind of the need for our talent but also it’s a different world. I mean my boyfriend constantly reminds me that my degree like my B.A. is in drama. And I think there’s a reason it’s called drama. There are a lot of dramatic things that go on as as we’re seeing from Harvey Weinstein stuff that’s happening right now. That’s very common in the theater industry. So I think there is a lot of crossover. The one kind of similarity but different thing that I always point out to people is there are so many women in theater. If you’re a man who wants to do musical theater like you will get cast. There is such a lack of men whereas in the tech industry there are not a lot of women. And it’s very rare to have a line for the bathroom. Whereas you do a musical theater show in San Francisco and the women’s dressing room is packed full whereas the men’s dressing room has guys in it. So I would say the biggest thing for me is just the mentorship and the community aspect around it has just been so warm and welcoming. If you reach out to anyone for coffee or to pick their brain on a technology or even just turn to the engineer who sits behind you. I know I do that all the time at Sentry. Everyone is so willing to help and everybody wants you to succeed which is so refreshing coming from this very competitive you know cutthroat acting industry.
Derek: That’s fascinating. I’m wondering how much of that has to do with the nature of the people that are drawn to the work versus the just the current state of the market where you know, is acting in oversubscribed with talent and technology is still under subscribed? Or is it, is there something inherently less competitive and more collaborative amongst people who are drawn into tech? I don’t have an answer and I don’t expect you to have a firm answer but speculate if you want.
Chloe: Yeah well it’s funny because I get a lot of parents who come up to me after a gives you know technical talks because you know I walk on stage I’m this very quirky five foot two blonde musical theater girl with sparkle glasses who was giving a presentation on a technical subject which doesn’t happen very often. And the number one question that I get afterwards is my son or daughter wants to get a theater degree. How do I get them interested in technology? Because I’ve been there, you don’t want to squash your children’s dreams. But at the same time you know I struggle a lot with this especially when I first got you know started this journey to make the transition from theater to technology. I was very angry for a long time that I had this theater degree because I looked at people like my boyfriend and a lot of our friends and a lot of my co-workers were just such talented engineers who had been doing this since they were 4 years old. And you know I was doing Wizard of Oz the musical when I was four years old. So I had a lot of like kind of angst about that for a long time but now that I’m in this industry and it’s been in it a year. I see so many important things from my theatre degree and from my life as an actress that they bring into my life as a developer evangelist. So it’s hard for me to you know obviously if I meet a young woman and she tells me hey I want to get a theater degree I’m going to say oh my gosh, don’t, please, learn a technical skill that will be useful for you. But that being said you know. That’s kind of the beauty of these boot camps right. People have a whole life before switching careers and they bring expertise like I was sitting on a panel yesterday at Hackbright where the woman next to me worked in FinTech in more of kind of a completely non-technical role and then now works as an engineer and she brings all this industry expertise. There’s people who have been teachers who now work on technology software and they really have that lake inherent knowledge that an engineer who hasn’t dabbled in that industry just isn’t going to have. So I think part of it is just. The arts are a luxury. And I think it’s something that we treat ourselves to and it does not pay as well. And there is the actor’s union of course. But when you take a look at salaries of Broadway performers it was shocking to me and no one ever sat me down as a kid or as a teenager deciding about colleges and said hey you know how much you’d make as an actor? Like let’s kind of let’s let’s break this down because my dad is a playwright and Director and my mother was a costume designer and we had a very comfortable life and I never really thought about what future looked like. So I think a lot of it is just we it’s a passion that we grow up with. But there’s so many transferable skills even stage managers are now transitioning over to you know Product Managers because it’s the same role. It’s the exact same role but a creative industry versus a technical industry.
Derek: I have a friend and former colleague who has a master’s degree in English and he’s a brilliant engineer and he loves it. Every time he finds somebody who has an arts background he loves to point that out to me.
Chloe: We always joked. Even in the Dev Rel community and also in the engineering community we could start a hell of a band. And like do Dev Rel musical if everybody like, Oh I play saxophone. Oh I was a jazz band. I’m actor, I’m an actress I’m a playwright. There’s so many people who come from that background and it’s fascinating to me.
Derek: It’s really surprising to me how many musicians I’ve run into in my career and in tech, there seems to be something about the way people’s brains are wired that programming and music both seem to come naturally. I unfortunately do not have that inclination. I am as tone deaf as they come. Many many people. I will sit and not clap because I can’t keep the beat either. But I’ll gladly listen to the band.
Chloe: Yeah. If you are interested in in particular music and engineering, Katherine Meyers did a talk at Rubyconf that I think it was titled something like Mozart would have been an amazing engineer or something like that and she is a opera singer turned engineer and she talked about all the parallels between music and engineering and it was absolutely fascinating. Highly recommend checking it out.
