Becoming a Pathfinder in Tech with Emily Kager

Episode Summary

For today’s episode we’re going to go off the beaten path a bit. We’re joined by Emily Kager, a Senior Android Engineer at Uber, to talk about the seemingly endless ways into tech. Emily found her way to mobile, a space that Corey self admittedly knows little about. Thankfully through content creators like Emily, he is becoming as erudite as the next. Emily’s diverse background and self determination serve as excellent example of how to carve you way into tech, how to do so successfully, and then sharing that with others. Emily discusses her motivations for building out her TikTok as as space to shine the light on the endless ways into tech. Emily and Corey chat about Emily’s own unique way into the field. Emily was adrift for a short period of time after school, where she realized she felt “lukewarm” about a path in medicine. So, she leveled some wisdom and ended up exploring other options. Now she has a masters and is an active member of the tech community!

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About Emily
Emily is an Android engineer by day, but makes tech jokes and satires videos by night. She lives in San Francisco with two ridiculously fluffy dogs.


Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.

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Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. Today’s episode is a little bit off of the beaten path because, you know, normally we talk to folks doing things in the world of cloud. What is cloud, you ask? Great question. Whatever someone’s trying to sell you that day happens to be cloud.

But it usually looks like SaaS products, Platform as a Service products, Infrastructure as a Service products, with ridiculous names because no one ever really thought what that might look like to pronounce out loud. But today, we’re going in a completely different
direction. My guest is Emily Kager, a senior Android engineer at a small scrappy startup called Uber. Emily, thank you for joining me.

Emily: Thanks for having me.

Corey: So, I’m going to outright come out and say it I know remarkably little about, I don’t even want to say the mobile ecosystem in general, but even Android specifically because I fell down the iPhone hole a long time ago, and platform lock-in is a very real thing. Whenever you start talking about technical things, that generally tends to sail completely past me. You’re talking about things like Promises and whatnot. And it’s like, oh, that sounds suspiciously close to JavaScript, a language that I cannot make sense of to save my life. And it’s clear you know an awful lot about what you’re doing. It’s also clear, I don’t know, a whole heck of a lot about that side of the universe.

Emily: Well, that’s good because I don’t know much about the cloud.

Corey: Exactly. Which sounds like well, we don’t have a whole lot of points of commonality to have a show on, except for this small little thing, where recently, I decided in an attempt to recapture my lost youth and instead wound up feeling older than I ever have before, I joined the TikToks and started making small videos that I would consider humorous, but almost no one else will. And okay, great. I give it a hearty, sensible chuckle and move on, and then I start scrolling to see what else is out there. And I started encountering you, kind of a lot.

And oh, my God, this is content that it’s relatable, it is educational, dare I say, and most of all, it’s engaging without being overbearing. And this is a new type of content creation that I hadn’t really spent a lot of time with before. So, I want to talk to you about that.

Emily: Awesome. I want to apologize for having to see my face as you’re just scrolling throughout your day, but happy to chat about it. [laugh].

Corey: No, no, it’s—compared to some of the things I wind up on the TikTok algorithm, it is ridiculous. I think it’s about 80% confident that I’m a lesbian for some Godforsaken reason. Which hey, power to the people. I don’t think I qualify, but you know, that’s just how it works. And what I found really interesting about it, what does tie it back to the world of cloud, is that a recurring theme of this show has been, since the beginning, where does the next generation of cloud-engineering-type come from?

Because I’ve been in this space, almost 20 years, and it turns out that my path of working to help desk until you realize that you like the computers, but not so much being screamed at by the general public, then go find a unicorn job somewhere you can bluff your way into because the technical interviewer is out sick that day, and so on and so forth, isn’t really a path that is A) repeatable by a whole lot of people, and B) something that exists anymore. So, how do people who are just entering the workforce now or transitioning into tech from other fields learn about this stuff? And we’ve had a bunch of people talking about approaches to educating people on these sorts of things, but I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to someone who’s been as effective at it in minute or less long videos as you are.

