Something is happening. It could be good, it could be great, it could be so so. But it’s happening!
Take a listen to the first episode of ‘Yeti Village’, a new podcast where we discuss all things design, development, and anything else that might come up!
Our first guest was Last Call’s very own Account Manager, Alex Noonan. We chat about about working at LCM, getting into development, giving back to the community, and overcoming your fears - of code, and heights.
You can listen to this episode of Yeti Village below, or by searching for “Yeti Village” in Apple Podcasts or the podcast directory of your choice.
Susie: Can you hear me?
Alex: Hello yes, can you hear me?
Susie: Oh yeah I can.
Alex: Oh wow, this is very clear.
Susie: It is very clear.
Alex: I like it.
Susie: I actually, I’ll edit this out, because who even knows what we’re doing right now.
Alex: Right. Maybe you don’t edit it out.
Susie: Maybe I don’t. It’s just like jumping right in. Funny story, which I think you’ll appreciate being in our industry. You know how a lot of times you try to explain something to someone who’s not a designer and not in development and they look at you like you have a million heads.
Susie: My husband is a musician and he has a basement recording studio in our house. I literally was texting him saying, “Hey, this is really random, but I have to record a podcast today. Is there a microphone I can grab downstairs?” The poor guy is like, “Oh this input and this …” I’m like, “Listen, where do I pull from where?”
Alex: No. I know exactly what you mean because my girlfriend is also a musician and does DJ stuff. It’s very similar. It’s to the point where we’ll be listening to Spotify and she’s like, “Oh yeah they did the thing with this thing on this, see?” I’m like, “Sure. Yeah. I don’t know what any of that means, but it sounds real official. It sounds like you know what you’re talking about.”
Susie: That sounds pretty cool, so where’s the little plug in to what?
Alex: I’m like so what color is it? Can you give me a shape description. Yeah, no.
Susie: I guess I have a list I’m going to go through.
Susie: This is really funny to me. I just want everyone to be aware. I said to Colin—he’s like, “Do it today. Do it at 3:00. Do it with Alex. I think she’s free.” I mean, sounds good.
Alex: Colin is a man of action and I love it.
Susie: Oh absolutely. Just go for it. Take a leap, which I really respect. That’s good. It’s a good quality to have.
Susie: So on that note of introductions, why don’t you introduce yourself.
Alex: Hey okay. Well, I’m assuming this is in the context of Last Call Media.
Susie: Yes, well we’ll dive into some personal stuff down the road. Mainly Last Call to start.
Alex: Okay. I’m Alex Noonan and I’m the account manager at Last Call Media. I like to joke that I am only account manager by title because I do a lot. I do a lot here. I don’t think that all of it if you want to start really investigating it would actually fall under an account management umbrella. But I think that’s just the nature of Last Call. Everyone does all the things. We all pitch in and do whatever needs to be done to make things happen. That’s part of what I do here.
Susie: That’s pretty-
Alex: I’ve been-
Susie: Oh yeah. Go on.
Alex: I’ve been at the company since 2016, January 2016. I’ve been here for over two years now, which is super weird to think about.
Susie: Actually it goes a little further down than I was going to start, but what brought you to Last Call?
Alex: Well. This is a story. I’ll give the publicly acceptable version. I worked at a small web development company previously, also in Northampton. That didn’t work out. I quit there and was just looking for other work. I just have a varied work history, very all over the place. I was in the position of do I want to try to stay in web development? I actually don’t remember how I found Last Call. It might have been on Indeed or Craigslist or something like that, that I saw they were posting looking for an account manager. Oh, no. I remember what it was. I spoke with Noah at Common Media first actually. He was really great.
Alex: We talked about the place that I had come from. He was trying to see if there was something at Common Media that I would be interested in doing. He was looking to hire someone for biz dev specifically. I really at the time didn’t have any experience with that at all. We both just agreed that it wasn’t a great fit. Then he said, “You know, I know some other people, this company called Last Call Media is also in Northampton. You should check them out.” They happen to have a bunch of job postings at the time, so that’s how I found that. It was pretty early in the month too, I think it was basically like, “Happy New Year, start a new job.”