Derek: That sounds fascinating. I going to look that up. Okay so before we run out of time, I want to talk a little bit about air logging and reporting. I think to do that we’ll need a quick explanation of what Sentry is and sort of the company and the open source tech. I’d love to just hear a little bit about how about is making the developers more productive or how it’s making their systems more stable?
Chloe: Yeah absolutely. So Sentry is an open source error tracking product that helps developers monitor and fix crashes in real time. Basically you’re going to be able to iterate continuously and it can boost your efficiency and definitely kind of prove your, or improve your user experience. The way that it kind of explain this to people because the number one question I get that our booth is well can I just use my logs for that? Well logs are a really great tool. They’re kind of like the scrap book or the history report of what’s going on in your app and you can set up alerts on your logs. But how do you know what’s going to happen? How do you know other than a user tweeting at you and saying hey this feature is broken. Something’s going wrong. You also have metrics of course and metrics are very useful to have a dashboard to see. Oh you know this line is going up very steadily maybe we should check that out, but your dashboard is only going to monitor the things that you have set up. How do you know about those things that are just totally out of the blue? Users in Australia are all facing this issue when they do this particular mouse click and you know maybe this user used an emoji and now it’s throwing you know an error. What we do is we alert you when those things are happening in real time. So you can kind of think of us as more of a system that uses the power of your logs and the power of your metrics to keep your engineers informed. And then you can delegate those tasks and say hey you know what’s going on here? Is this fixed? Awesome you can ignore them if it’s known issue. It’s really kind of keeping you aware of what’s going on in your app. For all of those kind of edge cases and situations that you haven’t prepared for. Everything from a 404 error to people are running into an issue. I mean this is the difference between someone using your app and a competitor’s app. If they can’t log into your system you need to know that that’s happening. So yeah that’s a little bit about us. We’re also open source so a lot of people have either touched our product or contributed to our product in some way. And you can go online, it’s two lines of code to use it. And it’s pretty great.
Derek: And I am going to ask you some 101 questions here. Is this doing anomaly detection on an error messages? Give me the next level deeper around how this works.
Chloe: Yeah sure. So basically this is going to give you all of the information you don’t have to blindly guess of what’s going on. So the crash reporting is going to give you anything from the browser that user was using. The operating system… you can do feature flags you can have breadcrumbs in there and it’s going to group all of the similar ones together so you know when there’s a big spike in this. The thing that I always like to say is you know it’s never fun to get those angsty tweets from you know user who says hey this is broken. We would much rather take care of that ahead of time so no one is running into that issue. So you can really understand the bigger picture and get that real time insight immediately. You can get the alerts via e-mail or SMS. It’s just kind of this way that you can really have an eye on your application 24/7.
Derek: OK. And at the risk of the risk of sounding like a commercial when I ask you this because I am curious, what is the difference for teams if they use the open source project versus if they come to Sentry the company?
Chloe: Yeah sure. So basically you can totally use us for free, 10k events per month. That’s with one user a seven day history and then I think once you get to about like the smaller packages it’s a unlimited users for I think 29 dollars a month with a 90 day history. We also have free trials online. If you’re doing it yourself, itself hosted obviously if you’re doing it us, we’re hosting it for you. So it really depends on what your needs are. Obviously if it’s more of you know a side project that you’re hacking on and you want to get my idea of the errors that are coming through very easy to just self host. Once you get a little bigger and you want weekly reports and you know basic SSO and these On-Demand events. In addition to all the core features and that’s kind of where we come into play and you can help a little bit more with that. But we started it as just a tiny bit of open source and we’re very passionate about keeping it open source so that’s really fun because it is rare with a product where especially as an evangelist you go out in the field and not only as someone heard of you but they say oh that’s in my app right now. We’re using Sentry, we love Sentry. So yeah it’s fun to have so many people touch it because of that that open-sourceness.
Derek: That that’s awesome. Thank you for that. That’s helpful that’s sentry.io if anyone wants to find that. This been really interesting, Chloe, thank you for your time. Before we let you go. Can you tell you tell our listeners where they can find you on the Internet?
Chloe: Yes. You can search my name @ChloeCondon on most things except for instagram. I’m @unslothorized like an unauthorized sloth. I had taken a little break from writing but I’m starting back up now and over the holidays so definitely follow me on Medium, if that’s your jam? And I tweet about all kinds of quirky engineering things and theater things on the Twitter sphere so yes.
Derek: Alright. Very cool. Thank you so much for your time. This has been great.
Ron: Thanks Chloe, this has been a lot of fun.
Chloe: Thank you for having me.