There are good parts to TikTok, despite the crippling nature of existential pondering on ones age that it may induce. One of those good parts is that Corey gets to talk to people who, generally, he wouldn’t have access to across the cloud ecosystem. Today’s guest, Brooke Jamieson, Head of Enablement of AI/ML and Data at Blackbook.ai is a fortunate example of the great good that comes out of it. Brooke has a knack for folding multiple things together into succinct content. Brooke takes the incredibly complex, and makes them easily accessible, via short form video. One of Brooke’s unique abilities is to create content that sells ideas over products. The result, a prolific and wide reception of some well honed perspectives. Check out the conversation for Brooke’s wisdom!
Episode Show Notes & Transcript
Brooke is the Head of Enablement - AI/ML and Data at Blackbook.ai, an Australian based consulting firm and AWS Partner. Brooke has degrees in Mathematics and Data Engineering and they specialise in developing technically robust solutions that help “non-data people” harness the power of AI for their industry, and communicate this effectively.
Outside of their 'day job', Brooke speaks at Data, AI, Software Engineering, UX and Business conferences and events to Australian and international audiences, and has guest lectured at the University of Queensland Business School and Griffith University. Brooke is proudly a volunteer member of the Queensland National Science Week Committee, and is always on the lookout for new ways to promote STEM pathways to young people, especially young women and members of the LGBTIQA+ community from regional Australia.
- Blackbook: https://blackbook.ai/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/brooke_jamieson
- TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@brookebytes
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brookejamieson/
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.
Corey: The company 0x4447 builds products to increase standardization and security in AWS organizations. They do this with automated pipelines that use well-structured projects to create secure, easy-to-maintain and fail-tolerant solutions, one of which is their VPN product built on top of the popular OpenVPN project which has no license restrictions; you are only limited by the network card in the instance.
Corey: This episode is sponsored in part by our friends at Sysdig. Sysdig is the solution for securing DevOps. They have a blog post that went up recently about how an insecure AWS Lambda function could be used as a pivot point to get access into your environment. They’ve also gone deep in-depth with a bunch of other approaches to how DevOps and security are inextricably linked. To learn more, visit sysdig.com and tell them I sent you. That’s S-Y-S-D-I-G dot com. My thanks to them for their continued support of this ridiculous nonsense.
Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. As my 30s draw to a close, I am basically beating myself up emotionally by making myself feel tremendously, tremendously old. And there’s no better way to do that than to go on TikTok where it pops up with, “Hey if you were born before 2004”—and then I just closed the video because it’s ridiculous. It’s more or less of a means of self-flagellation.
But there are good parts to it. One of those good parts is I get to talk to people who I don’t generally encounter in other areas of the giant cloud ecosystem, and my guest today is a shining example of someone who has been very prolific on TikTok but for some reason or other, hadn’t really come across my radar previously. Brooke Jamieson is the Head of Enablement of AI and machine learning at Blackbook. Brooke, thank you for joining me today.
Brooke: Thanks so much for having me. Welcome to 6 a.m. in Brisbane. [laugh].
Corey: It was right before the pandemic that I did my first trip to Australia, discovered that was a real place. Like, “Oh, yeah. You’re going to go to give a talk in Perth. What, are you taking a connection through Narnia?” No, no, it turns out it’s a real place, unlike New Zealand.
Brooke: Oh, yeah. New Zealand’s fake.
Brooke: I booked a conference in Portugal soon, and it’s going to take me 31 hours to get there from here. So. [laugh].
Corey: I remember the days of international travel. Hopefully for me, they’ll come back again, sooner or later.
Brooke: Fingers crossed.
Corey: What really struck my notice about a lot of your content is the way that you fold multiple things together. First and foremost, you talk an awful lot about machine learning, data engineering, et cetera, and you are the second person that I’ve encountered that really makes me think that there is something to all of this. The first being Emily Freeman, which I’ve discussed on the show previously, and on Twitter, and shouting from the rooftops because she works at AWS and is able to tell the story, which basically, I think makes her a heretic compared to most folks over in that org. But there’s something about making incredibly complex things easily accessible, which is hard enough in its own right, but you also managed to do it basically via short-form video on TikTok. How did you discover all this?
Brooke: Yeah, I have a very strange resume. [laugh]. It is sort of a layered Venn diagram is the way I normally talk about it if I’m doing a conference talk or something. So, I studied pure maths at university the first time, and then I went back and studied data engineering after. But then I also worked in fashion as a model internationally, and then I’ve also worked in things like user experience, doing lots of behavioral science, and everything even design-related around that.
