Fireside with Voxgig for Professional Speakers

Maria Ashby

Published On:
Maria Ashby
Podcast Host
Richard Roger
Voxgig Founder
Podcast Guest
Maria Ashby
Developer Advocate with Botkube, at Kubeshop

Today, Richard speaks to Maria Ashby, developer advocate at Kubeshop. She talks all things Kubernetes, community building, and how developer monoculture is a thing of the past.

Back in the days of an early version of Voxgig, Richard and the team got a crash course in Kubernetes which left more questions than answers. If Maria's work with Kubeshop had been around then, that might not have been the case. Kubeshop is a Kubernetes accelerator, which applies the power of Community and collaboration to open source projects focused on Kubernetes tooling. 

A major benefit of Kubeshop? Speed. In a world where the first to market is essentially the "winner", speed is essential. The way we used to do this was to simply onboard more people. More people means more code, right? However, the work from Kubeshop, and other accelerators means that even the smallest teams of developers can now complete mammoth sections of work in a fraction of the time. 

Another element of this is community. The way of holing yourself up in a dark room by yourself for 3 days is out and the way of sending out an email is in: "Can anyone help me figure out "x"? I'm really struggling with it?"

Maria touts the benefits of asking for help and support instead of trying to power through it alone. It makes sense, as before getting into DevRel, she was teaching Python to kids. A tough crowd as Richard notes, but an excellent training ground for the work she's gone on to excel in.

The conversation also covers events and speaking, another notch to Maria's belt. She speaks about the power of connection online vs in-person, and how if you want people to come to your event, you have to offer them something on the day itself - something they can learn, that they can get excited about. She hits on a note we come back to often on Fireside; progress is not linear. You can have a thousand viewers one day and five the next - but if those five people are there because they care about your work, that is totally invaluable.

See Show Transcripts

Interview Intro

Richard Rodger:  [0:00:00] Welcome to the Voxgig Podcast. We talk to people in the developer community about developer relations, public speaking and community events. For more details, visit All right, let's get started. 

Maria Ashby is a developer advocate for This is a member project of KubeShop, an open-source accelerator for Kubernetes projects. One of my favorite questions to ask developer advocates is where they would start on day one, and Maria would start with community, and in particular, building chat communities. We also talk about live streams and how they are also really effective. 

We also talk about how Maria ended up in developer relations. This is a subject I find really fascinating, how people come to work in this particular space, and it's always from such amazing, diverse backgrounds. In the latter part of our conversation, we get really deep into why Kubernetes has been so successful from a developer relations perspective. It's fascinating stuff to understand the strategies involved. Maria has some really great insights and understanding of how it actually happened. Okay, let's talk to Maria. [0:01:16]

Main Interview

Maria Ashby

Richard Rodger:  [0:01:17] Maria, welcome to the Voxgig Fireside Podcast, to talk about all things developer relations. How are you doing today in wonderful New York City. [0:01:25]

Maria Ashby:  [0:01:26] I'm doing great. Thank you so much for having me on. It's a pleasure to be here. I get to talk about myself for 30 minutes, so (inaudible) Time: 0:01:35. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:01:35] Yes, you do. It's wonderful, and we want to hear all about it. You work in the Kubernetes space, and I do want to ask you about your personal journey into developer relations, which is – so many people are going into it now. It's one of those things that helps guide people down that particular career pathway. But maybe, let's start with what you actually do day to day in Kubeshop. [0:02:03]

Maria Ashby:  [0:02:06] I am the developer advocate for BotKube, which is a Kubeshop project. Kubeshop is a Kubernetes accelerator; it's the first of its kind. The founders were approached by some investors that were interested in the Kubernetes space, and they told them to make a bunch of open-source projects and see if you can commercialize them in some sort of open core model. 

BotKube is one of the five projects and it sits in the troubleshooting space. I've been working on community building with the BotKube community and working with other communities, because we have a plugin system. I've been working with Flux and Helm and Captain most recently. 

