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Fusing tech and progress

How open source is powering nuclear fusion research, advise for fortifying your career against change, and practical tips to get going with Git and GitHub.

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The ReadME Project

The ReadME Project amplifies the voices of the open source community: the maintainers, developers, and teams whose contributions move the world forward every day.

The ReadME Project // @GitHub

This month we’re exploring quantum leaps in technology—then, now, and what devs can do today to prepare for tomorrow. The hosts welcome Klint Finley, Senior Editor of The ReadME Project, to discuss the role that open source played in a recent nuclear fusion breakthrough. Additionally, we speak with Jerome Hardaway, Executive Director of Vets Who Code, who shares practical advice on fortifying your career against unforeseen forces. And for those just getting started, Kedasha Kerr joins us to answer a listener question and provide tips to get going with Git and GitHub.

Here’s what’s in store for this episode:

  • 00:00 - The hosts discuss technological change and how developers can adjust. 

  • 01:37 - First Commit: How transatlantic telegraph lines were placed between the U.S. and Britain. 

  • 05:48 - Feature Release: The ReadME Project’s Klint Finley welcomes J. Luc Peterson of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to discuss the role open source played in a recent fusion breakthrough. 

  • 20:00 - The Interview: Jerome Hardaway, Executive Director of Vets Who Code, shares the advice he gives his troops on how to fortify your career against shifts in the job market. Check out more from Jerome in his new Guide on where he shares practical advice on moving from junior to senior engineering roles. 

  • 34:00 - #AskRMP: GitHub’s Kedasha Kerr answers a listener question about getting started with GitHub. Her practical advice goes beyond version control and helps users get the most out of the platform. 

Looking for more stories and advice from the open source community? To learn more from the authors and experts featured on this episode, check out:

Special thanks to Kedasha Kerr for sharing her thoughts on getting started with Git and GitHub. Also, thank you to J. Luc Peterson for providing insight on open source’s role in developing nuclear fusion technology.

Neha Batra: Martin! Why do Java programmers have to wear glasses? 

Martin Woodward: I don't know, Neha! Why do Java programmers have to wear glasses? 

Neha: Because they don't “C” sharp. Eh? Eh? 

Neha: This is The ReadME Podcast, a show dedicated to the topics, trends, stories, and culture in and around the developer community on GitHub. I'm Neha Batra. I lead GitHub’s core productivity team. 

Martin: And I'm Martin Woodward from the GitHub developer relations team. 

Neha: Today we're going to be diving into some major moments in technological change, and how those kinds of inflection points change our jobs, our society, and even ourselves. We're always constantly working to be better as developers. And then sometimes there are these quantum leaps that really change everything. 

Martin: Yeah, and to be totally honest, Neha, this episode kind of really is tailor made for my interests. So sorry if I nerd out a bit as we go through this. We're going to hear all about a big infrastructure project that really changed the direction of history. 

Neha: Klint Finley's back with us. And this time he's going to be talking about open source and nuclear fusion, which is just completely piqued my mental energy as well. 

Martin: Good one. And we'll also have a great conversation with Jerome Hardaway of Vets Who Code about how to fortify your career against major external shifts. 

Neha: Plus, for all of you out there who feel like it's too late to start dabbling in GitHub, we have some tips and tricks from Kedasha Kerr. 

Martin: First up, it's first commit. 

Jingle: On your mark. Get set. We're riding on the Internet. 

Martin: Man, I never thought I was going to miss that jingle, but it's good to have it back. Right. I'm excited to talk about a major engineering feat that fundamentally changed how humans communicate. And we're not talking about the Internet, no. We're talking a little bit further than that, probably the precursor to the Internet, I think, Neha. 

Neha: Yeah, the year was 1858 and at that time, there are really two ways to send a message: letters, which were slow and sometimes took weeks to reach their destination, especially overseas. Or the telegraph, which used Morse code and only took minutes, but was limited to wire travel over land. 

Martin: Even at the time, the world was starting to move faster and communication needed to keep up. Expanding the telegraph network was the way to do that, but it required some pretty big investments, and a really big wire. This one laid across the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. And when we look back on it now, it’s a great leap forward. It wasn't without its stumbles. 