Susie: I mean, no better way to kick off a year, I guess.
Alex: No. It’s perfect actually.
Susie: That’s great. I know you brought up your title might be account manager, but you do a lot of different things. Take us through a day in your life at Last Call Media. You log in, which obviously we at Last Call know, but we’re remote, most of us are.
Susie: You get onto your computer, log in, what’s the first thing you do?
Alex: The first thing I do is I’m usually eating breakfast at the same time. The first thing I do is turn on, log into Slack and open up my inbox. While I’m eating breakfast I go through Slack messages that came in while I was gone. I’m a very avid, super strict about 5:00 my computer is closed, it doesn’t matter what’s going on. That’s the end of my workday. It’s a boundary I have to set because I work from home. It works really well for me. Everyone is always like, “I can’t believe you can do that.” I’m like, “It’s real simple guys, you just lower the lid of the laptop until it is shut and you put it on the shelf until tomorrow.” Anyway, I just catch up on Slack and emails.
Alex: Usually from there there’s some very apparent action items that are just right there. There’s someone either Slacked me or emailed me while I was out and I need to respond to them or something came in that is an action item that I need to take to the team and say, “This came in.” Or there’s a ticket update from JIRA that I need to follow up on. Sometimes tickets need to be closed because work was done while I was out. That’s the morning, it’s a lot of catch up. Depending on what day it is because Mondays and Tuesdays are a little bit different than the rest of the week. Mondays we have our delivery management meeting, which is right up top, nine AM kicking off the week with that. Every other day I pretty much don’t have a meeting until 10:30, which is when I have SLA stand up. Got to remember that I’m using slang terms here.
Susie: I was going to say. I’m guilty of being a new member to the team and a designer, I sat through and we’ll talk about a little bit what Company Day is, but later. I recall sitting through Company Day for most of the day.
Alex: Yeah, I think that didn’t come until about 3:00.
Susie: I was like, “Just PS.”
Alex: It’s so funny because I think everyone has had that because literally I had the exact same thing happen to me. I was at Last Call for probably a full month before I was like, “So what is this?” Just every time it’s one of those things where everyone laughs and it’s like, “Oh yeah.” We use it in a way that it doesn’t really make sense, so SLA stands for service level agreement. Which is something that our clients have or can have that adds some structure to our commitments to them, so it guarantees response time and higher level packages give clients things like access to team members in Slack and things like that. When we say the “SLA team”… not every ticket and every client that we’re dealing with on the SLA team actually has an SLA. We use SLA as a stand in for ongoing support. Which it is, but not all ongoing support is SLA, if that makes sense.
Susie: I totally get what you’re saying. A lot of what you do is almost a classic, you do a lot of project management with development and ongoing tasks and I would think larger builds, right.
Alex: Yeah, sometimes larger builds. I was involved in some builds I would think earlier on. Ever since I’ve transitioned to just being … I refer to myself as the non-technical manager of the SLA team. I’m pretty much just focused on the SLA team, especially lately. No shortage of SLA work to be managed. I don’t have a whole lot of bandwidth to be also on a build because builds are pretty demanding and I think that if you’re the product owner or the project manager, which is a term that we don’t really use, but everyone knows what a project manager is. If you’re working on a build you’re better served just focusing on the build that you’re working on. It’s really a full time thing. The SLA team is a mishmash of all sorts of different things that is equivalent to working on one site build.
Susie: Obviously it sounds like with the ongoing support, the SLA team, there’s a lot of ongoing support and tickets and every day can be very different.
Alex: Oh yeah.
Susie: Obviously keeping it company safe, I was a project manager at a design agency for almost two years. We all have those stories of, “Oh, I cannot believe that happened. Hope that never happens again,” or, “That went really well.” Do you have those that you think back to a lot? Or just joke about with coworkers.
Alex: Yeah, definitely. There’s a couple of sites in particular that are especially finicky. Whenever tickets for those sites come up, it’s like I try to make light of it. I’m like, “Hey guys, we got this ticket for such and such site. Who wants it? Don’t all jump up at once.” It’s become one of those things where we’re all able to have a good sense of humor about it. I can’t think of any instance where it’s gotten really, really terrible and just soul sucking. We’re still able to be pretty lighthearted about those kinds of things.