I'm doing a little of everything. Some days I'm working on demos; some days I'm working on blogs. Some days I'm helping with updating documentation, onboarding, user experience. Kind of a jack of all trades situation, but I feel like each day is like a month of growth, and it's really exciting. [0:03:14]

Richard Rodger:  [0:03:16] The Kubernetes space at the moment is – seems to be going at light speed; there seems to be a lot of stuff happening. I'm so – I'm frustrated, because in my – the first version of our Voxgig platform was built on Google Cloud, on Kubernetes, in 2018. We had to do everything ourselves; that was – it was tough. We just had to figure out Kubernetes without any sort of tooling. Nowadays it looks a lot easier, right? You have all the stuff. [0:03:50] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:03:52] Yeah. I think it's honestly the power of the community. Never before have I ever seen a tech community that's so people first oriented. Like you said, it's easier to use because of all the tooling, but the reason those tools came out is because people had problems and they had a space to talk about it, and they had somebody or a lot of people get into one space and say, "I have that problem too. Let's fix it together." 

And even in my own experience working in data science and going to university, I'd never seen that level of collaboration ever before in my life. And it just shows the power of collaboration, cooperative learning and seeing that everybody has a place. The observability people need help with – from the CICD people and the CICD people need help from the monitoring people. 

And they all sit in this almost open arena of innovation that's going on. That's part of the reason why you see a new tool come out every day, because people have not only the resources to do it – because the resources have been around for a long time – but they have the community and the motivation to do it. So, it's showing an anti – the tech bro monoculture in the past of, it's me and my friends in a garage and I'm going to do everything myself. It's the complete opposite; it's, here's my idea and I need help. Let's work on a- [0:05:37]

Richard Rodger:  [0:05:38] It does seem to be a really healthy ecosystem; you see that in the way people interact on Twitter and other social spaces. I'm kind of confused about the accelerator thing. Is it a startup accelerator; is it an open source – how does it work? [0:05:38]

Maria Ashby:  [0:05:56] That's a really good question. It's a startup accelerator. The goal at the end of the day is to commercialize in some way, but it's open first – open source first model. So, the first step is to build a product or take on an open-source community. For example, BotKube was started by Infocloud and Kubeshop acquired them and they're a community. 

So, you first work with the community, get your problems sorted, and then you work on a freemium model with product-led growth, to eventually get to becoming a commercial company. Think of the models of an acuity that is very central to the Argo community, but they have a commercial offering as well. 

The goal is to repeat that same model in different spaces. So, there's Testkube, which is about testing, and Tracetest; that's another testing project as well. There's Monokle; that's working about – on YAML and all that infrastructure. There's Kubefirst for deployment. It's about repeating that open core model. [0:07:05] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:07:06] But everything has to be open source, right? So, it's- [0:07:08]

Maria Ashby:  [0:07:08] Yeah. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:07:09] It – okay, so it sounds a little build it and they will come, in that you're build an open-source tool and you put it out there. And do you actively then generate a community, or how does that work? [0:07:21] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:07:23] I was lucky in that I didn't have to build a community from scratch, but a lot of my colleagues did. It's a pretty open space, so you would just go to different communities. For example, the Kubefirst team worked a lot with the GitOps community, so you'd go into the GitOps community and say, "I have a really cool product. Can you try it out?" 

And then you build from there. A lot of things – still in this day and age; it's so crazy – still has their own version of word of mouth. And we're seeing that show more and more, but instead of word of mouth from your friend down the street, it's word of mouth to your friend in India over Slack. [0:08:03] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:08:05] Yes. Completely. The thing about it is though that there's a very deliberate aspect to this. Developer relations in the past has been somewhat organic, where you had a senior engineer that ended up speaking at conferences, and then they develop into the role. Whereas in your case, it sounds like it's a really deliberate – to use a VC term – go to market strategy. 

But walk us through exactly what – how do you execute that strategy? You have this new Kubernetes tool. Do you sit down with the classic three pillars of developer relations and say, "What are we going to do for code? What are we going to do for community? What are we going to do for content?" What approach do you use? [0:09:03]

Maria Ashby:  [0:09:05] I like to do the community first approach. At first – when I first started the job back in February, the first thing I did was go to some users and even just show them the product and then have them tell me what their main problems are. You first find the problem, and then next I would go make some content on it. You first start with tutorials or use cases and say, "The main selling point of BotKube is that you can do troubleshooting collaboratively from any communication platform." 

