"I contribute to Ember" with Danielle Adams

Hello folks and welcome to the tenth edition of the interview series “I contribute to Ember” , presented by the folks at The Ember Times :slight_smile:

This week we’d like to highlight the work of contributor @danielleadams who talks about her work as a mentor, conference MC and public speaker and shares tips to be present and confident when presenting your ideas.

How did you get started with using Ember?

I got my first job when I moved to New York and I had just finished a coding school. I had done a lot of JavaScript on the front-end - I actually had experience with front-end development before I did my coding school. [At this job I took] they were using Ruby on Rails and Ember, there was quite a bit of jQuery, too. […] They were building all these new apps in Ember. It was an excellent time to join because I got to see an app developed from the ground up. This was shortly after Ember CLI had been released, and post ember-rails, maybe a month after this, so I just completely started with using an Ember CLI app. I saw the project evolve from that point on which was awesome, and that’s what got me started. We also had Ember consultants working with us, and they were really helpful, too.

How are you/have you been contributing to Ember recently?

[Even though] I don’t do a ton of Ember during work hours, [at Heroku] we use [it] for the Dashboard. […] From my prior experience I had knowledge from having seen the evolution of the framework, so there’s a lot that I understand how it works. I try to take that knowledge and help people understand Ember - this is what I did at my old job, too. People would join that sometimes weren’t familiar with Ember, so I tried to help them understand how the framework works, best practices, and how to start developing quickly.

Outside of the scope of [my work at] Heroku, I’ve done a couple of talks about how I’ve done component design in regards to forms. I think, traditionally there’s a lot that you get from the browser for forms, but JavaScript makes it really easy to wipe all of that out. It’s important in regards to accessibility and even general user experience, for example, trying to type something with an error validation. It's essential to figure out how that works and how to create a user experience for everyone.

This year I’m MC (Mistress of Ceremony) 'ing EmberConf which I’m really excited about. Since I’m not working on front end every day now, I'm looking forward to contributing this way because I still like JavaScript and Ember. I want to get people excited about, what I think is, a great project and community.

In regards to public speaking what has been the biggest challenge for you so far?

I think public speaking is very methodical: First, you need an idea, you submit a proposal and then you put your slides together, you practice a couple of times and finally you give the talk.

I don’t know where this happens, but every time before I give a talk I get terrified! I think that’s something I’ve been working to overcome. I have given talks about topics that I know in and out, so it’s not like I’m getting up there and I’m like: “Oh my gosh, I’m nervous about my technical knowledge of it.” Because it’s actually quite the opposite! It’s stuff that I know pretty well.

I think it’s just the fear of speaking. Now that I’ve done it enough times I know it’s always the first few minutes [that is scary] - I just have to get through the introduction, and then it’s smooth sailing from there. Now, I know myself well enough that I'm aware that is what I do; I make sure that I don’t leave myself a lot of room to say ad-hoc things by practicing the intro a lot.

Do you have any piece of advice for those starting out with public speaking?

Oh my goodness, yes.

First: People want to see your talk. They wouldn’t be there in the audience otherwise. I know it sounds weird, but when I first started there was something in my head that was like “I don’t belong here, what am I doing?” [But that isn't true] no one in the audience cares that you have less experience or don’t have a CS degree. I mean there’s always a few trolls, and sometimes they raise their hands, but usually, it’s easy to shoot them down.

Also: Know that the audience wants you to succeed. That’s really important. You have the floor, you are the subject matter expert. I have had to tell myself that. I’m my biggest hype person, I have to hype myself up. It’s helpful to tell yourself these things.

On the topic of having the floor: I would suggest people keep that in mind when they open up for questions as well. Sometimes audience members ask questions and that catch me off guard, and I’m like: “Did I not explain that clearly? Or did you just not hear what I said?” But the reality is they may not have been listening, didn’t understand the point, or want clarification, so you just have to take questions light heartedly.

And finally: Have fun with it. Even if it’s a technical talk, don’t be afraid to let the audience laugh at your jokes because you want people to enjoy your talk and also get something out of it. If it’s just “code, code, code” people get bored. They start to get out their phones and laptops, so trying to keep the audience engaged is really important.

Danielle Adams, also known as @danielleadams is a Senior Software Engineer at Heroku and a contributor to Ember. You can also find her on Twitter.