Susie: Well I think that’s a big … Obviously you spoke about it earlier and Last Call is a very unique place. In my short time here, just three months the other day. I’ve seen the company approach to … There’s a lightheartedness and a sense of humor. People are really good at what they do here and there’s passion.
Susie: Actually I would love for you to explain in a general sense, I just attended my first Company Day last month. If you could talk a little bit about what that is for Last Call Media.
Alex: So, Last Call was not always a remote company. We didn’t start doing remote until I think the end of 2016, the end of my first year here. But for that whole year I was going into the office every day. It was just a normal job basically. Last Call started as an off-shoot of Left Click and what then became Left Click Advanced and then became Last Call Media. I don’t want to screw up the history. I don’t remember how many years that took, but for the entire duration of that evolution it was a physical space and people would go into the office.
Alex: When we started doing remote work, it happened pretty suddenly and without a lot of pomp and circumstance. It was just like, “Okay then, now no one is ever going to the office. I guess I’m just going to stay at home too.” Then it was like, “Okay, well I guess we’re remote now.” Then from there it turned into this thing of the few people that would still go into the office every now and then would be like, “Wow, it’s really empty in here. Wow I haven’t interacted with any of you in person in a month. Can we do something? What’s going on?” I think the transition to remote was a little more difficult for other people. I was like, “This is great. I can just wear my pajamas all day. Awesome.”
Alex: Then I think we tried to do some more informal events, but then people wouldn’t really show up so then we tried to do something that was a little more structured and make it not, I don’t want to say a day off, but sort of a day off, because it’s like, “We’re just going to all get together and talk about what we’ve been working on.” Not just be heads down on client work all day and somewhat ignoring each other in Slack, because we all work really hard. Slack will be silent for most of the day. It’s like, is everyone even here. Am I the only one here. Let’s see, we did a Company Day in 2017. I think we tried to do it in the beginning, January-ish. We tried to start it off as a year kick off thing. Then it just from there turned into this thing where it’s like, “Okay, now we have to structure it around everyone’s availability and vacations and things like that.”
Alex: As I think you’ll see for the next Company Day doing it in the summer is a little tricky. Last year we tried to do it in December, mid December. I got sick. A bunch of people just didn’t really show up because they were on vacation or trying to travel. Around holidays and things like that it gets really tricky. But it’s like most things here it’s something that we’re just like, someone had an idea we’re like, let’s try it. None of us know exactly what we’re doing, but we’re just going to go ahead with it. We are all smart people, we can figure it out. I think the last one, I think the one that we had in May was the most successful one that we’ve had so far. I think it was maybe the third or the fourth one. I think it was really good. I’m just hoping that they just get better from there. A lot of people turned out.
Susie: Oh yeah. Coming from someone who, obviously that was my first ever Company Day. It seemed like even I know the good thing as you were saying is that was a result of several before and trial error, Let’s try to do this in a structured way, I personally love the lean coffee approach part of it. I think it’s a good way, I thought that went really well. It’s really interesting to be at a company where you’re able to rapid fire these topics that you want to discuss. Even companies that aren’t remote don’t have that level of transparency and desire to listen to their employees. I found it was really and actually … From that which I was going to touch on, based on some of those discussions, we talked about how important it was for professional development.
Alex: Oh yeah. I felt like that was a huge success and I was glad that you brought it up also.
Susie: Well as you know in a place where I think Last Call, certain why I was drawn to it and I’m really enjoying myself so far, is you have this ability to carve out your own little area of the company. If you have the drive and the passion, continue to refine those skills that you’re looking to refine, especially as it relates to the company. I know you were also instrumental in bringing that up. We all discussed forming a little subcommittee. You did bring up how you really wanted to focus on learning how to code.
Susie: I’d love to hear from you. Have you always wanted to and what are your goals and plans for the future in coding?
Alex: I don’t know if you saw the page that we set up?
Susie: I did. I did.
Alex: About that. That was really great. I have always had an interest in coding. When I say always, I mean, not, “From the time I was five years old I wanted to code.” It’s not like that. It’s just I stumbled into the tech world completely on accident back in 2015. Which oh my God that’s so long ago now.