You talk to an SRE who has the problem of, I'm on call and my teammates are on a different timezone than me. So then you ask them what kind of features they're looking for and you work backwards that way. And then for the code piece, I am not the most talented engineer, so I would make a basic prototype for let's say, a new plugin. And then talk about it and make content around it and spread it that way. [0:10:15] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:10:16] Gotcha. And then do you set up meetups; do you sponsor meetups? Do you set up Discords or Slack channels? [0:10:23]

Maria Ashby:  [0:10:24] Yes, so we're really active on Slack right now. We'll have little campaigns; we'll have campaigns where we'll have some people on the community and tell us our experience. We're going to have some – we have some contributor highlights for them. In the future, we hope to have more office hours where anybody can come in and talk about their experience of BotKube and have – give contributors 15 minutes, 20 minutes to talk about all the cool projects that they're working on. 

Because it's a tool that's interconnected with a lot of other tools. They can easily be put together, almost a Zapier kind of way. See what other people are working on, and it's almost like write that down and put it out there. And I work with a very dynamic development team, so I can throw out crazy ideas in Slack and they can get me – they can work with me to make a prototype pretty easily in a week or two. [0:11:28] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:11:28] You could have fun with that; you could be really evil with that as well. So, what works best, from your perspective, in terms of the especially community engagement? Is it Slack; is it Office Hours, or are you still experimenting? [0:11:45]

Maria Ashby:  [0:11:46] I'm still experimenting, but at least for me, I'm a livestream kind of person. I love talking to people live. I used to – we'll get into that later, but I used to teach a lot, so it feels like back to that classroom workshop feel. I haven't experimented with regular Office Hours. 

But when I have the opportunity to go on podcasts like these or livestreams for when they're new releases, I feel like that's such a fun time to talk to people. Because even just seeing the little comments pop up in the chat, or somebody talking to you in a DM over Slack – I loved your livestream. I have these extra questions. I didn't want to put it in the main chat. And you get started that way. [0:12:34]

Richard Rodger:  [0:12:35] Awesome. 

Maria Ashby:  [0:12:37] I feel it's easier when you see the people behind the tools that you're working on and see that they're just regular people. [0:12:43] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:12:46] To do the live streams, what are you using? Do you do them on Twitch or what way do you do it? [0:12:50] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:12:51] I'm using StreamYard mostly. [0:12:52]

Richard Rodger:  [0:12:53] StreamYard, okay. You guys are setting up – here's an official – this'll be live streamed at such and such a time. Come join us. That type of approach. [0:13:02] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:13:04] Yes. We mostly stream on YouTube. [0:13:06]

Richard Rodger:  [0:13:07] Okay. Gotcha. 

Maria Ashby:  (Inaudible) Time: 0:13:10 on YouTube. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:13:12] Okay, so for people who are thinking about doing this, do you have any advice or guidance? Let's say I'm starting from scratch. I'm a startup; I've got some – I'm an open core startup, whatever. And I've been doing a whole bunch of content and I have my SDKs and APIs documented or whatever. And now I want to do live streaming, that I've never done it before. So, how do I – where do I start? How do I set it up? How do I make sure my event is successful? [0:13:41]

Maria Ashby:  [0:13:43] Well, the number one thing I like to say is, make sure you're giving people something. Don't just have an event where it's like, look how cool my product is, all these features, without connecting it to an issue that people are having. Or if it's a Kubernetes moderating tool, then tell – teach people about what Kubernetes moderating even is. Don't assume things about your audience; that's the first thing. 

And number two is, remember that progress is not linear. Some livestreams will be better than others. Sometimes you'll get 12 viewers; sometimes you'll get 24 viewers or 100 viewers or 1,000 viewers or 10,000. It's not linear. And think about – I don't care about – I don't need 10,000 people here, but I need five people that really resonated with what I'm talking about, because that's worth it to me. 30 minutes of time, of preparation, is worth connecting with somebody, five good people. 

And then lastly, I like to wear something fun, because I feel good, I feel more confident in myself. I feel like I can be – pretend that I have 10 more years of engineering experience than I actually do when I'm wearing a cool outfit. But that's my own personal thing. I also like to listen to Beyonce's Renaissance album before livestreams, for a little extra confidence boost. And remember also, the audience isn't paying that much attention. I think of my own attention span. Usually, when I'm watching livestreams, I'm half watching. [0:15:24] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:15:25] Yeah, you're trying to multitask. [0:15:26] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:15:27] So, if you make a little mistake or you skip a slide, nine times out of 10 nobody will notice. And somebody who does notice, they're probably looking too hard and you probably have a fan. [0:15:38]

Richard Rodger:  [0:15:39] Yeah. That's actually a good thing. We recently had a guest on this podcast, Trish Lynch, who's a TV anchor, and I was talking to her about presenting to camera. Because I – we do a monthly remote meetup around developer relations. I really struggle so much with presenting to camera; I'm so used to doing it at conferences. 