And then I’ve also done lots more work into cloud and AI and everything that happens. So overall, it’s just being about educating people on this. Most of my role now is educating executives and showing them how they were lied to at various conferences so that they can actually make an informed decision. Because if I go to talk to a board, I know when I leave, they’re going to have a conversation about what we talked about without me in the room, and I think executives keep making terrible decisions because they can’t have that conversation as a group. They don’t know what to do when the tour guide isn’t there anymore because they don’t have a shared vocabulary or a framework to talk about what they might like to do, or what they might like to prioritize to do first, things like that.
So, so much of what I do is just really helping people to understand, conceptually from a high level what they’re actually trying to do, so that then they can deliver on that rather than thinking, oh, I just really saw this cool model of a specific AI thing at a conference, and it was a cool animated slide. And I would like to purchase exactly one of those for my company, thank you.
Corey: It’s odd because you don’t have a quote-unquote, “Traditional”—if there is such a thing—DevRel role: You’re not an advocate, you’re not an evangelist. And none of your content and talks that I have seen have been actively selling any product, but they very much been selling ideas and concepts. And it really strikes me that you have threaded the needle beautifully as far as understanding the assignment. You’re trying to cause a shift in the audience, get them to see things in a way that they don’t already without trying to push a particular product or a particular solution. How much of that was happy accident and how much of that was something you set out to do intentionally?
Brooke: First, thanks so much. Second of all, I think this comes from studying maths. So, the number one skill you get from doing a pure maths degree is you have a toolbox with you, and then there’s a number of things in that toolbox. There’s different ways you can solve problems, and usually, there’s a few different ways you can solve a given problem, but you just open up your toolbox that grows over time, and you can see what you can use in there to solve a problem. So, that’s really how I’ve continued to exist, even working in user experience roles as well, just like what elements do we have to even work with here?
And I brought that with me into the cloud as well because I think the really big thing with actually selling tech products is being confident enough to know that there are a number of things you can actually use instead of your product, but if you’re confident enough in the product you have, it will be the obvious solution anyway, so instead, I just get people thinking about what they actually need it for, how they could use it solving a problem and give them ideas on how to apply it. And you would know this: In cloud, there’s always ten million different ways to do something. [laugh]. And it’s just, instead of getting them to think—because then you just get stuck in a thought vortex about, “This one or this one?” Or, “What am I doing,” but instead latch on to an idea of what you’re trying to achieve, and then work out the most optimal way to do that for your underlying infrastructure as well. And even the training of staff that you have, is really important.
Corey: There’s a definite idea around selling—like, I think it’s called ‘solution selling.’ I don’t know; I don’t have a background in this stuff. I’ve basically stumbled into it. But periodically, I’ll have folks come on this show, and I’ll chat with them, “So, what is the outcome we’re looking to have in the audience here?” Because again, telling a story with no real target in mind doesn’t always go super well. And, “Oh, I want people to sign up for my product.” “Okay, how do you envision them doing that?”
And their story is to sit there and pitch the whole time, and it’s, yeah, that’s going to be a really bad show, and I don’t want to put that out. Instead, if you’re active in a particular space, my approach has always been to talk about the painful problem that you solve and allude to what you do and a bit of how you do it. If you make the audience marinate in the painful problem, the folks who are experiencing that are going to sit up and self-select of, “Ooh, that sounds a lot like the problems we have. If they’re talking about this, they might have some ideas and solutions.” It’s a glimpse and a hook into reaching out to find out more.
And to be clear, that’s not the purpose of this show, but if someone wants to pitch a particular product or service, that’s the way to do it because the other stuff just doesn’t work. Giving away free t-shirts, for example, okay, you’ll get a bunch of people clicking links and whatnot, but you’re also effectively talking to people who are super willing to spend time filling out forms and talking to people to get a free t-shirt. I don’t know that for many products, that’s the best way to get qualified leads in.
Brooke: Yeah, it’s tricky. And I think it’s just because everyone’s doing what everyone told them to do. I love reading really terrible sales books. I started when I was younger, just because I could see people trying to use these tactics on me; and I just wanted to know everything there was to know about what it’s like to be a used car salesman in the middle of [laugh] America. And so I’ve read all of these things, and lots of the strategies in them, they only work if you’re in a very specific area that they’re actually working in, and no one’s getting to the problem of how do you actually like to be sold to? How can you improve the experience?