Susie: Especially in the tech world.
Alex: I was like, “Oh my God. It’s been three years.” Time is just so weird. Since that happened, from the very beginning of my time in this world I was like, “Oh I feel like what the developers are doing is way cooler than what I’m doing,” but I started as an office manager type person. Then after a few months became a project manager. Then left that place and then got hired as the account manager at Last Call. Which has its own ups and downs and unique challenges. I still think that coding is pretty bad ass. I am someone that enjoys seeing results of my work. Account management is a lot of talking to people, talking to clients, talking to developers. I do a lot of communication, which is fine. I think I’ve … Everyone in my private life now, on multiple occasions different people totally unrelated to one and other have said, “Wow, you’re a really great communicator.”
Alex: I’m like, “Well I just do it all day long. That’s all that I do. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last two and a half years. I would hope so, but thank you.” There’s that. I think especially when I first started at Last Call, I really struggled with feeling like I wasn’t “doing” anything here because there was no, “Oh here’s a pile of papers that I went through.” Because we work on computers, there’s really no hard evidence of, “Yeah, here’s what I did today.” Even though I would be busy all day, and I would be doing things all day, for me I didn’t feel like I was actually doing anything. Then I got very into this, “Oh I would like to learn how to code, because then it’s like oh yeah here’s the result of what I did. I did these things and I built this webpage,” or “I did these things and I fixed this bug for this client.” It’s more results oriented, I think. I’ve grown out of that, I think for the most part. I don’t really think about it that way anymore.
Alex: Now I’m just like, I think it’s really cool. I still like the idea because I am an artist naturally in my own time. I went to school for art, that’s my thing, that’s what I do. That’s how my brain works. I still do like stepping back from a day and saying, “Oh yeah, look what I did.” Now it’s like I sent however many Slack messages and 30 emails today, cool I guess. That just turns into more work usually. There’s no end game there really. The professional development thing is something that has been on my mind since I started here. Something that I didn’t really want to bring up too much because I was still relatively new here and getting my footing in the account management world. I didn’t want to have it be like, “Oh, so glad that you hired me for this. I actually want to do this other thing.” Then I went to DrupalCon this year in Nashville, in April. There was this one talk in particular that I went to that was called something like, “”How I quit my job and became a developer in six months” or something like that. Some catchy thing.
Alex: I was like, “Ooh what’s this about? This sounds exactly what I want to listen to.” It was a really great talk. Very eye opening, but I left it going, “But what if I don’t want to quit my job?” I want to become a developer, maybe, but I don’t want to— I’m not going to quit my job and spend 30 grand on a boot camp. Pretty much that night we all went out to dinner, luckily I was there with Sean and Kelly and Rob was there also. At dinner that night it was like, “I went to this talk and I think this is something that I want to do. How would we do that? What would that look like?” That got the conversation started. I started looking into some options like Codecademy and I think there’s one just called Code School and then there’s Pluralsight. There’s a bunch of stuff online, but they were all not expensive, but definitely not … I don’t have just six grand just kicking around that I can spend on—
Susie: Just to drop on, maybe this will work out, maybe it won’t. It’s a big investment.
Susie: Personal or company-wise. It’s tricky.
Alex: Exactly. There are other options out there that aren’t just dropping six grand, but still even a couple hundred dollars I’m like, “Well this is… I don’t know.” That and because I have friends and acquaintances that I know that work in other, I guess you could say more “established” remote companies in the sense that the company was either founded to be a remote company, or it has always had a remote component, as opposed to Last Call where we just went that way. All of those companies that are established remote companies have some sort of system of professional development and equipment stipend. Just thinking about that knowing that Last Call does eventually want to be a company that is entirely remote or remote with one little flagship office that’s not our giant office that we have right now that no one ever goes to.
Susie: Our giant basement office.
Alex: Our giant basement office.
Susie: Where it’s like, “Hello. Hello. Hello.”