And it's interesting that you're now saying, "Wear something fun and get some energy from Beyonce," that type of stuff. Because that's what Trish was telling me, as a professional TV anchor; you've got to amp it up for the camera. You've got to go 110%, more than you think, to make it work. You seem to – you've discovered that as well. [0:16:29]

Maria Ashby:  [0:16:30] Yes. Just the fact that the screen reduces your connection by 20%, so you have to over emphasize. Because think about a conference. You're in a hall. Those people read all the options and went to your talk for a reason. When people are looking at a livestream, they're like, "I saw this on Twitter. Let me click." It's not the same level of interest, so you have to do a little bit more to gain their attention and keep it. [0:17:02] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:17:07] Because when you go to a conference, you've pre-invested; you've travelled. Whereas the livestream is very much pick and mix; you can drop in and out. So, you've got to amp it up a little bit. I'm also encouraged by the fact that you say progress is not linear. We've found that with our own meetup. 

We had a completely awesome one two months ago, loads of engagement. Speakers were – both speakers were awesome. But then other ones, your audience was down 50% and you're – what's going on? What did I do wrong? Is it just important to be consistent and keep coming back and keep it working? Or do we just have to accept that it is going to be non-linear? [0:17:59]

Maria Ashby:  [0:18:01] Yeah, I think you just have to accept that. For example, I have a meetup; it's downtown and it's wintertime, and 1,000 people show up. Maybe 1,000 people showed up because they were cold and they wanted hot chocolate, and they liked the look of your talk. So, I don't think you (inaudible) Time: 0:18:19. 

But if you do 10 meetups, and sometimes 1,000 people show up, sometimes 10 people show up, you can still look back and say, "I have 10 months of experience or 10 weeks of experience that I'm better at this skill. Making a meetup is a skill; livestreaming is a skill. It's almost like you're putting your reps in at the gym or a sport. When you're playing a basketball game, not every game is going to be a good game, but those reps matter for your overarching goal. [0:18:50]

Richard Rodger:  [0:18:53] Do you think the choice of speaker – how much does that matter? [0:18:56] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:18:59] It matters a lot. I learned this from being a teacher. Doesn't matter what your tenure is or how experienced you are if nobody can resonate with your content or understand your content. People in tech are particularly guilty of this, where they think because it's a complicated topic – Kubernetes is not simple. [0:19:27]

Richard Rodger:  [0:19:27] No, it isn't. 

Maria Ashby:  [0:19:27] They have to use all of the lingo; they have to put the level really high, so it can be a real technical talk. But that doesn't matter if nobody can understand and can't even finish it. So, the speaker matters in do they want – do they have the empathy to put themselves in the shoes of the audience of somebody who doesn't even know about Kubernetes walked into this talk. Can I talk to them? 

And if they can't do that, then the talk probably won't go well; the livestream won't go well. or you need to compensate by having another person be able to ground it to – be able to read the audience and ground it to the level of the audience if you're not able to do that themselves. [0:20:09]

Richard Rodger:  [0:20:11] Yeah, and good speakers are – they are able to do that. They can – they have that little bit of magic that they can pull that together. I also wanted to ask you about your personal journey into this role. Because as you said, you did data science; you did teaching. So, how did you end up doing developer relations? What that ultimately a choice, where you looked at it and went, "That's for me?" Did it happen by accident? Just walk us through how you ended up where you are now? [0:20:42] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:20:43] Where should I begin. I – it was an accident, like most good things in life. When I got to college, I was started as a mechanical engineering major, and then I took a physics class. It brutalized me and I knew I didn't want to take as much physics. I wanted to go to computer science, but then I visited the class and everybody looked really sad. Everybody looked really miserable and tired; I'm not doing this for four years, y'all. 

So, I decided to do industrial and system engineering, because they made Python mandatory and there was a lot of statistics. And from that, I was like, "Perfect, let me do data science." I watched The Big Short. I'm going to be a Quant, end of story. It didn't work out as planned. I worked as a data science intern my freshman summer, that summer with COVID, and a lot of things changed. 