Emily: That’s super kind. Yeah, I think there’s actually a whole discussion and joke set on TikTok of people’s parents suggesting why don’t you just go slide your resume under the CEOs door? Like, why don’t you just go get a job [laugh] that way? I think the realities of—what year are we in? 2022? [laugh]—

Corey: All year long, I’m told.

Emily: Yeah, [laugh] yeah. Yeah. I think that’s not going to be the reality anymore, right? You can’t just go shake hands with the CEO and work your way up from the mailroom and yeah, that’s not the way anymore. So yeah, I think I, you know, started just putting some feelers out, making educational content mostly about my own experiences as a change career person in the tech world.

I have some, I would say interesting perspectives on how to enter the industry, you know, either through undergrad or after undergrad, so. And it’s done really well. I think people are really interested in tech is a career at this point. Like, it’s kind of well known that they’re good jobs, well paid, and, you know, pretty, like, good work-life balance, most of the time. So yeah, the youth are interested.

Corey: It’s something that offers a path forward that lends itself to folks with less traditional backgrounds. For example, you have a master’s degree; I have an eighth-grade education on paper. And, yes, I’m proof-positive that it is possible to get into this space and, by some definitions, excel in it without having a degree, but let’s also be clear, here, I have the winds of privilege at my back, and I was stupendously lucky. It is harder to do without the credential than it is with the credential.

Emily: Yep.

Corey: But the credential is not required in the same way that it is if I want to be a surgeon. Yeah, you’re going to spend a lot of time in either school or prison with that approach. So, you have really two paths there; one is preferable over the other. Tech, it feels like there’s always more than one way to get in. And there’s always, it seems, as many stories as there are people out there about how they wound up approaching their own path to it. What was yours?

Emily: Yeah. First of all, it’s funny, you mentioned surgeons because I actually just today saw on my ‘For You’ page some surgeons sharing, you know, their own suturing techniques. And I think it’s a really interesting platform even, you know, within different fields and different subsets to kind of share information and keep up to date and connect with people in your own industry. So, beyond learning how to get into [laugh] an industry, it can also be helpful for other things. But sorry, I completely forgot the original question. How—what was my path? Is that what the question was?

Corey: Yeah. How did you get here is always a good question. It’s the origin stories that we sometimes tell, sometimes we wind up occluding aspects of it. But I find it’s helpful to tell these stories just because, if nothing else, it reaffirms to folks who are watching or listening or reading depending on how they want to consume this, that when they feel like well, I tried to get a credential and didn’t succeed, or I applied for a job and didn’t get it, there are other paths. There is not only one way to get there.

Emily: Yeah. And I think it’s also super important to talk about failures that we’ve had, right? So, when I was in undergrad, I was studying neuroscience and I was pre-med. And I thought I wanted to go to med school, kind of decided halfway through, I was only lukewarm about it, and I don’t think med school is the type of thing that you want to feel lukewarm about as you’re [laugh] approaching, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and a ten-plus year commitment to schooling and whatever else, right? So yeah, I felt very lukewarm about the whole thing.

Both my parents were doctors, so I just didn’t really have exposure to many other careers or job options. I’m from a pretty, like, rural area, so tech had never really [laugh] occurred to me either. So yeah, then I decided to just take a year off after undergrad, felt super lost. I think when you’re 22, everything feels so important, [laugh] and you look at everyone else who already has their first job at 22, and I was like, “Wow, I’m a huge failure. I’m never going to have a job.” Which is, you know, hilarious looking back because 22-year-olds are so young. And yeah, just decided to take a year off. I worked at a nonprofit. I hated it, hated the work. Decided, like I, you know, can never do this forever.

Corey: I can’t do nonprofit stuff. I’m going to do for-profit stuff. And it turns out that most—when you say nonprofit, it doesn’t mean what I thought. It ap—usually means, you know, something that’s dedicated to a charitable cause, not, you know, a VC-backed company that doesn’t know how to make any money.