Alex: Literally just a small cave. Knowing that is where we’re headed I just thought that it made the most sense to have something like this to offer to people because I think that if we’re looking at growth, if you are offering remote work, that’s great. But what differentiates us from other remote development companies? Of which there are many, and a lot of those have things like unlimited vacation and professional development stipends. That’s just something where I’m like, I think it just makes sense. Plus we are a company that is inherently very supportive, very open to letting people be their best selves. This just makes sense that we would also have this component, because how do we show people. It’s one thing to say that you support someone’s growth and that you want them to be the best person they can be and the best employee that they can be, but it’s another to actually do something about it. I feel like this is a way for us to literally put our money where our mouth is. I have already started taking advantage of it. Actually I was working on a Codecademy lesson when you called me about this podcast.
Susie: Nice. How’s it going so far?
Alex: So far it’s great. I’m doing some HTML, some… just bringing me back to the Myspace days.
Susie: Oh yeah, classic.
Susie: Absolutely. It’s nice to build that foundation. I actually took a Codecademy, the HTML and CSS intro before I bought that Learn to Code book that I shared at Company Day. I do think, because I was also … I ended up minoring in art, and I’ve always been a creative type person. I think it’s funny because I think initially there was this feeling that coding and development was very “boys club” tech, techy.
Alex: Oh my God, yeah.
Susie: It really wasn’t … There was this high barrier of entry. I feel like now there’s people who understand people … We need more people in code, especially women. Especially a lot of kids learning to code now. I just think it’s all these Codecademy, Code Camp, these things popping up that really teach it in such an accessible way. I think it’s, you’re using different minds thinking about technology and how to approach building. It’s been pretty great to see in the last few years.
Susie: Can you hear me?
Susie: That was really funny because I was getting really into this… whatever I was saying.
Alex: I know I was there with you.
Susie: You were like yeah and then it was just … Where did you lose me?
Alex: High barrier to entry, and then things like Codecademy, and I think that’s where I dropped off.
Susie: That’s pretty much, I just think, I remember as a creative I always thought my brain didn’t work that way.
Susie: I found I’m very similar I think even though we did take personality tests and we are different personalities. But I do think there’s some overlap with this creative… desire to create a product and see it thorough, even through having to … I think design and code go really well together, because in different ways you’re really solving communication problems and how to communicate effectively. I totally hear where you’re coming from with … I think that’s why I went from project management to design is I wanted to create something. I wanted to see at the end of the day, you sent this first round to the client. You finished this poster. You sent out the hoodies to get ordered. There is a level of accomplishment when it comes to that stuff. I was just saying I feel like lately with all of those companies having these ways to teach code, because I think that once you learn it, I think you can choose what languages you decide to add on to your arsenal and what you specialize in. I think it’s really great that some of these free or more accessible things are popping up because our industry is constantly evolving.
Alex: Which was not the case in the beginning of my career. It was just like, “I don’t know anything that you just said.” I really … Can you explain it to me like I’m five? Which I do have to say a lot of the developers at Last Call are very, very good at doing. Which has been a huge help for me because you come from this place like you said where it feels like a boys club. You’re like, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about, I guess I’m stupid.” That’s not the case at all it is actually a different language. You mentioned diversity and how we need more diversity in tech. That is a huge, huge thing that has been on my mind a lot lately because one of the other talks, or two of the other talks that I went to at DrupalCon were related to diversity and tech. How do you open that door for people. You say that we need diversity and tech, but how do you get it? One of the things that I did recently, which I know you know because you helped me with my blog header image, was to go to a school and talk to seventh graders about coding and what that is and what it looks like.
Alex: Again, being in this industry and talking to people about this all day every day, you forget that there are people out there that don’t even know what it means to code or what code is or what a developer does. That was kind of an eye opening experience to go to this school with these kids where I’m like, “You guys use technology every day, I know every single one of you in here has got a smartphone or knows someone that has a smartphone.” They still don’t know what coding and development means. Then on top of that don’t know that it’s a viable career option for them. Which is crazy. This is a really fast growing field and to go to a school, especially in my hometown, which is Springfield, which is really diverse, and I think looked down upon by a lot of people. Especially in this area. I talk to people that are from Northampton or Amherst or these kinds of areas and you mention Springfield, everyone treats it like they’re afraid to go there.