I ended up working a lot in education, so I would – I got a tutoring job as a Python, Java and web development teacher for kindergarten through 12th grade. Most of my students were between the ages of seven and thirteen. And I loved, absolutely loved seeing the light in those kids' eyes when it clicked, when they were able to make their own Mario game. And they said, "Oh my gosh. Let me try this at home. I can't wait to experiment more at home." And I loved seeing that click, and to see. [0:22:32]

Richard Rodger:  [0:22:32[ That's an amazing experience, wow. Tough audience, I would say. [0:22:35]

Maria Ashby:  [0:22:37] Very. You have to keep it interesting. They don't care; they don't care about you. They don't care much. They want it to be fun and they want to learn, learn, learn. And it was so amazing, especially from my own perspective. I did robotics and I was pushed out of it, because it was at my brother's school and they didn't want any girls there. And so- [0:23:01]

Richard Rodger:  [0:23:02] No, really? 

Maria Ashby:  [0:23:03] -I would take particular care of the girls and make sure that it was a fun time. And really show them that it's not about being good at it. You're seven; you're not going to be good at it. That's the point. It's about having the interest and having the skillset, because you can pick it up later in high school. You can pick it up later in college, but at least you tried. And you can see that it's not that crazy if you break it up into small steps, and if you- [0:23:29] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:23:30] Yeah, and that's such a valuable thing to internalize is, it's okay to make mistakes and you can just do it for fun. [0:23:37] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:23:39] Exactly. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:23:39] You don't have to get the marks; you just do it. [0:23:42] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:23:42] Exactly. So, it was great; it was a different perspective of technology and the tech industry. Because I thought it was like, "I got to learn Python so I can get a job and make money" and blah, blah, blah. But just seeing 10-year-olds learn Python just for funsies, to do something over the summer completely changed the way I view technology. [0:24:04]

Richard Rodger:  [0:24:06] I'm sure that has been a valuable experience. You probably understand things about developer relations that – I'm classical old engineer; was told to go speak at conferences. But goodness me, I couldn't teach to save my life. You must have – you probably internalized all sorts of almost tacit skills, I guess, around teaching or around learning. [0:24:36] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:24:38] Definitely. And it was really humbling. You don't have to be the best engineer to have value and purpose. And that changed my trajectory, because I thought, the only way I can be in tech is if I'm a software engineer doing this, that and the other, or I'm a product engineer and I'm the best at everything. But it showed me, no. I'm doing a service to these kids by lifting them up. 

And I didn't see a black female engineer until I watched Hidden Figures and that came out in 2016. And I grew up in DC, in a very active, diverse community. So, even just seeing me code with them, that's a contribution to their lives and hopefully to the industry later on. It put me on the path that I'm at now. 

After that, I took a semester off of school; Zoom school was getting to my soul. I was supposed to go to France and I think it was the Delta variant and I didn’t want to be stuck in a country without being able to go home, so I decided last minute to apply for an internship. But then this YouTuber that I watch – she's this Nigerian YouTuber, Vacula – at the time, she was a developer advocate at Google. And she was talking about how it was both creative and she gets to build content; make YouTube videos and also write code. And I was like, "Okay. Let me do this." 

So, LinkedIn being my best friend, I applied for a bunch of developer advocate positions. I also applied for software engineering internships, but I got – I somehow got an interview at this startup called Armory. Jennifer Hooper, if you're listening to this, thank you so much for seeing me and seeing the potential in me. And it's been a wild journey from there. The idea is that if I can teach seven-year-olds object-oriented programming, it shouldn't be hard to teach some 30-year-old developers. [0:26:52] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:26:52] Yeah, that's – I think you've got a little bit of a superpower there compared to most dev advocates. Wow. Nigeria's kind of interesting; isn't it? They seem to have a really healthy software scene at the moment. [0:27:05] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:27:07] Yes. It's been amazing. So, I'm Nigerian too; my mom immigrated here when she was around my age, actually. And every time I go to a conference, I make – my Nigerian family grows bigger and bigger. And it's so – India, Nigeria, the students there, the young people there, are so hungry for technology and building solutions. And this is my – I'm no poly sci major or world – global relations leader. 