Emily: Yeah. I mean, it could still be very corporate at nonprofit. After that, actually—

Corey: Oh, yes. Money is the root of all good as well as evil.

Emily: Yeah. And I actually had a task at the nonprofit where I was sorting a ton of things in spreadsheets. And I was like, wow, it’d be easy if there was just, like, some program I could write to, like, do this. So, I actually reached out to my brother, who was a computer science nerd—affectionately—and he helped me write some, like, Excel macros, and I was like, “This is so cool.” And I ended up taking a free course, CS50, which is great, by the way, great course, super high quality from Harvard, totally free to take online.

And really liked it, so I did something a little crazy and decided to just dive right in. [laugh]. And I applied to a post-bacc program to kind of take all the courses that a CS undergrad would have taken just after. And that post-bacc turned into a master’s program.

Corey: And here you are now on the other side of having done it. If—sort of the dangerous questions: If you had known then what you know now, would you have gone down the same path, or would you have done something different to get into the space?

Emily: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s hard once you’ve kind of made it, to be like, “I would change all this.” I think I would probably try more things in undergrad. That would be the real answer to that. It obviously would have been a lot easier and more time-efficient if I didn’t have to go back to school and do something. But that being said, I don’t think that getting a post-bacc or a Master's is the only way into tech; it was just my path.

And I try not to… I try not to promote other paths that I don’t really know much about independently, right? So—on me. So—but plenty of people are successful going through boot camps or self-teaching, even, I think they’re just much more difficult paths because the reality is, like, having a degree is still definitely an easier path when you show up to an interview and you can just kind of show your piece of paper, which, for better or worse, that’s the reality sometimes.

Corey: My wife’s a corporate attorney, so I’ve been law adjacent for over a decade now, and one of the things that always struck me about that field is the big law approach is you go to a top-tier law school, you wind up putting your nose to the grindstone for all three years, and you hope to get an offer at one of the big law firms. And they all keep their salaries in lockstep. I think right now they’re all—they just upgraded again to $235,000 a year starting. And if you don’t get one of those rare, prestigious jobs at a number of select firms, it’s almost a bimodal distribution where you’re making somewhere between 60 and $80,000 a year to start somewhere else. It is the one path to make big money in law as you’re fresh out of school, and there are no real do-overs in most cases.

So, it’s easy to apply that type of thinking to tech, and it’s just not true. Talking to folks who have this dream of working at Google and they finally go through the interview process. And it turns out that oh no, they froze when asked to solve Fizz Buzz, or invert a binary tree on a whiteboard, or whatever ridiculous brainteaser question they’re being asked, and, “Oh, no, my life is over.” And it’s, you know, you can go to, I don’t know, Stripe, two blocks down the street and try again. And if that doesn’t work, Microsoft, or Amazon, or go down the entire list of tech companies you’ve heard of and haven’t heard of, and they all compensate directionally the same way. It’s not a one-shot, ‘this is it’ moment in the same way. And I—

Emily: Yeah.

Corey: —I think that’s a unique thing to tech right now.

Emily: Yeah, definitely. And I think a lot of kids—I say kids, but really, like, you know, 18 to 20-year-olds—

Corey: Oh, believe me, after being on TikTok for a couple of weeks, let me say that every one of you are children, to my perspective. I am 
now Grandpa Quinn over here.

Emily: [laugh]. I’ll take it. Yeah, but a lot of them have reached out like, “I didn’t get hired at FAANG right out of school. Is my life over? Is my career over?” And I’ve never worked at a FAANG. [laugh]. I’m pretty happy. I definitely think I have a successful career, and I almost think I’m better for not having gone right into it, you know?

I think it can be great for some people. There’s great, you know… definitely great salaries, great mentorship options, but it’s not the only option. And I think maybe tech is unique in that way, but there’s just so many good companies to work at, and so many great opportunities, you really don’t need to go to the name brand in the same way that maybe you would have to in law. It’s funny you say that because my partner is also a lawyer [laugh] and [crosstalk 00:13:00]—

Corey: Oh, dear. We should start a support group of our own, on some level.