The project to lay a transatlantic cable began in earnest in 1857 with the cable manufacturing process. In August of that year, they set out to lay the cable, but they lasted just six days and 380 miles before the cable snapped. A second attempt the following June saw two ships meeting each other in the middle of the Atlantic. And again, the cable broke. A few more rolls of the dice didn't fare much better either. 

Neha: And it wasn't until the fifth try that the cable connection was made between Valentia Island in Ireland and Heart's Content in Newfoundland, Canada. At last, the cable was laid and on August 16th, Queen Victoria sent the inaugural message, giving then U.S. President Buchanan a big old congratulations for their joint feat. 

But within a few weeks, the line was dead. And that's because Wildman Whitehouse, the engineer in charge, was using very high voltages of electricity—a lot more electricity than they had tested as they were laying the cable. So, unable to withstand that voltage, the line quickly fizzled. 

Martin: It would be another eight years before a transatlantic cable would permanently live at the bottom of the sea. 

Neha: Yeah. You know, sometimes great technological advances take a few tries to get it right. I'm going to act like I can't relate to that, even though I really can. And it takes a few reboots. 

Martin: It’s true. Ultimately this marvel took the time to send a message across the ocean from weeks or months to just minutes, and opened the door for future leaps forward in our communication technology. The first thing it was used for was online gaming. We actually had a telegraph match between the Houses of Parliament and the Houses of Congress. 

Neha: Uh, Martin I don't know if I've seen you ever this excited about a topic before. Do you have a bit of like, history with this bit of history? Like, what's going on? 

Martin: Yeah. So this is a little bit of an obsession of mine, Neha. Lord Thomson, Baron Kelvin, you might know him as he was actually born just down the road from me in Belfast. And so I've got a, I got a connection to this, as you would say, in a funny way. 

When they did the first cable that broke up, they actually had the remains of that cable when they got over to the United States, and then they cut it up into little bits. And then Tiffany's actually took those bits and wrapped them up and started selling them as souvenirs. So I've actually got behind me here on the wall a piece of the original 1858 cable with a little thing from Tiffany's and a letter of authentication, all sorts of stuff. 

Neha: Another one of your big nerd-isms. I feel like I always know Tiffany's known for their wedding rings and their diamonds, but apparently Atlantic cable's too, huh? 

Martin: Yeah. Why wouldn't you want a rusty piece of cable for the loved ones in your life? 

Neha: Alright. Another major advancement that changed how we live is a development of nuclear energy. And there continue to be some pretty amazing advancements around it today. 

Martin: I know, Neha, my kids actually make them explain nuclear energy to them at night if they're trying to, you know, delay going to bed or something. 

Neha: Bedtime stories. I love that. Well, then you've probably also been following some of the latest developments in nuclear technology. Right? But what if I told you that open source is also playing a big role in that space today? 

Martin: Really? That's actually amazing because, you know, when I was involved in that sort of thing, when I did a degree in physics, it really wasn't a space you'd think of. It’s so highly regulated, so it's amazing to look, you know, where open source has got into today. 

Neha: Yeah, I thought that open source would be in the space industry for sure, and that's easy for me to picture, but less so in nuclear energy. 

Well, today we have The ReadME Project's senior editor, Klint Finley, to tell us more about it as he's been following the story. Hey, Klint. 

Klint Finley: Hey, thanks for having me back. 

Martin: It's always good to have you back, Klint. You're always welcome. 

I assume we've lots of developers out there, you know, who are listening, but maybe not as many nuclear physicists out there listening to this podcast. So do you want to, you know, do the usual kind of explanation? First of all, what we're talking about when we think of, like, you know, nuclear fusion versus say, you know, some of the more explosive stuff like nuclear fission. 

Klint: Sure. And feel free to correct me if I get anything wrong here, Martin. 

For those who aren't familiar, fission is when you split atoms and create a reaction that creates energy that can be harnessed. In power plants, it's harnessed to create electricity. 

Fusion, on the other hand, involves, as the name would imply, fusing atoms or molecules instead of splitting them apart, which also creates a reaction that generates energy. 