And overall, for consulting, usually, it’s someone—the best end game is someone has seen you around doing other things, and then they come back and they’re like, “I’ve got a really weird problem. I didn’t even know if this is what you can do. Can you help me with this?” And that is—the best client to have, they’re the best—they’re so open to ideas, they trust you because they’ve seen you do good work over time. And you would have seen this so many times, it’s about someone just come to you with a really strange problem, and it may or may not even be what you’ve actually helped them with.
Corey: Help me understand a bit what you do as a Head of Enablement? Because I’ve heard the term a few different ways, always at different companies. As far as day job goes, where do you start? Where do you stop?
Brooke: Yeah, it’s a very fake-sounding job title.
Corey: [unintelligible 00:08:53]—“Oh, what are you?” “Oh, I’m an enabler.” Like, effectively standing behind someone who’s debating relapsing into something, like, “Do it. Do it. Do it.” Now, I don’t imagine that’s what you do. But then again, AI and ML is a weird space. Maybe it is.
Brooke: Just when my friends are online shopping, and they’re not sure if they should buy something. I’m the one messaging them saying, “Yes, get it.” That’s me. So no, what I do is I—there’s really technical people in our teams, we’ve got about 150 consultants across Australia, and then there’s very non-technical business executives who have a problem. And if you don’t have a good conduit between those two groups, the business won’t get what they need, and the technical people won’t have the actual brief they need to solve the problem.
Because so many times people will come to us with what they think is a problem, but it’s actually a symptom, not the root cause, so you just need a really good understanding of overall how businesses work, how business processes work, as well, and then also just really good user experience, information architecture knowledge to go through that. But then all of that would only work if I also had the technical underpinnings so I can then make sure we have everything we need and then communicate that to the development team to make sure that everyone’s getting what they need from it. Lots of places, my job doesn’t exist in a lot of companies, and that’s because they just try to mash [laugh] those two groups together with varying levels of success.
Corey: Or it’s sales enablement of, “Here’s the pitch deck you use. I’m going to build slides all day,” et cetera. “Here’s what the engineers are going to babble about. When they use this phrase, go ahead and repeat this talking point and they’ll shut up and go away,” is often how it manifests. And I don’t get that sense from you at all.
I’m going to call you out slightly on this one. The way you just describe it like, “Well, there are some very technical people, and there are some non-technical people.” And you didn’t actually put yourself into either one of those categories, but let’s call out a bit of background on you. You have a degree in mathematics, but that wasn’t enough, so you decided to go a little more technical than that; you also have a degree in data engineering. If you’re listening to this, please don’t take this the wrong way—
Brooke: Definitely take it the wrong way. [laugh].
Corey: —but you do not present as someone who is first and foremost like, “Code speaks. Code is everything,” the stereotypical technical person who gets lost in their absolute love of the technology to the exclusion of all else. You speak in a way that makes this stuff accessible. Never once in watching any of your content, have I come away feeling dumb as a result, and that’s an incredibly rare thing. But make no mistake, you are profoundly technical on these things.
Brooke: Yeah, making people not feel worried is my number one marketable skill when talking to executives because executives make bad decisions when they don’t know how to have that conversation. But all of that is because they’ve been rising up in their organization for 20 to 30 years, and they didn’t ask questions early on when tech was new, and then it’s gotten to a point where they feel like they can’t ask questions [laugh] anymore because they’re the one in charge, and they’re too nervous to admit they don’t understand something. So, much of what I do that is successful when talking to executives is just really making sure that I’m never out to try and look like the smart one. So, I’m not ever just flexing technical knowledge to make people think that I am the God Almighty of all things tech.
I don’t care about that, so it’s mostly about how can I make people really comfortable with something that they’ve been too scared to ask about probably for quite some time? So that then they can make an informed choice on that front and so they can actually be empowered by that knowledge that they now have. They probably were too scared to ask it the whole time. But it’s just a way of getting through to them. And then you get so much trust from that as well, just because, as well, I’m always very confident to tell people if they’ve been given the wrong information by other parties, I will absolutely tell them immediately, or if they just don’t know how to give success metrics for project, so they end up just forgetting that false negatives or false positives can exist. [laugh].
