Hi, everyone! Today I am publishing yet another interview! I interviewed Jess Lee, who is a COO and co-founder of dev.to. (The other founder is Ben Halpern, who is the CEO). Dev.to is a website full of coding resources and blog posts for programmers. They are pretty popular and active on Twitter, too, so you might know them from that social media! I wanted to ask her some questions and get to know her better because I think their website is pretty awesome for any programmer!
These interviews are popular on the blog, and I must admit I love doing them! Also, I think it is interesting to be able to present you such awesome women in tech or entrepreneurial individuals! My previous interviews were with Holy (codegirlcode), and Cleo, a freelance web developer!
About Jess Lee
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about you!
Hey! I’m Jess, and I’m one of the co-founders of dev.to aka The Practical Dev. I’m a proud Taiwanese American based out of Brooklyn, NY. My big focuses are the website as a product and all the operational needs of a brand new startup. I think about our company values and culture a lot, the finance stuff, the hiring needs, and all the things that fall in between. It’s less outward facing than Ben, but takes creativity to keep things sailing. 🙂
What is your academic experience? Are you a student right now or are you working full time?
This is always a fun question! In college, I created my major. It was mostly music performance (classical piano) with a splash of business. I didn’t start coding until a year and a half ago when I enrolled in a three-month, full-time bootcamp. I enrolled because, at the time, I was working for a startup and it was obvious that only developers were treated as first-class citizens. Also, I was running a small squarespace business on the side and started to wonder… How do you build Squarespace?
Did you always want to be entrepreneurs?
I never thought I wanted to be an entrepreneur but looking back, all my actions point towards YES. I’ve had various side projects come and go over the past few years, so I’m thankful that people seem to like this one 🙂
What are the challenges you had to face or have to face as an entrepreneur?
Personally, the biggest challenge with dev.to was having enough time in the day — when I first started working on the project, I was also working full time at DoSomething.org, a nonprofit focused on activating young people for social change. It was a job I cared a lot about, so giving it ‘my all’ both day and night was very challenging and unhealthy. Now I have some more exciting challenges — some are obvious, like thinking about our product and community members. And some are less obvious, like creating an employee handbook to make sure our values are deliberately expressed to our team from the very beginning.
What happened to your job at DoSomething.org? Did you quit? If so, when did you know it was the right time for you?
About The Practical Dev
How did you and Ben Halpern, the co-founder with you, come up with the idea of creating this space?
Dev.to was Ben’s idea, but I joined him very early on to help execute. It’s been so exciting to see our community of developers grow, and I’m thrilled by the quality content that’s being produced by our members. Here’s an excellent introduction series to serverless backends.
Your tweets on The Practical Dev account are always really fun! How do you always come up with such amazing tweets?
Gosh, I think the question is ‘What in the world is going on in Ben’s head?’ But in seriousness, many of our tweets are based on real life experiences/thoughts/feelings.
I’m curious to know WHO is writing those amazing tweets!?
That would be Ben.
How did you guys come up with the awesome t-shirt idea of “Copying and Pasting from Stack Overflow”? I love this t-shirt so much! Every time I wear it, people laugh and make a comment about it!
That’s awesome! I love hearing that. All the ideas are really coming from Ben! We were actually in Stack Overflow’s office the other day and one of their engineers, Adam, was wearing the shirt. The “Copying and Pasting from Stack Overflow” is one of many of our O’Reilly book cover parodies. We decided to print shirts around the winter holidays because we thought they would be fun gifts.
What’s next for The Practical Dev?
Right now, we’re experimenting with (serious) original video content for dev.to — so stay tuned. We’re hoping to have something to share by the end of May. Here’s some non-serious original content we produced earlier this year if you need some laughs 🙂
Get free stickers from The Practical Dev
The Practical Dev is offering free stickers right now – while supplies last! Register here to get them.
They also have a shop where you can buy excellent merchandise!