J. Luc Peterson: Really, the goal of nuclear fusion is to harness the energy source that's really in the universe—the sun, how it produces its energy. What you have is these light elements, and normally they're flying around. They're positively charged like hydrogen. And opposites attract, but likes repel. And so if you try to push these positively charged hydrogen elements together, they're going to push apart from each other. But if you get them going hot enough, you squish them together enough under very high pressures for long enough, they actually can overcome that repulsion and fuse together. And when they fuse in this fusion process, they can turn into helium and release a lot of energy. 

Klint: That's J. Luc Peterson, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who I talked to for the story. Now, scientists have been working on this for 60 plus years, and that's because, in a controlled setting, fusion would be a lot safer than fision and produce less radioactive waste. It would be a way to create abundant energy carbon free. 

Luc: Imagine one cubic kilometer of seawater. Sit on the beach, you know, you go out a kilometer down, a kilometer over kilometer. That volume of seawater contains roughly the energy equivalent if you could harness the hydrogen in the water itself. For fusion, it contains the energy equivalent of all the world's oil reserves. 

Klint: But it's always been an elusive goal because it's incredibly difficult to get more energy out of a controlled fusion reaction than you put into it. So this is an idea called “ignition.” And I have to admit, I've always been a skeptic of nuclear fusion because of how hard it is to achieve ignition. It just takes so much energy to create a fusion reaction that it actually seemed, for a long time, that it might not be possible to get more energy out of a fusion reaction than you put into it. But there is a big turning point. In December of 2022, when researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used high powered lasers to create a fusion reaction that actually did create more energy than went into it. 

Neha: So this feels like a pretty big discovery. How are they able to accomplish this? 

Klint: So the lab where Peterson works is using an approach called inertial confinement fusion, which basically means the strategy is to smash molecules together as quickly as possible. Wild stuff. 

Luc: We take 192 laser beams. If you’re to look at the end of the laser beam—you shouldn't look directly into a laser beam—but if you were, each laser beam would be about a foot across. They’re in a facility roughly the size of three football fields. And they all focus down into a small gold canister about the size of a pencil eraser. All that laser energy gets focused in there, and inside there's a peppercorn-sized sphere, and inside that little hollow sphere, we have some of this hydrogen fuel. All those laser beams going into that gold can heat up that, that can, and it starts to get very, very hot. That peppercorn starts to burn off or ablate.

As the outer surface of that peppercorn oblates, you get a rocket effect. If you can imagine, you've got a little rocket pointed on the surface of that that canister, and flip it upside down and have it point towards the center and now fire that rocket’s engines. It's going to shoot the rocket towards the middle. Now, imagine that rocket has a little friend next to it. They're all looped around, all pointing towards the center. And they all fire their engines at once and they all crush downwards. The outside of this capsule blows off and it crushes it down very, very much. And the fuel that's stuck in the center of there reaches conditions hotter and denser than inside the surface of the sun. 

We crush up very quickly, and get the fuel on the center to ignite, produce fusion energy, before it has a chance to to blow itself apart. 

Klint: Now, getting this done in a way that has the desired impact isn't easy. They had to overcome some major challenges. And even with this successful work, we're still a long way off from fusion power plants. For one thing, if you count the energy that it took to charge the lasers, the reaction produced less energy than it took to create it. But it's still a really important breakthrough and changed at least my thinking. It shows that ignition is actually possible. So there's this joke that nuclear fusion is always 20 or 30 years away, no matter how much time passes. But I think we might actually be 25 years away from fusion now, give or take. 

Martin: Yeah. And this is all, like, incredibly exciting in the scientific community because, you know, this milestone was huge. And while the Lawrence Livermore stuff, where it's firing lasers at little bits of hydrogen, isn't a continual reaction, you know, it's not like the big talk about reactors that are looking at building that that hope to be actual the power plants of the future. It goes to show what is possible in a controlled setting, and it's cool science, but Klint, this is The ReadME Podcast. Well, what's this got to do with GitHub developers? 

Klint: Well, I'm glad you asked. So, I mean, as you know, open source plays a huge role in practically every scientific field these days. But nuclear science research has a bit of a reputation for secrecy, which, you know, it makes sense given the dangers, both of fision reactions and of nuclear weaponry. 

So I started poking around and I found a list of different open source nuclear science projects on GitHub. I couldn't really understand what any of the projects were for, so I started reaching out to people to learn more. And it turns out, yes, open Source played a role in the fusion ignition breakthrough. And in nuclear science in general.