But I think it's the idea that tech allows you to have more agency. The idea that you can change your community from your laptop and make a profound impact is a very powerful thing. And individuals from that country are seeing that. They're saying, "I can't trust the government to make sure my roads are clear, but I can build an app that will help my community. I can build the Nigerian version of Square to help the local lady at the shop to have – help her with her transactions." Things like that. That's such a powerful- [0:28:26] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:28:26] Citizen – yeah. Citizen democracy, right? It's amazing. [0:28:29] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:28:29] Exactly. It's so amazing to see my brethren take it on in stride. Nigerians are very prideful, but I feel a lot of compassion and I'm so blessed to be in a space where I never have to hide my identity at all. I can be Maria Nigerian American, Maria Beyonce enthusiast, Maria dog lover, all openly and all publicly. And it doesn't take away from my technical skills or what my CV looks like. And that's a very powerful thing. [0:29:08] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:29:09] Yeah, and it is so different. When I think about – I started in this industry, coding, in the late '90s, it was quite toxic and competitive, and I'm glad it's changed. I'm glad it has changed. But it took a while and it's only really quite recent. What I really like about the stuff that I see coming out of Nigeria is that it's happening in Nigeria. Like you say, it's happening locally. It doesn't seem to be the case that people have to emigrate anymore. There's – all this tech empowers them to improve their own places, which I find hopeful as well. [0:30:05] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:30:07] Yeah, I 100% agree, and it's also a nature of the political scene. Okay, you can't get a visa, so what are you going to do next? And we're a people that are very adaptable, so you see this emerging technology; you see the rise of remote work. All you need is internet and you just run with that. 

I can't get into the Microsoft office in London; I'm going to make my own company here and hire Nigerians. Because they experience a lot of hiring discrimination, which is insane, because every single Nigerian engineer that I meet at these conferences, you look at their background, you look at the way they talk about it, and you're like, "Why aren't you running something? Why aren't you running it?" And- [0:30:55] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:30:57] And they're so strong; they're strong engineers. [0:30:59] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:31:00] Yes, because you have to be. You have to be- [0:31:02] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:31:02] You have to be, yeah. 

Maria Ashby:  [0:31:04] You have to be twice as good to get half as much. I've been told that my entire life. And unfortunately, it's – in the 22 years I've been on this planet, it hasn't changed. But hopefully- [0:31:13] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:31:13] Unfortunately. 

Maria Ashby:  [0:31:15] -by building these opportunities locally and having remote work – you don't even need all of your teammates in the same place – it won't be like that for the next generation. [0:31:25]

Richard Rodger:  [0:31:26] Yeah, and remote is here to stay, as people try to force engineers back into offices. I work in a small city in the south-east corner of Ireland, on the edge of Europe, in the middle of the Atlantic. My business has always had to be remote, going back years and years. When COVID happened and everybody was getting worried about remote, I was – get used to it. 

And that's another thing that is an enabler, is that remote is now much more acceptable across the board. Are you seeing that? Are you – do you think it's embedded enough now, or are you still steering this move to try and force people back into offices? [0:32:12] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:32:15] It depends on the people, and I'm going to put on my militant youth hat. [0:32:20] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:32:21] Go for it. 

Maria Ashby:  [0:32:21] Corporations have lost over $800 million of value in commercial real estate. They're not going to go down kicking. They're not going to be like – they're going to go, "Be remote." You have to fight for your rights; you have to fight for the things that you want. So, if we as a community stay strong and say, "Here are the benefits," and even spin it in a way that the corporations at large can see it as a place to stay, it'll stay. But if we don't fight and just let – be passive as they try to force people back into offices, to get the returns on their investments, instead of paying their workers better, it would change things. 

And also, the fact that remote work has enabled more women to stay in the workplace is not a thing to sniff at. And if there is government – maybe not government, but a large push for remote work as a form of equity, that'll keep it here. But if we just ride the wave and put our future in the hands of corporate entities, we won't get the results that we want. [0:33:45] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:33:46] Yeah. So, be conscious about it. [0:33:47] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:33:48] Exactly. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:33:48] Support those companies that are looking ahead. Okay, we have a little bit of time left for one of the topics that we thought we might get to, which is the Kubernetes open-source community. Which I find fascinating, because it's not an organic community. It has been commercially constructed. 

