My Tech Journey
6 min read
Dear friends and tech enthusiasts, today we are starting a content series featuring our mentors and mentees here at Tupu, sharing with us their tech journeys. For this series we approach people with different roles in tech and coming from different backgrounds.
In todays episode, Israel Carberry shares his story. Stay tuned, as Israel provides many great resources and ideas.
What do you currently do for work?
I'm currently the Lead Engineer on the NetGalley.com platform team, where we help book publishers connect with their readers before a book is published. My role has fluctuated over the years between long term technology improvement and transformation projects and team leadership and management functions. For a time I carried the title of Engineering Manager, and I really enjoy the people and process side of tech leadership, so I'm continuing to learn and hone my skills in that domain for my long term career path.
What is your educational background?
I'm mostly self taught, but I wouldn't be where I am without having worked with people with more skills and knowledge who helped me to continuously improve. I did complete a couple semesters of CS in college, while I learned as much if not more from the part time IT support job I had at the same time.
When and how did you get started being interested about programming/tech industry, and how did you learn?
I was twelve when my family got our first computer, a Tandy 1000EX from RadioShack, which came with a spiral bound syntax reference book for GW-BASIC, and I was hooked. I dabbled in TurboPascal and C++ in college while working part time learning LAN admin and debugging FORTRAN satellite tracking scripts. After dropping out, I didn't get back into tech as employment for another twelve years, wary of a cubicle career. In the meantime, I picked up ASP and PHP on my own as I tried to reinvent the concept of a CMS. When I did get another tech job, it was during the early days of ebooks, and I wrote a lot of Perl and Python scripts to automate text file conversions. All along the way, I learned by having a problem that I did not know at first how to solve, and that pattern continued as I transitioned into tech leadership.
Which books/online courses/websites were helping you the most on your journey?
Engineering learning early on came in the form of code workbooks from the public library, and then The Internet happened, so I don't have a personal go-to in that area. As I came into engineering management, I found a mentoring platform called Plato offering a variety of free webinars and ask-me-anything's (and for anyone, like myself, who doesn't qualify demographically for Tupu, I highly recommend their mentoring service if you can afford it). Substacks and other newsletters such as cutlefish.substack.com, pragmaticengineer.com, emilykager.substack.com, itrevolution.com, and leaddev.com provide constant challenges and frequent exposure to new concepts in a regular inbox drip feed (which also feeds my list of Twitter follows). Books have had a huge impact, and I often get both the audio and the hardback to absorb the learning in multiple ways. My career was transformed first by The Phoenix Project (and The Unicorn Project), along with The DevOps Handbook, followed by (in no particular order) Sooner Safer Happier, The Manager's Path, The First 90 Days, Never Split the Difference, Project to Product, 12: The Elements of Great Managing, The Storytelling Edge, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Radical Candor, How to Measure Anything, Work Better Together, Engineering DevOps, Think Again, and many more.
How has mentorship played a role in your tech career?
My own mentors have been critical to my learning and growth, providing insights and feedback from their own experience to help me work through tough issues and difficult situations. While I try not to burden them unnecessarily, they have often been an anchor in the storm, a shoulder to cry on, and personal therapist. I now pause on any significant decision or new initiative at work until I've had a chance to talk it through with at least one of my mentors. As a mentor myself, I try to emulate and pay forward what they have been for me. In doing so, I am constantly learning even more from the people I mentor as we talk through their unique circumstances, with their own experience and ideas they bring to the conversation.
What do you wish you had known when you started your career in tech? What advice would you give your younger self?
As a career, it is a path - what you're doing today is not what you'll be doing tomorrow. Be humble, and listen to the people who can help you learn to walk, but never stop trying to run. Remind yourself every morning that today you're going to work with People, and you're working together to make things better for other People; it just happens to involve code or technology.
What would you recommend to someone who is interested in starting a career in tech, but doesn't know exactly where to start?
Start! It often doesn't matter where you start - you can redirect your path if you're moving much easier than if you're standing still. I will always remember how Mrs. Davison, my high school English teacher, described picking where to start (in the context of writing a story, but it works for anything). Imagine you are standing in a busy street, and you want to describe everything you see - the stores, the people, the weather, the noise and the smells. Put yourself on the one block on the street that is most interesting to you. Now choose an interesting store. Now look at one of its walls, now one corner or unique section of that wall. Get close, study the details. Now. Pick a brick. Start there.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What are you curious about?
I love woodworking and leather crafting (but wither in despair at the thought of home improvement projects, I don't know why). I'm a sci-fi-avore. I am most at home in a dark and noisy non-franchise coffee shop late at night with a comfortable pen and a notebook without lines. And I'm curious how people think, so I engage people in conversation as often as I can, which, as an introvert, looks very different than you might expect from someone who likes to talk to anybody.
Why did you decide to sign up as a mentor for Tupu? What has your experience been?
I don't remember how I discovered Tupu, but I do remember immediately thinking that's how I can pay it forward for all the mentoring I am given. I've been paired with amazing people, each with their own hopes and aspirations, struggles and frustrations, and I'm glad I can help in some small way.