The most obvious areas is data analysis, where you see a lot of the usual suspects: Python, PsiPy, NumPy, some more specialized tools like PlasmaPi. But, beyond just using open source, nuclear science researchers are creating their own open source tools for running complex physics simulations on supercomputers. So basically there's a need for tools that help scientists write simulations in their area of expertise without having to worry about the underlying high-performance computing hardware. 

Neha: I mean, this is all very cool, but we've been doing computer simulations of nuclear physics since the dawn of computers, right? So what's changed and why are we starting to see such dramatic progress? 

Klint: Well, for one thing, the hardware is a lot more advanced today. And, as I mentioned earlier, they're able to take advantage of open source libraries to aid in these simulations. 

But, another interesting aspect of this that they're doing at Lawrence Livermore is basically feeding their simulations into artificial intelligence systems to improve their accuracy. They call this cognitive simulation. Here's Peterson again. 

Luc: The idea of cognitive simulation is: can you use machine learning and, in particular, deep learning to bridge the gap between simulations and experiments? An analogy is the AI system, this deep learning system, it's trying to learn how to hit a softball. 

So first thing we do is we send it to the batting cages, which are our simulations, and it learns how to swing and kind of gets a lot of the mechanics of it. Our simulations are good, but they're not reality, right? Hitting from the batting cages is not hitting in a real game. 

So then what we do is as we run our experiments, that's like the big leagues. So it's a real pitcher. We then show the results of those experiments to the machine learning model, and it adjusts how it's going to anticipate the results of future experiments. We're trying to trade our machine learning models to help us understand the lay of the land, how to figure out which parameters to set in our simulations to be able to pick the right experiments to do next. 

Klint: So they're using the real world data to enhance the AI simulations. But the catch is that supercomputers weren't designed with AI in mind. They're essentially designed to run one big simulation job as opposed to all the thousands of smaller tasks required for AI. So Lawrence Livermore open sourced a tool called Merlin to help manage these AI jobs on supercomputers. 

Luc: The idea of Merlin is, can we take some of these notions that came out of distributed computing, cloud computing, and bring them into a high-performance computing environment so that it can run, if needed, these large scale, high-fidelity simulations, but also be able to run many thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of simulations when the computer isn't designed to do that. 

Martin: So I don't want to be, you know, a naysayer here or anything. But, like, giving nuclear secrets to AI seems a little bit crazy. I've watched some films about this. Sorry, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Are we, are we worried about the implications of AI and the ethics around this? 

Klint: Well, they're not giving everything away at Lawrence Livermore, or any of the other laboratories. So everyone I talked to emphasized that they're you know, they're not giving out anything that could be used for weaponry, for example. What the tools they released tend to have in common is that they help scientists build and manage simulations or gather and analyze data. They're modular and tend to be general purpose so that you can use proprietary code alongside the open source parts. 

So one of the side effects of that is that these tools are now out in the world and they're being used in other scientific fields like radiology, cardiac simulations or geology. So this once very secretive field of nuclear physics is really embracing open source and, as a result, helping push forward all sorts of scientific research. 

I'll leave it with this last thought from Petersen about how important open source is to this project. 

Luc: Open source is extremely valuable. When we first got into this realm, we kind of rolled together our own thing, and we realized that this is not nearly as robust or feature-full as some existing tools out there. So can we stand on those shoulders and just make interfaces to them, bring our knowledge of what you need for high performance computing to the table, but really leverage that existing toolkit to really accelerate our science. 

But it also goes the other way. So we've developed some machine learning algorithms. There's an algorithm that we've pushed up on GitHub called DJINN—D-J-I-N-N—and it's basically an easy way of making neural networks. And we develop that to solve our fusion problem because we are not neural network experts. We are scientists, but we came up with an algorithm that kind of did it for you. And that's been taken up all over the place. People are using that for everything from identifying, you know, cancer and like medical applications to predicting economics in Brazil, or something. We've developed an algorithm in our specific mission to accomplish our science, but we don't need to hang onto this. We could put it out there and get it back. 

Neha: Well, I'm all for any sort of expansion of science and sharing what works. Klint Finley, Senior Editor for GitHub’s ReadME Project, we had a blast. So thank you so much. 