Susie: I have to say my one comfort is there’s a Hampden and Hampshire County difference when you grow up with this … I personally have this pride of Hampden what what. It’s Westfield, no one knows what Westfield is. Holyoke, I’m a huge part of the St. Patrick’s committee of Holyoke. Springfield I think I grew up going there. You don’t have the same … Yeah there is sadly all the negatives are called out and not a lot of the positives that they have. Which there’s a lot of.
Alex: Right. My whole family is from Westfield. I don’t know if I’ve told you that.
Alex: My whole family is from Westfield. I lived in Westfield until I was about three. Then we moved to Springfield, but we’d still go to Westfield all the time for family gatherings and things like that. Literally all my aunts, uncles, grandparents, everyone still lived in Westfield. We were the traitors because we moved to Springfield.
Susie: You know Westfield is the best field.
Alex: Really? Because we called it Wastefield.
Susie: Oh yeah.
Alex: Back in the day.
Susie: Trust me, I’ve heard a lot of that too.
Alex: I like best field better. Honestly it’s completely different now than it was when I was going there all the time. It doesn’t matter. It’s not what people think it is. I feel compelled to point out that this area, the Northampton, Amherst, Hadley, Easthampton even, area is pretty white. We’re pretty… white. The places that I grew up and both my parents work in Holyoke and have worked in Holyoke for almost 20 years, over 20 years at this point, I don’t know. I spent a lot of time in Holyoke growing up. I obviously grew up in Springfield, I feel very comfortable going there. Same thing with Westfeild and now Holyoke. It’s just the ares that are more diverse and less white that people are inexplicably or not, really, afraid to go to. Afraid to … Overlooking, there are things like Holyoke Codes, which is really great or seems like a really great thing. Kelly knows them. He was going to put me in touch with those people in terms of doing some more community outreach stuff. I think we’re talking about community outreach and increasing diversity in tech and things like NERD Summit. We need to be looking to places like Holyoke and Springfield.
Alex: Because that… I don’t know. I love Springfield. I love going there. It doesn’t bother me. I kind of love that people around here are shocked to hear that I don’t care about going to Springfield. I’m just like, “I don’t know. If you’ve never had Red Rose Pizza what are you doing with your life?” It was really important for me coming from there to be able to go back there, to go to a school there and talk to kids and just let them know. We were able to explain to them what coding is. That it’s a good career path. Obviously seventh grade is a bit young to be thinking about that. But is it really? I don’t know. I don’t even know these days. I didn’t get into the whole college thing with them. I’m just like, “Man, maybe just start coding.”
Susie: Yeah. Honestly, I think in our little Western Mass neck of the woods, I think the best way you can make a mark on diversity and tech and getting young kids who might not like you were saying … Don’t even know that that’s even a career option. I think getting people to go to your local schools and talk to kids about it. Even if it’s one or two kids that are like, “Wow. I had no idea. That sounds so cool. I can’t wait to get started.”
Alex: Exactly. The thing is too it’s like when you think about, talking to these kids and realizing what they’re into these days. One of the questions that they asked was, are emojis code? I’m like, “Hell yeah they are. You like emojis, you think emojis are the new hotness. Here why don’t you start coding. Maybe take a look at this. Oh you like Minecraft and Fortnite, well I’ve got news for you man. The people that created those things know how to code. There’s code in there somewhere. Somewhere along the line there’s a developer involved, there’s programmers in there, they’re working on stuff. I bet you every single one of them knows what HTML is.” That’s the thing is I think when people think of diversity in tech they think of big cities. I guess Springfield is a big city for Western Mass, but I wouldn’t really qualify it as a big city.
Alex: It’s like, “We have this diversity here. It’s all right here. We don’t need to go to Boston to talk to ‘inner city kids,’ we have them in Western Mass.” I think that we would be doing ourselves a disservice to not reach out to them and try to get them involved. Open the doors to tech. I don’t know. It’s something that I think a lot about. I don’t have a lot of well organized thoughts about it. I know that going to that school and talking to those kids was really meaningful to me and I would hope that I got through to at least one of them to say, “Oh this is an option for me.” I can’t even imagine what it’s like to try and go into an office or something for a job interview and be like, “Oh everybody here is white. And male.”