Emily: I know, yeah. He just went through the whole big law recruiting thing. So, I know much about that. [laugh].

Corey: It’s always an experience. The way that I have found across the board as well is there’s also a shared, I guess, esprit de corps 
almost across the industry. I mean, you are on the Android side of the world, and I historically was on the DevOps side of the universe, although now mocking cloud services—but not the way test engineers say when they use the term ‘mocking’—is what I do. But there are 
shared experiences that tie us together, and that’s part of what I found so interesting about a lot of your content.

Because yes, there is some of the deep dive stuff into Android and, cool, sails right over my head—I hear the whistling sound vaguely as it goes over—but then there’s other stories about things that are unique—that are, I guess, a shared experience. For me, one of the things that tied all of tech together, regardless of where in the ecosystem you fit in, is a shared sense of being utterly intimidated to hell by the miracle of Git, where it’s like, Git’s entire superpower is making you feel dumb. Doesn’t matter who you are, from someone who doesn’t know what Git is all the way to Linus himself. Someone is go—at some point, you’re going to look at it and wonder, “What the hell is going on?” It’s just a question of how far you get along the path before it changes your understanding of the universe.

And I wound up starting to give talks, in the before times, at front-end conferences about this, which you want to talk about dispiriting things. I would build slides like, you know, a DevOps person would: Black Helvetica text on a white slide. Everyone else has these 
beautifully pristine, great slides. I have 20 minutes to go.

How can I fix it? Change the font to Comic Sans because if you’re going to have something that looks crappy, make it look like it was intentionally so.

Emily: And did it work?

Corey: Oh, it worked swimmingly. It was fantastic. I like the idea of being able to reach people in different areas, no matter where they are in their journey, and one of the things that appeals to me about TikTok in general in your content in particular, is it seems like we have something of a shared perspective on, getting people’s attention is required in order to teach them something, and I think we both use the same vehicle for that, which is humor.

Emily: Yeah, I would agree. I think the other interesting thing I just wanted to touch on; you were talking about is, we don’t really know too much about each other’s fields in tech. And I think when you’re talking to a younger audience, maybe who you want to get interested in tech, it’s really hard to communicate all the different avenues into tech that they can take. And this is something that I’m still struggling with because I know my experience as an Android developer, a mobile developer, I probably medium I understand, you know, back end development, but I don’t think I could explain to a college student why or what even is, [laugh] you know, cloud development and how they could get involved in that, or all these other fields that I just really don’t know much about. And I think that’s kind of what ties a lot of people in tech together as well, right? Because we know our little corners of the world, and you have to start to get comfortable with the things that you don’t know. And I think that’s really hard to explain to [laugh] the younger generation as you’re trying to get them excited about things.

Corey: Oh, yeah. And the reality, too, of what we tell people and how the world works is radically different. Like, I want to learn a technology that will absolutely last for an entire career and then some, and I want to be able to be employed anytime, anywhere, at any company. The easy slam dunk answer that I think will not change in either of our lifetimes is Microsoft Excel. It powers the world.

People think I’m kidding, but it is the IDE of back-office processes and communications. If Excel were to go away or even worse, 
Microsoft were to change Excel’s interface, people would be storming Redmond by noon.

Emily: Yeah, I believe it. Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, right? Like, it’s hard to tell people—because people will tell to me, “Well, do you have to keep learning things?” And I’m like, “Yeah. You got to keep learning things, like, all the time.”

But I don’t think that should be, you know, a deterrent from the career; it’s just a reality. But to try to manage, like, the fears a lot of people have coming into tech and also encouraging them to still, you know, try it, go after it, I think that’s something I struggle with when I’m creating my content for—towards, like, younger people. [laugh].