Klint: Thanks for having me. 

Neha: And Klint, quickly before you go. What's next for The ReadME Project? 

Klint: A couple of big things. This month we have Dr. Johanna Pirker, who listeners might remember from episode 24 earlier this season, who shares her experience using Twitch for teaching, and explains why gaming spaces offer unique benefits for online interaction. 

Also, we have a new guide by Art Chaidarun that explores how Duolingo migrated to a microservices architecture. Now they offer their developers a faster and easier onboarding experience. 

You can read all of these and more at GitHub dot com slash read me. 

Martin: Neha, if you look back at your own career and how much things have changed, how did you kind of start learning to code and how much of it have you had to adapt since then? 

Neha: Well, actually, I've been dabbling it since, like, Neopets came out and there was Angel Fire and you had your little avatars. So that's when I first started getting into it, actually, when I taught myself how to code about ten years ago, even between when I was dabbling and trying to learn how to code and all the pieces that went together, technology significantly advanced and I was so surprised how many tools were needed in order to put up a website. So I feel like it's been a constant learning journey and I'm still learning more. 

Martin: One thing I've felt, you know, when I was starting learning to code professionally, was I thought it was all about having specific skills, you know, knowing specific languages. How well did I know Java or Fortran 77 or Parwan or whatever, and then putting those in when I was applying for jobs. But the landscape's just changed a ton, and it's changed as I've been coding, as I've been actually developing. And one of the things I find when we're hiring people is we're after people who love new technology, who love learning and building new tech. But of course, it can also change our jobs and our lives. 

Neha: Yeah, I feel like innovation is super exciting, but there's also reasons to be nervous, right? Because that change is beyond your control, whether that's economic conditions or big technological breakthroughs. So today we're going to talk about fortifying your career for the long term, what you can do to build up your skills, and network to take on any challenge in the broader landscape. 

Martin: Is something our guest today is super passionate about. Jerome Hardaway, senior software engineer, founder and executive director of Vets Who Code. Welcome! 

Jerome Hardaway: Thank you for having me on today. 

Martin: Do you want to quickly explain to listeners what Vets Who Code is? 

Jerome: Vets Who Code is a remote 501c3 that focuses on helping veterans and military spouses break into technology using the skills they've learned while serving, and amplifying that so they can get into software engineering and product management, UX engineers, and technical writing. We do this 100% remotely and 100% for free. We've helped veterans as far as South Korea and as close to my own backyard in Georgia. 

Neha: I know as part of this, you use this term, which I really love because it's an overloaded term, right, to fortify. What do you mean when it comes to fortifying yourself in your career as a developer? 

Jerome: Okay. When I say fortifying myself for my career, I'm trying to make my career more resilient to the change of the market. Tech moves fast, one. But while tech moves fast, it also has trends that last somewhere between 5 to 7 years, so if you start noticing those trends early on, you can help level and make your career a lot more resilient until, you know, the next trend pops up. Or, you know, robots replace us all, whichever one comes first. 

When I say fortifying myself for my career, I am making sure that I'm keeping those, my network and those relationships open, that I am learning and continuing my education for the more practical, modern waves of technology that are coming forward, and that I am making my work more accessible and easy to find for prospective employers and as well as my current employer. So they know, you know, this is the thing that I'm doing. 

Martin: Yeah. And I'm trying to explain this really to my own son who's just doing computer science right now and also to a lot of students I talk to, they often ask me like, oh, should I learn Java or Python? Should I go into this and go into that? And really, I kind of talk about the skills and the ability to learn rather than actual, you know, specific languages and things. 

Neha: Yeah, I mean, the ability to communicate and translate your ideas is paramount because we are translating our ideas into code. So there is a base layer of communication, but absolutely there comes a time where you have to build that depth and you have to specialize in something. Right? Even though technology's always changing, when you go so deep, you hit this level of understanding that eventually translates to other areas and then the soft skills start to come into play. 

So I'm curious, Jerome, like what are different areas that you think people can start fortifying themselves right now? Like, what are those areas of specialization that someone might want to think about? 