So, educating them, even on accuracy and recall measures and things like that, as well and doing it in a way where they don’t ever feel threatened is the number one key to success that no one ever tells you about as a thing because no one wants to even admit that people could possibly be threatened by this.
Corey: A lot of the content that you wind up building is aimed around career advice, particularly for folks early on in their careers. And the reason I bring that up is that you are alluding to something that I see when I interview folks all the time—I went through it myself—where there was a time you’re going through a technical interview, and you get the flop sweat where I don’t know the answer to this question. And there are a few things you can do: You can give up and shut down, which okay, that is in many cases are natural inclination, but not particularly helpful in those environments; you can bluff your way through the answer, which I generally don’t advise because when an interviewer is asking you a technical question, it’s a reasonable guess that they know the right answer; but the mark of seniority that it took me a distressingly long time to learn this is I just sometimes laugh, I say, “I have absolutely no idea, but if I had to guess…” and then I’ll speculate wildly. And that, in my experience, is the mark of the kind of person you generally want to have on your team. And there are elements of what you just said, threaded throughout that entire approach of not making people feel less than.
On the other side of that interview table, when I’m sitting there as a candidate. I hated those interviews where someone sits there and tries to prove they’re the smartest person in the room. Yeah, I too, am the smartest person in the room when I wrote the interview questions. But for me, it’s a given Tuesday; for the person I’m interviewing, it’s determining the next stage of their career. There’s a power imbalance there.
Brooke: Yeah. And this has always happened to me in job interviews as well. I have a very polarizing resume just because it’s not traditional. I didn’t do software engineering at university and then work as a software engineer. I just haven’t gone through that linear pathway, so there’s lots of people just trying to either figure me out or get to a gotcha moment where they can really just work out what’s actually happening.
I have no interest in it. I’m happy to say that I don’t know something. And being able to openly say that you don’t know something is so helpful, as you’re saying. It’s the number one skill I wish people would learn because it’s fine to not [laugh] understand things.
Corey: A couple of times, I was the first DevOps hire in startup that was basically being interviewed by a bunch of engineers. And I went through a lot of those interviews and took the job only a couple of times, and one of the key differentiators for me was when they sat down and looked sort of sheepish and asked me a question of the form, “Look, I know how to interview a software engineer, but I sort of get the sense that you’re not going to do that super well.” Yeah, surprise; I’m not a software engineer. “What is the best way to interview you to really expose where you start and where you stop?” Which I think is such a great question, if you don’t know.
Now, in my world, the way that—now that I’m on the other side of the table, I bring in experts to help me evaluate people, otherwise I run the very real risk of hiring the person that sounds the most confident, and that doesn’t generally end well in technical spaces. And really figure out what it is that makes people shine. Everyone talks about how to pass the technical interview, but there’s very little discussion on the other side of it, which is what kind of training do most of us—are most of us given to effectively conduct a technical interview?
Brooke: Yeah, and not even just interview skills, but leadership skills. Number one thing I always talk to you when I’m talking to university students is I let them know that probably the manager they will end up having, if they work in tech, probably has no leadership training or management training of any sort. So, [laugh] if you are just assuming that they will be, like, really just a straight, always making the best management decision or always doing something the most perfect way, they probably have no idea what they’re doing as well. And that’s really important for people to go into jobs and interviews knowing, is that it’s fine if the other person doesn’t know as well. Do they want you to win? I think that’s the number one thing I always am left with after interviews.
And even when I was interviewing—I worked as a marketing manager for a while, so even when I was interviewing for marketing jobs, you could tell whether the person on the other side of the table wanted you to do well or not. And especially when you’re looking for an early career job, regardless of any other factor, if someone wants you to do well, that is a good job for you to have. It will just mean so much more to your momentum throughout your career.
Corey: I’m a big believer in even if you decide not to continue with a particular candidate, my objective has always been that I want them to think well of the company, I want them to consider reapplying down the road when their skill set changes or what we’re looking for changes. And I want them to walk away from the experience with a, “That was a very fair and honest experience. I might recommend applying there to other people I know.” And we’ve had some people come through that way, so we’re definitely succeeding. Whereas I went through the Google SRE interview twice—the second time, I think, was in 2015—and I swore midway through the process that even if they offered me the job, I wouldn’t accept it because they didn’t want to work with a place where they were going to treat people like that.