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Corey: Something I found on Twitter is that among other things that Twitter has going on for it, it doesn’t do nuance, it does, effectively, things that are black and white, yes or no, it’s always a binary in many respects. And one of those is that, like, should—like, is passion or requirement for working in tech. And there’s the, “Yes, you absolutely have to be passionate for this and power through it.” And the answer, “No, you don’t need to be passionate about it’s okay to do it for the money and not kill yourself working 20 hours a day.” And from my perspective, I take a more moderate stance, which is how you get both sides of that argument to hate you, but it’s, I don’t think you need to have this all-consuming drive for tech, but I do think you need to like it.

Emily: Oh yeah.

Corey: I think you need to enjoy what you’re doing or it’s going to feel like unmitigated toil and misery, and you will not be happy in the space. And if you’re not happy, really is the rest of it all worth it?

Emily: I think that applies to most careers, though, right? Like that—definitely, when I was looking to switch careers, that was the main thing I was looking for. Number one was like, you know, pretty solid salary. And number two was, do I just not hate it? [laugh]. And I think if you’re doing anything and you hate it, you’re going to be miserable, right?

Like, even if you’re doing it to make a paycheck if you actually hate every single day when you wake up in the morning and you dread, you know, going to bed because the next morning, you have to wake up and do it again, like, you’re going to be miserable. But I do think, yeah, like, to your point, there’s a middle ground in all this, right? You don’t have to dream about tech, but I think you do have to realize that, yeah, if you’re going to be in this industry for decades, you’re going to have to be able to learn and be interested enough in things that, you know, learning isn’t a huge slog either. So.

Corey: I’ve never understood the folks who don’t want to learn as they go through their career because it just seems like a recipe to do the same thing every year for 40 years, and then you retire with what 40 years of experience—one year experience repeated 40 times. It’s a… any technology or any disruption change happens, and suddenly you’re in a very uncomfortable situation when we’re talking about knowledge workers.

Emily: Yeah, I think people—you know, I think we talk a lot about, like, imposter syndrome in our industry right? So, I think people already feel like maybe, “I don’t know anything so why would I put myself out there and learn new things?” I mean, I definitely sometimes struggle with this where I’m like, “I’m very comfortable [laugh] in, like, what I do day-to-day. I know what I’m doing.” So yeah, when you have to learn, like, a totally new language or new architecture, whatever, it can feel very overwhelming to be like, wow, I actually am, you know, super stupid. [laugh]. But it’s just new things, right? You’re learning new things, and—

Corey: Like, “Find the imposter. Oh, no, it’s me.” Yes, it’s a consistent problem.

Emily: But it’s a really powerful thing to acknowledge that you can feel stupid and you can ask questions and you can be new to something, and that’s, like, totally valid. And I started taking a new language course a year or two ago, and showing up every day and speaking a new language and feeling like an idiot, it was actually super empowering because everyone in the class is doing it, you know? We didn’t know the language and we were just, you know, talking gibberish to each other, and that’s fine. We were learning.

Corey: The emotional highs and lows are also—they hit quickly. I have never felt smarter or dumber in a two-minute span of each other than when working on technology. It’s one of those, “I will never understand how this works—oh my God, it works. I’m a genius. Just kidding. It doesn’t work. Nevermind. Forget everything I just said.” It’s a real emotional roller coaster.

Emily: [laugh]. There’s only two ends of the spectrum, right? Like, there’s no middle ground in this situation. It’s, “I’m a genius,” or, “I should quit and never work on technology ever again.”

Corey: So, I’ve been experimenting on TikTok a bit and you’ve been on it significantly longer. You have, as of this recording, something in the direction of 65,000 followers on the TikToks. I have a bit more than that on the Twitters, which only took me a brief 14 years to do. So, great. I’ve noticed that as I wind up—as you hit certain inflection points on Twitter, your experience definitely changes, when—as far as just, like, the unfortunate comments coming out of the woodwork.

Like, I was making fun of LinkedIn at some point, and then there was some troll comment in the comments, and I looked at who the commenter was and it was the official LinkedIn brand account. And okay, well, that’s novel, but all right. I’d like to add them to my professional network on TikTok. So, there we go. But have you noticed inflection points as well, in your—experience changes on the platform as you continue to grow?