Jerome: Roger that. So the first step you have to do is you have to think in terms of ecosystems. So when I teach JavaScript, I don't teach just JavaScript, I teach the whole JavaScript ecosystem, I teach them, you know, this is React is a library, Next.js is a framework. So when I'm talking to them, I'm always thinking about, Hey, so here's the ecosystem. We're going from JavaScript to React and from React to Node. So you know how to use this library with React, you gotta do the plain HTML page and then implement React—you have to think of it in ecosystems. How do you have that thought process? When we look at it, it's… 

Okay, what are the three spaces that are, right now, very important? And I look at it as a development, staging, and production. So what's in production right now? It’s cloud, everything cloud, right? So you need to be focusing on your Azure and you need to be focusing on your AWS. 

What’s in staging? Data, right? So data engineering and data science, understanding how to do ETL pipelines, understanding how DevOps works in those ETL pipelines, how to sanitize data. You need to be able to take data that is not sexy and then turn around and make it to the point where a person who just dropped their kids off from school and has had no coffee—and they all should be able to understand it on a dashboard. 

Now, the new phase—I like to call this in development—is we're talking about the AI component. Everybody's crazy about AI, everybody's talking about OpenAI, ChatGPT. It's all cool stuff. But, you know, we're looking at 24 to 36 months before, it's like, what you would call like it's stable, which where I'm thinking like, you know, the mid-sized company being able to understand how to leverage AI in a way that is useful to them where it's not buzzy, but is actually complementing the work that they're doing. So those are like the three big ones that I am seeing that, as an engineer, you really need to focus on. 

Martin: Yeah, see, that's something I've definitely done very deliberately is look at different waves of technology and kind of deliberately latch on to a wave that I think is going to, you know, push me through and push my career through a little bit. But as somebody who's new into tech, it's like being dropped in a strange, like, city and you don't even know how cities work, never mind how this particular city works. And so you've got to learn this set of skills to be able to go and navigate ’round and learn how this city functions. But the best way to do that is actually to ask for help. And you do that, we talked earlier about soft skills. You do that by building relationships and asking people for help. What advice do you give to your, you know, your veterans on how to better leverage relationships they're building? 

Jerome: First rule that I have with my veterans is that, you know, come prepared. People love prepared people. People are more than willing to help people that showcase initiative. That's the biggest thing that you can do. 

Now, what you do: post that conversation. Send ’em a message. A thank you message. That's fine. But, they always want to know, and this is where people always forget, always mess up. They don't let you know what they've done with the information and how they've implemented it. And they don't show you that—they don't use that opportunity. One of my board members is Paul Ford, and when I first spoke to him, it was over his article, “What is code?” in 2015? And I told him how much I loved it, and how I had been using that article to, and giving it to every one of my troops, like to this day in 2022, that is the first article I make everybody read when they come through Vets Who Code—it’s Bloomberg's “What is code?” by Paul Ford. And then we just started talking about, alright, so how would I, how do I build an org off of an ecosystem of technologies versus point all over the place? How do I understand the business? So then we’d have these conversations, and then I will tell him, “This is what I've done.” So for the past three years I've been meeting with him once a month. People want to know that you're actually using the advice that they're giving you, right? They want it. They want to see the fruit of the labor of that conversation. Right? Because, you know, time is something we don't get back. And that's how you build super strong relationships that compound other relationships. 

Another thing is don't take it too hard or too serious. As a person who teaches people who are accustomed to being told that they are important in the world, one of the most elite fighting forces on the planet. And that they're the best of the best. When it comes to learning something new, you would be amazed how hard these people are on themselves, and I have to consistently and continuously remind them that, hey, this is something that you've never been exposed to, right? This is brand new. Take it easy. So give yourself grace and space to learn, because if you don't give it. If you give yourself grace but not space, you're going to speed up, and you're going to miss important parts. Take the time, only focus on the 1%. And the best part about that 1% is that 1% changes as you go on with your career. 

Neha: I also kind of want to recognize that, like, we're in a different time of the industry right now and people are a little bit more nervous. And it's very easy that the first thing that happens when the tech industry starts to have a bit of a downturn is for that grace and space to go away first. So I was curious, do you have any advice for a downturn on the job market? What's your advice for people? 