But at the same time, it feels very friendly and very healthy, and there's a lot of activity going on in it. And the people – none of it feels forced. Do you have some perspectives on this? And it's a very general, open question. I'm anthropologically interested in what happened here. [0:34:40] 

Maria Ashby:  I (inaudible) Time: 0:34:43 blog post, and maybe I'm influenced by Mattel. But it's almost a way that the Barbie movie has been, where it becomes an identity thing, where I'm a part of the Kubernetes community; I'm a part of something. It's something that you can identify with. I don't think there's been tech communities where you can tie your identity on – I went to KubeCon and I met my Kubernetes folks. 

That identity building has been very deliberate, in the same way that Mattel has branded Barbie pink. When you're wearing it, it's part of your identity; it's an identifier. That's been really key, and another aspect of it is, I'm a Kelsey Hightower fan. I'll always be- [0:35:34]

Richard Rodger:  [0:35:34] Yeah, wow, right? [0:35:36] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:35:36] And I think he-

Richard Rodger:  [0:35:36] Single handed, right? 

Maria Ashby:  [0:35:38] Yeah. He has been a huge aspect of the way it's worked, the community has worked. Because he's showed you that being an engineer doesn't have an archetype; you just have to have a computer and a passion. And being a community contributor doesn't just mean code. Your documentation matters too; your technical writing blogs matter too. 

And that's the first time, and once again, I'm a little fetus in comparison to the rest of the industry, but from my perspective, that's the first time we're talking about that. People are rushing to a community like that: full transparency. Do I get up and dream about Kubernetes? No. But I absolutely love talking to people in the community. I love meeting people from Australia, India. I love going to KubeCon and I love being inspired. And that's all part of the community and identity building, so I don't even feel like I'm being pitched to, almost. So- [0:36:48] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:36:49] Yeah. And do you think that was deliberately constructed, or do you think all this was just a happy accident? [0:36:56] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:36:58] Probably a mix of both. I think that they saw it working and then they pushed for it. [0:37:03] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:37:03] Okay. They were paying attention. [0:37:05] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:37:06] Yes. And leaders like Kelsey at the beginning also helped with that too. And having the Linux Foundation and the (inaudible) Time: 0:37:15 act as vendor neutral third parties as well and having then incorporated is helping maintain that community feel. Even the Google G (inaudible) Time: 0:37:31 program and them spearheading Kubernetes. 

I know a lot of developers that got their start in Kubernetes around my age from doing the Google Summer of Code program. So, even just thinking, let's go to the students. We see that computer science education is not up to date with the industry, so why don't we just go straight to the students? That's built community in that way too. [0:37:56] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:37:57] Yes, they're graduating with the skillset. [0:37:59] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:38:01] And not only with the skillset but the – you graduate as an evangelist. When I first learned Python, I used Jupyter Notebooks. From this day, I still – the first thing I pick up when I'm trying to do data science project, I pick up a Jupyter Notebook. IS it the best for me? Maybe not, but it's because it's something I worked with; I grew up with. So, they're trying to be that with the Kubernetes community. [0:38:25] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:38:27] And the KubeCon conferences themselves, who's running those? [0:38:30] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:38:33] It's the Linux Foundation primarily, and they have a board. It's complicated; it's the politics of it all. It's community, but it's also – people are spending a lot of money on sponsorships too. So, a Google or an AWS are more likely to be at the forefront than smaller companies. However, they do make an effort to make it more equitable. My first KubeCon experience, I went on a scholarship. [0:39:08] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:39:09] They do that, yeah. [0:39:10] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:39:12] It's a mix; it's a mix in that kind of way. That's why I feel it's similar to the Barbie marketing where it's like, okay, I know I'm being sold to, but I really like the way it makes me feel, so I'll keep going with it. [0:39:24] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:39:25] They just turned up the fun to 11, so it works. I've seen this before in other spaces. My background in the last 10 years would have been more in the Node.js world of things. Very hard to make money directly with conferences. Some people do, but it does tend to get very commercialized. 