Emily: Yeah. I think—I saw something once that Twitter is only fun if you have less than, like, [laugh] 5000 followers or something. So, I think we both surpassed that a while ago. And yeah, I think it can be a very interesting experience as you start to gain followers. And to be honest, like, I’m on both platforms, just to kind of make content.

It’s a very, like, creative outlet for me. I don’t necessarily care that much about how many followers I have. But it is an interesting progression to see, like, you know, you get a little bit of engagement, and it’s usually, like, a back and forth; you’re kind of like actually connecting to people, and then as you kind of surpass maybe five or ten-thousand followers, there’s all these people who come in who you don’t know who they are, they don’t know who you are, they make assumptions about you, they are saying really mean things that I think just because you have, like, a high follower account that they’re like, “I can say whatever I want to this person.” And it’s definitely an interesting change. I think over the years—because I’ve been fairly public for a number of years now—you kind of get more immune to it. I’m sure you feel the same way, but you’re like, whatever, just kind of brush off a lot of these things. But—

Corey: Oh, yeah. You become more of a persona to people than an actual person.

Emily: Yeah.

Corey: And that is—

Emily: Yeah.

Corey: —people forget that—you know, everyone yells at you about, “That was an unkind thing, express more empathy all the ti”—I mean, you get that all the time when you get—when set a slight foot wrong. And they’re right—don’t think I’m saying otherwise—but they’re not expressing a lot of empathy for you at the same time, either. So, it’s one of those you have to disengage and disconnect on certain levels and just start to ignore it. But it’s been a wild ride.

Emily: I used to wonder, I used to see, like, accounts that have you know, 50, 60,000 followers on Twitter back when I was a smaller account, and they didn’t—they never tweeted, and I was like, “How’d they get so many followers? They never tweet.” And now I understand. It’s that they gained that many followers and then they left. [laugh]. They’re done.

Corey: [unintelligible 00:23:18] like, “This platform sucks now.” And it’s—a lot of folks, like, “Oh, Twitter’s not as good as it used to be.” It’s like, well hang on. Has the platform itself changed or has your exposure to it changed? And it’s a question that doesn’t really have a great answer or way to find out, but it’s… it’s been a—it’s an ongoing struggle for folks. And I do have empathy for that. I try to avoid getting involved in pile-ons wherever possible.

Emily: Yeah. That’s been a new change for me, too. I think a lot of my early brand on Twitter—as dumb as that word is—was, you know, kind of finding, like, misogynists in tech and really, like, creating a pile-on on them. And, you know, I think there is a space for calling out bad behavior in the industry, but you want to be careful because really, there are other people on the other side of the screen. And unless someone’s really implying—like, unless they’re really intending ill intent, you know, I think I’ve kind of now moved less towards that type of [laugh] pile-on. It is fun though. That’s the thing. It’s fun.

Corey: Plus the algorithm rewards engagement. Say horrifying things and get a bunch of attention and more followers. But you don’t necessarily want to participate in that.

Emily: Yeah, exactly. And that’s the other thing I realized that if someone is really saying something stupid, me bringing attention to it is only going to amplify it more. So. Especially as you gain followers and you have more of an audience to whatever you quote, tweet, or retweet, or comment on, right? So.

Corey: As I look at, like, the sheer amount of content that you’ve put out—it’s weird because if someone asked me this question, I don’t know that I would have a good answer, but I am curious. You are consistently exploring new boundaries in terms of the humor, the content, the topics, the rest. How do you come up with it?

Emily: This is going to be a really unsatisfying answer. [laugh]. I don’t know. [laugh]. I’m a runner, and a lot of times when I’m running I don’t use headphones. A lot of people say I’m sociopathic because I just am by myself in the world, and—this is such, like, a weird answer—but yeah, I just kind of—I’m thinking about things, usually I’m like digesting my day, things that happened, things that were annoying.