Jerome: The advice I give my troops is “stay ready so you don't have to get ready.” Always update your resume, always have a brag sheet that you're filling out in weeks so you could update your resume on new things. Always in your one-on-ones—even if you're one-on-one was maybe more geared towards just figuring out you, make sure you're getting that feedback from your manager. 

If we're talking about you know, here we are, zero day, the first thing you might need to start, you know, rekindling those relationships that you've already had, just reaching out, and just having those conversations. And then, I'm a big fan of showcasing what you're learning, how you're learning, or, you know, giving knowledge away for free. Because, you know, when you're doing that stuff, people are seeing that and they're noticing that. 

I tell people all the time, my work with Vets Who Code has made it so that the last two, three jobs I've gotten have been through DMs—somebody seeing my work and being like, “Yo, I would really like to work with you.” 

So if you're nervous, I tell my troops—and my troops, they understand because we come from, because of the background we come from—is, “if you're nervous, that is a response from your system because you feel like you're not doing enough. And when you put that nervous energy to work, those nerves go away.” 

There are so many positive things you can do to help your career while also helping others. Go out there, be impactful. Go out there, help people. Even with the little knowledge you have, you know one thing, there’s somebody out there that knows zero. You're at half a day or something, they’re at zero day. Go out there. Do that little bit that you can with what you have, and as you keep growing, keep doing that, and that will help you build those relationships. 

Martin: One of the things you were talking about there is, you know, the work that sort of we're all doing to kind of keep ourselves up to date. Why do you think it's important that everybody is fortifying themselves? 

Jerome: It relieves stress when things are going on that are beyond your control. You want to focus on the things that you can control—and you can’t control what the company does, but you can control what you do to continue to be a value to the company. You want to be able to showcase to the org or to people within the org that have networks externally that, “Hey, this person is of value. You should take the risk with this person,” because that’s how, especially as a junior engineer, that’s how everyone's looking at you. You’re a risk. And I have to mitigate that risk. 

Martin: Yeah. I think that thing you said there about channeling this nervous energy that you've got into doing something because you always feel better when you're doing that. That's the thing I definitely try and do with my teams, as well, as the manager, is make sure, you know, when we got periods of uncertainty, let's just go do some cool stuff because doing that cool stuff makes you feel better as a team, but also helps you show your value just like you’re saying. And you know, going out there and just doing things out in the community. I think that's why a lot of us actually contribute to open source as well, because it helps us show value. 

Neha: I also wanted to add in one more piece that, like, really resonated with me, especially as we were talking about earlier and again now, which is routine, right? So as you get nervous, as you start to feel these things that are happening that like kind of veer you off course, understanding to take advantage of the resources that are provided to you, continuing those one on ones, continuing your career progression around like where you want to grow and getting that feedback, those are things that you should be investing in on a daily basis. And, especially taking that time to do it when you're nervous and when you're not sure about what's coming next, grounds you in making incremental forward progress in your career. 

Jerome: Yeah, absolutely right. 100%. 

Martin: Well, Jerome Hardaway, founder and executive director of Vets Who Code, thank you very much for your time and thank you for all the work you do with our veteran community. 

Jerome: Thank you all for supporting the work I do and thank you for having me on. 

Martin: Really great advice and takeaways from Jerome Hardaway on keeping skills sharp as things change. And speaking of change, we know there are plenty of people out there who are looking to sharpen their GitHub skills in particular as a way to fortify their careers. 

Which brings us to Ask-RMP where we grab a listener question and get an expert to give us some answers. This month, Joseph from Houston, Texas asks, “GitHub wasn't a thing when I got started programming, and when I tried to jump in now, I'm not sure where to get started. Any ideas?” For answers, we went to GitHub’s Kedasha Kerr.

Kedasha Kerr: GitHub has grown so much over the years and is no longer just a platform for you to store your code, so I definitely can see how it can be very confusing to get started, but, I have a really awesome resource for you. It's called GitHub Skills. So GitHub Skills is a dedicated platform that will teach you how to contribute your first pull request, your first commits, delete branches, and all that jazz. If you go to GitHub skills dot com, you will click on, you know, “my first day at GitHub” or “my first day on the team.” And you can just follow the instructions in that repository and I promise you that you will feel a bit more confident using GitHub

Because GitHub is so intertwined with Git, a lot of the times people have issues with Git, but then see they have issues with GitHub. To learn more about Git, I advise you to take this free course by free code camp called Git and GitHub on YouTube. It is amazing and will help you be more confident using Git and GitHub together. 