Alex: I get the male part for sure. The race thing is obviously not something that I have to deal with, but it’s a thing, it’s an issue but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of smart capable people. We just need to get the message to them that we want you here. There’s professional development available. There are ways, there are doors into this industry. I don’t know all the time if it’s something that is not accessible or if it’s just not accessible because no one knows that it’s there, they don’t know that it’s an option for them specifically. People of diverse backgrounds are welcome here. I think one of the best moments at that school visit was we’re like, Kelly McCabe and I are up there and we’re like, “Yay coding, girls in coding. Diversity in coding. You can do it too.” Then someone is just like, “What’s coding?” After … One of those, “What’s SLA?”
Alex: One of those moments where we’re like, “Oh okay. We’ve got to take this way back and start with the very basics.” We just talk to people all day long that know what coding is and know what Drupal is. Regular people in the street don’t know any of that. The teacher who was there, made the connection that Kelly and I did not. Thank God that she did where she was like, “How many people in this room are bilingual or multilingual? How many of you speak a different language at home? For instance.” Almost everyone’s hand went up, which makes sense. Then I was like, “Oh okay. Right, so. Coding is just a different language. It’s the language that you use as a human to talk to a computer or to use to get computers to talk to each other, that’s what it is.” Then it was like, once we got that out of the way it was like, “Oh okay.” Then we got questions like, “Can you speak code?” Which is adorable.
Susie: To be honest when you’re in the room you’re like, “Wait what was that? What are you going to do?”
Alex: Well I’m over here, I’m taking notes on my HTML lessons, and I’m writing out … I don’t even know what is that symbol, a caret? I call it a caret, but it’s not that’s the pointy-uppy one. The brackets, the pointy brackets. This is embarrassing. What are they called?
Susie: You know what’s sad is I don’t even know.
Alex: I don’t even know, for our purposes, pointy brackets. I’m like, “You can speak code, it’s not going to make any damn sense. If you wanted to you could say it out loud, you’d just be saying a bunch of numbers and letters and weird symbols. Sure.” It’s just things like that, where you just have to understand that you’re breaking it down to something very palatable, where it’s like, yes, this is just a different language. If you can already speak two languages, you’re probably going to be able to pick up coding because once you look at it that way. Which is so wild to me that I didn’t make that connection because I always talk about it as “Developerese,” when developers are talking to each other and I’m just barely getting what they’re saying.
Alex: I’m like, “Oh it’s like they’re speaking a different language. I didn’t even make that connection when I went into the room with the kids. But that’s what it is. I think if we can flip it and just say it’s a language, it’s not some big scary thing that only men can do, only white men can understand. You’re not stupid if you don’t understand it right away, it’s just a new thing. You have to learn how to talk when you’re a baby. When you go to high school you’ve got to learn to take French or speak Spanish. This is exactly the same thing. It’s just a learning curve, but it’s not impossible. It’s not inaccessible.
Susie: Honestly I think that sounds awesome. You’re obviously a very motivated individual. If you did … I would love to before we wrap up talk a little bit about you outside of Last Call. You did mention lyra, was a new outside activity you were taking on. Tell me a little about that.
Alex: Yeah. I’m afraid of heights.
Susie: Wow. Lyra and heights.
Alex: Last summer I was like … I have my friend owns the circus studio in Easthampton. I’ve always had this side exposure to people who were doing circus things. I do a lot of strength training and I have been for several years now. I’m really not flexible and really afraid of heights. Circus to me was always like, “Oh yeah, that’s for someone else. Definitely not for me.” Always in a way where, I want to do it. I wish I could. Then my friend was like, “Why don’t you just try it.” I hemmed and I hawed. Finally I was like, “You know what? I’m afraid of heights, but I’m sick of being afraid of heights.” The only way that I know how to deal with things like that, my shortcomings, basically is to just tackle it head on. Just be like, “I’m going to do this thing until I am maybe not the best at it, but until I feel comfortable with … That this is a thing that, oh yeah I can do that.” I can go into a room and be like, “Oh yeah, I can do lyra.” Last summer I was just like, “Screw it. I’m doing circus here we go.” Signed up for an aerials class, their very basic 101 class.