And to be honest, I think it’s pretty easy to identify things that are relatable, right? So, a lot of the gripes that all engineers have, right? So, you’re like, “Wow, it was really annoying that I had to make a ticket in Jira today.” And you can kind of think about how is it annoying, and how can I make this funny and relatable to someone else? So—and to be hon—like, when I had, you know, a group of coworkers that I worked really closely in my last job, I would just send them the jokes, and then if they thought it was funny, I would just, like, post it on Twitter.

And that’s kind of… you know, it’s just, like, the basic chit-chat that you do. But now we’re all remote, so I found an outlet through Twitter and TikTok, where I would just express all my, you know, stupid engineering jokes to the world. [laugh]. Whether they want it or not.

Corey: Something I found is that—and it always has frustrated me, and I figured, one day, I too, would figure out how to solve for this. And no. There are things I will tweet out that I think are screamingly funny and hilarious, and no one cares. Conversely, I’ll jot off something right before I dive into a meeting, and I’ll come back and find out it’s gone around the internet three times. And there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, other than that my sense of humor is not quite dialed into exactly where most folks in this industries are. It’s close enough that could be overlooked, but I still feel like the best jokes go unappreciated.

Emily: Oh, I agree. I mean, I send jokes by friends all the time that I’m like, “I’m posting this,” and it gets, like, you know, 20 likes. And I don’t even care. I think, you know—I think that’s the—you know can—you start to learn as a content creator that you’re like, “I’m going to put out the content that I want to put out and hope other people find it funny, but at the end of the day, I don’t really care.” So, I’m laughing at my own jokes. I’ll admit that. So. I think they’re funny. My—

Corey: [crosstalk 00:26:58]—

Emily: —[crosstalk 00:26:58] funny, too.

Corey: —for me because if—I’m keeping myself engaged, otherwise it gets boring, and I lose interest in the sound of my own voice, which is just a terrible sin for me. So, it’s—I have to keep it engaging or I’ll lose interest.

Emily: Yeah, exactly.

Corey: Do you find when you’re trying to put together content, that—for TikTok, for example—that you’ve come up with something that, “Huh, this doesn’t really fit the video format. Maybe it’s more of a blog post or something else.” Do you find that one content venue feeds another? Do you reuse content across multiple platforms? And if so—

Emily: Yeah.

Corey: —what have you learned from all that?

Emily: That’s an interesting question. I think—I do maintain a blog, but I don’t post so often on it, and I find that the—for the more serious content I’m making that’s not jokes, right? I think TikTok just really hits a different audience. Like, people don’t find my blog, it’s not discoverable, maybe they’re not checking it, and I think definitely the younger audience prefers to consume things in video content. And a lot of my content is also aimed towards people who maybe are exploring tech who don’t work in tech yet, and so to really hit them, they probably aren’t following me and they probably don’t know who I am, they probably don’t even know what to look for in my blog.

So, for example, I have a blog post all about how I transitioned into tech, blah, blah, blah, and people still ask me all the time on TikTok, “How did you transition into tech? How did you”—I’m like, “It’s in my blog.” On my—like, you know, linked my bio. But you still have to just kind of—I think, like, I tend to just recreate the content into the different platforms. And it can be a bit tedious, but I try to keep my blog up to date with, like, different stories of things that have happened to me. But these days, I mostly just post on TikTok, to be honest. [laugh].

Corey: I had the same problem, but content reuse saved me. I started writing a long-form blog post of roughly 1000 to 1500 words every week, then reading it into a microphone. It became the AWS Morning Brief podcast and emailing out to the newsletter as well. So, it’s one piece of content used three different times, which was awesome, but then there’s the other side of it, which is, I need to come up with an interesting idea or concept or something to talk about for 1000 words every week, like clockwork. And one of the things that made this way easier is a tip I got from Scott Hanselman that I have been passing on whenever it seems appropriate—like in this conversation—which is if you find yourself explaining something a third time, turn it into a blog post because then you’ll just be able to link people to the thing that you wrote where you go into significantly more depth around what you’re talking about than you can in a two-tweet exchange, and that in turn, gives you a place to dump that stuff out.