Full disclosure, I did not get the offer because I’m bad at solving, you know, coding challenges in a Google Doc. Who knew. But it was one of those, I will not put myself through that again. So yeah, it turns out now I’ve made myself completely unemployable by anyone, so problem solved. “Oh, yeah, I’m never going to put myself through one of those job interviews,” says man who made himself completely un-interviewable, any job ever, ever again. I’ll have to change my name and enter witness protection if I want to [laugh] enter the industry after the nonsense I’m pulling.
Brooke: Just wear a mustache. They’ll never know.
Corey: Oh, yeah, you joke but I—some of me wonders on that one. So, I am curious as to your adventures with TikTok. I know I started the show talking about that, but it’s still a weird format for me. I thought I got weird comments on Twitter. Oh, no, no, no, not compared to some of the people responding to things on the TikToks.
And it’s a different format, it’s a different audience, it feels like, but there’s still a strong appetite for career discussions and for technical discussions as well. How did you stumble on the platform? And how did you figure out what you would be talking about there?
Brooke: Yeah, I put off making a TikTok for so long. So, I worked as a model internationally before my current job—I did it during and after uni—and so I have a very fashion Instagram that’s very polished… like, I put thought into the outfits that I’m wearing in photos, which means I just haven’t posted a lot lately because I just don’t have the energy. So, the idea of going on TikTok to do something that is very quick is horrible to me [laugh] as a thought. Also, I hid my fashion past, I was closeted for a long time in tech, just because it was actively negatively impacting career prospects. But one of the best gifts about moving to a leadership team in a management space is that people don’t care about that as much anymore, which is really good.
So, just it was a big move for me in terms of bringing my closeted to past back into what I’m actually doing in tech, just to get more people aware of the opportunities that are out there. Because there’s so many people during Covid that wanted to work from home and they wanted to transition to a job that would allow them to work remotely with benefits and security and everything that goes along with that, and tech is a really good industry to get that in.
Corey: Oh, there are millions of jobs now that didn’t exist two years ago that empower full remote, either within a given country or globally. Just, do you have an internet connection wherever you happen to be? I mean, we have people here who are excited to go and do all kinds of traveling, and we have people who have—this has been challenging for them—but, on the paperwork on our side, just fill up the forms, but we’ve had to effectively open tax accounts with different states as they relocate during the course of the pandemic. And power to them; that’s what administrative teams are for. But it’s really nice to be able to empower stuff like that because for the longest time—I live in San Francisco, and it felt like the narrative was, “We are a disruptive industry that is changing the face of the world. And we are applying that disruption by taking a job that can be done from literally anywhere and creating a land crunch in eight square miles in an earthquake zone.”
It really didn’t seem like it was the most forward-thinking type of event. And I’m hoping—in fact, we’re seeing evidence of it—that this is going to be one of the lasting changes of the pandemic. People don’t want to go back into the crappy offices.
Brooke: Yeah. And especially in Australia, as well. So, when you’re talking about San Francisco being crunched into eight miles, Australia is like that, but the whole country. So, it’s a very large space, but there’s only a few capital cities dotted around that I think more than 90-something percent of people live in those big centers.
Corey: Yeah. Yeah, I made that mistake by taking my week down there and visit—and giving talks in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. And it
was, well, why not? Like, I’m flying all the way over there. How far apart could it be?
was, well, why not? Like, I’m flying all the way over there. How far apart could it be?
It’s, “What do you mean, there’s that many time zones? And the flight is how many hours to go from one side to the other?” Yeah, on
professional advice for people who are considering doing that: Don’t.
Brooke: Yeah, it’s not for the faint-hearted. But it also means that there’s so many people that don’t live in capital cities that could now work remotely for tech companies. Or I know friends that they originally lived in a capital city, and then have gone to move into regional centers. And as someone that grew up in a regional center, that’s so important to be able to spread the tech ecosystem out further. It’s 1000 kilometers from where I live now, which I don’t know what that is in miles in freedom units, but probably it’s about a ten-hour drive if you’re driving there; if you’re driving without stopping.
So, it’s a really long way away. And that’s just—it’s not, like, something you can just drive a few times over for a meetup. There’s just nothing around for quite a long time. So, being able to disperse technical knowledge throughout the country is something that’s really important to me, especially just because it’s opening up futures for more diverse groups, even the people that are using tech in the vast majority of geographically distributed Australia are completely ignored from making that tech. And that’s something that’s really a growing issue that is getting fixed as there are more opportunities to move remote jobs there. But people don’t even know that these jobs exist, so it’s just about getting out into the regions to show people that it’s possible.