You tend to have to have some entity with a bit of cash to bankroll the conference. And maybe it just breaks even, but it enables a lot of community stuff. And by the sounds of it, in the Kubernetes community, there's a lot of – there seems to be entities that understand the necessity, the health of doing that, which must be one of the reasons why it's worked. It's a fascinating space for me. I've used Kubernetes, but I'm no expert; struggled with it, in fact. [0:40:30]

Maria Ashby:  [0:40:31] Anybody who says they're an expert is lying to you. [0:40:33]

Richard Rodger:  [0:40:34] For sure. I've looked at writing agents and I'm like, "Oh, man." I don't know; it's hard. But again, it's just one of those core tech technologies now; you have to know it a little bit. [0:40:52] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:40:53] Yes, but it's okay, and that's why I like to always be transparent. It's okay now to be the best and it's okay to sit for an hour and look at the docs and figure your way through it. I hesitate when people are like, "It's going to be in the requirement." But I'm like – I feel like you're almost putting too much on people. Especially working in this space and seeing different people, that is a toxic mindset, where you're expected to have your work be your whole life. [0:41:35] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:41:38] No, that's not – that's – and you still see it sometimes. You still see job ads or whatever where people are going, "I need rockstar coders," whatever. And it's scary stuff where they're going, "We're going to be your family. Your work is going to be your family." Which is – oh no, that's not right; it's your work. [0:41:38] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:41:57] Exactly. I hate that; I hate that so much, because I'm like, "Are you kidding me?  You will drop me with an email, with a Slack message, and have – and leave me to the curb." So, I hate that; I hate when people say that. [0:42:10] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:42:13] I've had a bias because I'm a European and that's our mindset to begin with. But it does happen over here as well. People get put under pressure, especially young people in – who are just starting out in their careers. I know it's not cool, but just say no, kids. 

Because – that's one thing that a lot of people early in their careers don't understand, is how much power they have and how dependent companies are on them. You think your boss is an overlord or something, but you know what? They're winging it too and they're trying to figure out ways to get you to do what they need. But they can't make you do it. [0:42:58]

Maria Ashby:  [0:43:00] I completely agree. Ever since I found out how much money is in technical recruiting, I walk a little different now. I'm like, "You know what? It's going to be very expensive for you to find somebody else and have a bunch of turn. I should ask for the things that I need to do my work well." Because it's a two-way street. If you make me miserable, if I'm anxious, if I spend 25% of my work day hyping myself up to write a pull request because I'm afraid of doing it incorrectly and getting mocked for it, that's a waste of your time. [0:43:37]

Richard Rodger:  [0:43:37] No, that's – yeah, that's kind of crazy. [0:43:38] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:43:40] That's like – why would you – it's more cost effective to keep people, because people will treat your product well if you treat them well. [0:43:48] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:43:50] Exactly. And the people in your organization that have made the biggest mistakes are often the most valuable, because now they've learned. What I like to say, especially to people who are afraid – and sometimes we work with freelance engineers in different parts of the world. And because they're effectively running their own business they get really scared to admit to errors. 

But I always try to say, "The CEO makes the biggest mistakes by far. Any mistake you make is nothing compared to the mistakes I make as CEO." Because I'm steering the whole ship; I'm driving it right into icebergs. So, if you do a pull request wrong, at least you did the pull request. That's 90%. It's a much bigger mistake to do nothing; just do something. [0:44:42] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:44:44] And you know what helps me get through the day? Nothing has radicalized me more than hearing that the COO of Peloton, the previous one, knew nothing about finance and was not interested in it, and he ran it into the ground and they just let him for years. So, I'm like, "Okay, if this man can get away with this, I'll be fine. I'll be okay, I think." [0:45:04]

Richard Rodger:  [0:45:06] It would scare you how many CEOs do not know the basics of accounting. [0:45:10] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:45:13] If you sit down and watch a YouTube video, a TikTok short telling him about the basics of corporate finance, then I know I'll be okay. [0:45:22] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:45:23] Yeah, exactly. Maria, thank you so much. This has been a really great conversation, and I'm leaving it in a much more hopeful mood actually, so lots of energy. Thank you so much. [0:45:34] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:45:36] No, thank you for having me and I'm happy that you're happy. It's Friday, and one of my favorite things to do, what I love about dev rel, is making people feel a little bit better about it. [0:45:46]

Richard Rodger:  [0:45:47] Excellent, wonderful stuff. Thank you so much. [0:45:48] 

Maria Ashby:  [0:45:49] Thank you. 


Richard Rodger:  [0:45:50] You can find the transcript of this podcast and any links mentioned on our podcast page at Subscribe for weekly editions, where we talk to the people who make the developer community work. For even more, read our newsletter. You can subscribe at, or follow our Twitter @voxgig. Thanks for listening. Catch you next time. [0.46.19]