The GitHub community is a great place to start for beginners, as people will literally answer your questions that you have on the platform. Additionally, social media is amazing, right? So platforms like Instagram and Twitter, if you post that you're having an issue and you use this particular hashtag like I know on Twitter it’s like hashtag 100 days of code, people would literally rush to help you and to help you debug your questions. A lot of times we feel like we're the only one who's having an issue or like the only one who doesn't know how to do this. But, fear not, nobody knows what they're doing. We're all making it up as we go. And so, join a community such as the GitHub community, or join something on Twitter or even Instagram, and just try to leave a comment and somebody will help you, I promise. 

And the last tip I'll mention is, so, I recently started a video series called GitHub Tips and Tricks, where I pretty much teach you how to use the GitHub platform in ways that are unknown to you. 

Neha: To find all of those videos that Kedasha mentioned, head to GitHub social accounts and check out the hashtag GitHub Tips and Tricks. 

Do you have a burning question about open source, software development, or GitHub? Shared it on social using the hashtag Ask RMP. That's A-S-K-R-M-P, and it may be answered in our next episode. 

Martin: That's it for this episode of The ReadME podcast. Thanks so much to this month's guests Kedasha Kerr, Jerome Hardaway, J. Luc Petersen and Klint Finley. And thanks to you for listening. Join us each month for a new episode. And if you're a fan of the show, you can get more episodes where you get your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe, rate and review, or drop us a note at The ReadME Project at GitHub dot com. You can also learn more about all that we do at GitHub by heading to GitHub dot come slash read me. 

Neha: GitHub's The ReadME Podcast is hosted by Neha Batra and Martin Woodward. Stories for this episode were reported by senior editors Klint Finley and Mike Melanson. Audio Production and editing by Reasonable Volume. Original Theme Music composed by Zander Singh. Executive producers for The ReadME Project and The ReadME Podcast are Rob Mapp, Melissa Biser, and Virginia Bryant. Our staff includes Stephanie Moorhead, Kevin Sundstromm and Grace Beatty. Please visit GitHub dot com slash read me for more community-driven articles and stories. Join us again next month and let's build from here. 

Martin: Once upon a time there was a big fat atom called uranium. It was so big and so fat, if you feed it one more little thing, it'll just split into little bits. 

Uranium loves to eat neutrons, but it's got so many neutrons that giving it just one more will make it fall apart, releasing lots of other neutrons all over the floor. Just like when you give Billy one more chocolate biscuit on the bus and it makes him throw up all over the bus. Now, if you keep uranium far enough apart, that's fine. But if you bring lots of…

Meet the hosts

Neha Batra

Growing up in South Florida, Neha Batra has always loved building things. She dug into robotics in high school and earned a mechanical engineering degree, then jumped into a role as an energy consultant—but wanted a faster loop between ideation and rolling out new creations. Accordingly, she taught herself to program (through free online courses and through Recurse Center) and worked as a software engineer at several companies, including Pivotal Labs and Rent the Runway. She was also volunteered to make the world of open source more inclusive for marginalized genders on the board of Write/Speak/Code. Neha now lives in San Francisco, where she’s a Senior Engineering Director at GitHub designing products to improve the world of OSS. She’s also a foodie who’s into planning trips, and collecting national park magnets.

Martin Woodward

As the Vice President of Developer Relations at GitHub, Martin helps developers and open source communities create delightful things. He originally came from the Java world but after his small five person start-up was acquired by Microsoft in 2009 he helped build Microsoft’s tooling for DevOps teams, and advised numerous engineering groups across the business on modernising their engineering practices as well as learn how to work as a part of the open source community. He was the original creator of the Microsoft org on GitHub and helped set up the .NET Foundation, bringing in other companies like Amazon, Google, Samsung and RedHat to help drive the future direction of the open source platform. Martin joins the podcast from a field in the middle of rural Northern Ireland and is never happier then when he’s out walking, kayaking or sitting with a soldering iron in hand working on some overly complicated electronic based solution to a problem his family didn’t even knew they had.

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