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Corey: You were mentioning that you are about to embark on a 31-hour travel nightmare nonsense thing to go to Portugal to give a talk. What is the talk you’re giving, and what’s the venue?
Brooke: It’s for NDC Porto. And so, I’ve done NDC in Sydney, virtually, twice—
Corey: NDC is… I’m sorry?
Brooke: It’s a really big conference. I think it started as… Norwegian something? Norwegian Developers Conference, someone will roast
me in the comments of this.
me in the comments of this.
Corey: Well, not on this show. Generally, we get a pretty awesome audience base compared to, you know, the TikTok. So, I’m sure we’ll excerpt parts of this for the TikToks, and then oh, then all hell is going to break loose.
Brooke: [laugh]. That we’ll find them. Yeah, it’s a big conference series. So, they have them in Oslo, Copenhagen, Sydney, London, Melbourne, and Porto as well. So, it’s quite a big—I think it’s very eurocentric. I don’t know if it would have be in any of the US audiences yet. But it’s a really wholesome group.
Last time I did the conference in Sydney, the segment before me was someone showing their pet llamas on camera. So… love that. [laugh]. But my talk is just about enterprise applications of AI and machine learning. So, it’s mostly the same sessions that I give to executives; I just give it to software engineers, and then tell them about how I talk to executives while I’m doing it to show why it works.
Corey: You also give periodic talks at universities as well. You have been very prolific on the speaking circuit. What’s the common thread that winds up tying all of these disparate audiences together?
Brooke: People ask me and I say yes. Um—[laugh].
Corey: Hey, there we go.
Brooke: Yeah. No, it’s mostly about I just want to make this an easier pathway for other people. If you can see this art here—it’s backwards, probably, but it says, “Be who you needed when you were younger.” I made this, and it’s just how I go through my tech life. When I talk to high school students and university students, no one’s ever honest with them about what it’s actually like to have a job because everyone is just telling them how fantastic it is and how everyone will think it’s so fantastic that they’re a graduate of that institution, and they will get their dream job, and they’ll ride home on a unicorn and everything will be perfect.
And no adults are ever honest to people because everyone wants something from them. So, it is an absolute immense position of privilege to be able to go in and say, “Here is unfortunate realities of what you’re about to step into.” Because my parents, neither of them worked in office, my mom teaches children with disabilities—so she’s retired now—and my dad is a telephone technician, so like, I didn’t know anyone working in office growing up, it wasn’t part of what I did. So, I can’t tell people that this is what networking actually is. That will be someone who you are in the room with right now who is extremely wealthy, and their parents own something, and they will sail through life. You need to work much harder than them. [laugh].
And just being able to have these actual conversations with students—because it’s so valuable—and it’s guidance that I wish I had earlier on and that you can actually, if you’re aware of what’s happening in these systems, you can hedge against it. But it’s just, I think it’s doing students a disservice to not be honest to them, so I take a lot of pride in doing that. [laugh].
Corey: I like doing that, but I’m also worried that I am going to send the wrong message if I do. Because let’s be honest, I can get away with an awful lot of stuff based upon my perceived position in the industry, the fact that I am clearly self-employed—when you own the company, it turns out you can get away with a lot—and also I’m 15 to 20 years into my career, whereas if I pulled a lot of this nonsense fresh out of school in my first job, I would have been fired. No ‘would have’ about it; I was fired and didn’t even pull half of the jokes that I pull now. So, when I give interview advice on TikTok, like here’s how you pick a fight with the interviewer. Yeah, if someone actually does that, it’s not going to go well, so I live in fear of effectively giving the kind of advice that is actively harmful. If I’m going to do that, I at least try to put a disclaimer into it. But we’ll see.
Brooke: Yeah. And even just showing people that it is possible for an interviewer to not want you to do well. So, many people are not aware of that because the only idea they have of interviews is that… been something they’ve been told at whatever school or boot camp they went through that someone really wants them to succeed and will help them to develop their journey. That’s not… it’s not normal, so being able to actually decipher what is and isn’t happening there is a really good skill. And people just aren’t aware that things like that are possible, or even I don’t know, as a… [unintelligible 00:27:33] person in STEM, I have a lot of sage advice to give to people about what it is and isn’t like in reality.