And I found that has worked super well for me because once I’ve written it and gotten it out, I also often find I stopped making the same reference all the time because now I’ve said it, I’ve said my piece. Now, I can move on and come up with a second analogy, or a new joke or something.

Emily: Yeah. I’ve also found that um—that’s a great idea from Scott; he’s also great on the TikToks [laugh]—

Corey: Oh, yes he is.

Emily: —[crosstalk 00:29:45] [laugh]. Building his account. Yeah, I think another interesting thing is, specifically on TikTok and Twitter because it’s more of a conversation between you and your community, I tend to get a lot of ideas just from people asking me questions, right? So, in the comments of something, it could be related to the video I just made and it really helps me expand upon, you know, what I was just saying and maybe answer a follow-up question in a different video. Or maybe it’s just a totally unrelated question.

So, someone finds, you know, one of my comedy videos and is like, “Hey, you work in tech. Like, what is that like in San Francisco?” Right? So, I think I’ve found a ton of inspiration just from community people and really what they’re asking for, right? Because at the end of the day, you want to make content that people actually care about and want to know the answers to.

Corey: Yeah, seems like that does help. If it’s, “How do I wind up building a following or getting a lot of traffic or the rest?” And it’s Lord knows, once you have a website that has a certain amount of Google juice, you just get besieged by random requests from basically every channel. “Hey, I saw this great article linked to a back issue of the newsletter talking about this thing. Would you mind including my link to it, this would help your readers.” And it’s just it’s a pure SEO scam.

And it’s yeah, I don’t—my approach to SEO has been this, again, ancient, old-timey idea of I’m going to write compelling original content that ideally other people find valuable and then assume that the rest is going to take care of itself. Because, on some level, that is what all these algorithms are trying to do is surface the useful stuff. I feel like as long as you hold to that, you’re not going to go too far wrong.

Emily: No, that’s true. Also, something funny about reusing content is sometimes I’ll post a joke on Twitter, and if it does well, I’ll make it into a video format. And you know, sometimes I change the format of the joke around, whatever. But I—a couple times this happened—I’ll post something on Twitter, and then, like, a day or two later, I’ll make a TikTok about it, and a lot of people will come in and be like, “I already saw this joke on Twitter.” And they won’t know it’s from me, so they’re basically accusing me of joke stealing when really I’m just content-raising is what I should tell them. But it is funny. [laugh].

Corey: That’s happened me a couple times on Twitter. People are like, “Hey, that’s a stolen joke.” And then they’ll google it and they’ll dig it out. Like, “Here’s the original—oh, wait, you said it two years ago.” “Yeah. No one liked it then, so here we are.” “If you liked it then, why didn’t you blow it up like you did now?” So.

Emily: They remembered it from two years ago, but they didn’t remember it was yours. [laugh].

Corey: At some level, I feel like I could almost loop my Twitter account and just let it continue to play out again for the next seven years, and other than the live-streaming stuff and the live-tweeting various events, I feel like it would do fairly well, but who knows.

Emily: Yeah. Yeah. But at the end of the day, I think there’s also a finite amount of funny tech jokes, and we’re all just kind of recycling each other’s jokes at some point. So, I don’t get too offended by that. I’m like, “Sure. We all made the same joke about NFTs. Great.” Like, I don’t care. [laugh].

Corey: I really want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.

Emily: [crosstalk 00:32:36] been fun.

Corey: If people want to learn more and appreciate some of that awesome content, where’s the best place to find you?

Emily: Yeah, I’m on the Twitters and the TikToks, just like you.

Corey: Excellent. And we will, of course, put links to that in the [show notes 00:32:45].

Emily: Had a great time. Thank you so much for having me again.

Corey: No, thank you for coming. Emily Kager, senior Android engineer at Uber. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, along with an angry comment that links to a TikTok video of you ranting for a solid minute, but because computers and phones alike are very hard, you’re using the wrong camera, and we just get that video of your floor.

Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit to get started.

Announcer: This has been a HumblePod production. Stay humble.
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