Alex: We started off small with aerial silks and then worked into trapeze and then worked into lyra. Everything was very low to the ground and there are very large pads under you. I’ll never forget the first time that I brought myself upside down and didn’t die and was able to get myself out of it. Then be standing on the ground again. I was like, “Oh okay.” There’s always this … Anytime I learn a new trick, especially as I’m getting into the more advanced classes, the teacher will be like, “Yeah here’s the trick, it’s called this. You just do this thing.” And will do something totally amazing. I’m like, “Yeah, there’s no way in hell that I’m going to be able to do that.” The people at the circus studio especially … I’ve got to give them a lot of credit. Their teachers are very supportive and very positive, almost to an annoying degree. Where when I’m like, “No. I’m actually terrified right now. I’m not getting up there.” The teacher is like, “Sure you are. Sure you are. You can get up—You can do it.”
Alex: I’m like, “No. No. I’m not going to do it.” They’re like, “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah you are. Sure you are.” Once I get over myself and I get up there, I’m always pleasantly surprised. I’m like, “Wow. No, I actually could do that.” I think that that probably has pushed me in the direction of okay, let’s do everything that you thought that you couldn’t do and just try it and see because clearly everything that I’ve ever been like, “No, I definitely can’t do that.” Then I’ve turned around and done it. Realistically, what is stopping anyone from doing anything. I feel that way about coding.
Alex: I feel that way about any sort of performance. I’ve done performances now with aerials that in the beginning they idea of doing this in front of people was insane to me. It was totally I was just like, “Why would I ever? Why would I ever do that?” I think I had a pretty similar experience when I started at Last Call. I had a pretty serious case of imposter syndrome when I started working here for the first probably six months where I was just like, “Why am I here? Why did they hire me? I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what any of this means. I don’t know what anybody is talking about. Why did they think I can do this?” I was so nervous all the time that someone was going to catch me and be like, “Aha you don’t actually know what you’re doing.” I’d be like, “Oh God. Oh you’re right.”
Susie: Oh sorry.
Alex: You caught me. I’ve just been faking this whole time.
Susie: Get out.
Alex: It’s like, that never happened. Before I knew it I was like … I do know what I’m doing. I do know what people are talking about. Because once you’re here long enough it’s like, “Oh I recognize that thing.” I’ve done this before and this is same as that other thing that I did. You just figure it out. I feel like… that’s just a metaphor for life at this point for me where I’m just like, “I may not know how to do this. I may be terrified at the thought of doing this thing, but let’s just try it and see what happens.” I love lyra now. I love doing it. I love going to my class. I love going to open studios. I look forward to it. It’s fun, it’s challenging. I’ve gotten stronger mentally and physically from doing it. When I stop and think about, I may have never done this, because if I had been too scared to go into the class in the first place because I’m afraid of heights, I never would have discovered this thing that I really, really love now.
Susie: Who knows, maybe coding is that next thing.
Alex: Maybe coding is that next thing. Just to bring it all back around.
Susie: Honestly I could not have ended our first inaugural podcast any better.
Alex: Whether it’s circus, or coding, or making art, even.
Susie: Well thank you Alex so much for being on what I hope we keep doing.
Alex: Yeah, I hope so too. This is great. Thank you for doing this, Susie.
Susie: Well just doing my best to fit into our little … Did you see what I called it?
Alex: I did, the “Yeti Village.”
Susie: The “Yeti Village.”
Alex: Yeah, that’s good. That’s one of those things where I saw that term kicking around for a while. I was like, “Yes. We can’t just keep that to ourselves.” Yeti Village is so good.
Susie: It’s a pretty sweet term.
Alex: Yeah. I feel that way a lot about things at Last Call. I’m like, “We’re all doing pretty badass stuff.” I think one of the things that we do need to get better at is telling people about it and getting the word out there and making a name for ourselves because we’re just … I’ll say it. We’re great. We’re damn good at what we do. I hope that this podcast is a way to let other people know about it.
Susie: I could not agree more. Thank you Alex.
Alex: Yes. Thank you.