And that’s where my history of very strange jobs comes into play as well. So, I worked at a car parts store for four years growing up,
selling people different types of filters and fuel filters and sound systems for their car.
selling people different types of filters and fuel filters and sound systems for their car.
Corey: And blinker fluid, depending on how sketchy the numbers look that month. Of course, of course.
Brooke: Yeah. But people would come into the store and just ask for a man straightaway, or call up, and then I was the only one that had any physics education in the store, so some days if [my brother 00:28:08] wasn’t working, so they would call up and ask for what type of resistance they needed for their car stereo, and I would tell them, but they would [unintelligible 00:28:17] put a man on. And then eventually they would be like, “I don’t know. I have to ask Brooke.” And put me back on the phone, and I would just pretend to have never heard the start of it.
But it’s just, if you don’t have a diverse background of jobs you’ve had, or different service jobs, it gives you more structure about how to actually talk about what it is like to work in tech because some bits are much worse than they appear, and some things are actually a lot better than they appear as well. It’s just depending on who’s talking about it in the media at a given day.
Corey: And I’ve said it before—it’s always worth repeating—this is what privilege looks like because it’s easy for me to sit here and say, “Look, the stuff that I built, the company I’ve put together, the reputation for myself that I wound up establishing, well, I had to do it all myself. None of it was handed to me.” And that is true. However, I didn’t have to fight against bullshit like that. I didn’t have a headwind of people telling me that I was somehow unqualified or didn’t belong in the place that I was in.
When I made a pronouncement, even when it was wrong, it was presumed accurate until proven otherwise. So, there’s a lot of stuff around this that just contributes to a terrible toxic environment. That is what privilege is, and you can’t set that aside, you can’t turn that away. And we all have privilege in different ways, but it’s often considered to be controversial. I don’t see it that way at all. It’s one of those, “You were born on third base; you didn’t hit a triple.”
Brooke: And it’s just about what you do with it, as well. There are some people who are immensely privileged and then they just do nothing to help anyone else. They don’t let the ladder down for anyone else after them, so—
Corey: “Send the elevator back down,” is what Stephen O’Grady over at RedMonk said, and is a phrase that’s stuck with me for years now. And it’s the perfect expression of it. It’s as opposed to folks who wind up pulling up the rope behind them, “Well, screw you. I got mine.” No thanks.
Corey: That’s not how I want to be remembered.
Brooke: And that’s why it’s so important to talk to people about this early in their career as well because these people will become a manager probably. So, then say, “Hey, when you are inevitably a manager, [laugh] you are in a position of power now. Here are things you can actively do that will be who you needed when you were younger.” That’s what will actually help people, too. So, being able to really specifically say, once you are in an organization, you have the opportunity to make change, especially in graduate roles in organizations, I noticed they get so much bandwidth to actively make decisions because higher-ups are just so excited that there’s someone young working there.
So, being able to go through and look at what they are actually doing. And people trust you, then they trust your opinion, and they’ll trust your opinion. Especially on issues like sustainability, everyone’s just, “Oh, who’s a child we can ask?” So, being able to then give them an
answer that’s helpful. Or say even, “I didn’t know about this. Maybe you should ask someone that this affects.”
answer that’s helpful. Or say even, “I didn’t know about this. Maybe you should ask someone that this affects.”
Being able to then hand the microphone to someone else is a skill that is never actively taught to anyone. So, I think that’s what’s really—it’s a slow part of diversity and inclusion changing over time, but it’s a really important part of actively modeling that behavior of what it looks like to do a decent job.
Corey: Brooke, I really want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. If people want to learn more, where’s the best place to find you?
Brooke: I’m on Twitter as @brooke_jamieson; I’m on TikTok as BrookeBytes, and I’m on LinkedIn is probably the best place to—I check
that inbox the most. And my name is just Brooke Jamieson, which will be in the show notes.
that inbox the most. And my name is just Brooke Jamieson, which will be in the show notes.
Corey: And we will, of course, put links to all of that in the [show notes 00:31:38]. Thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it.
Brooke: Thanks so much for having me.
Corey: Brooke Jamieson, Head of Enablement for AI, ML, and data at Blackbook. 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 a long, rambling, angry comment that says this is not the content that you expected, you were not happy with it at all, and if I really wanted to have these conversations, I should have instead first demonstrated both of our technical suitability by solving algorithm problems on a whiteboard.
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