Developers, Technology Evangelists, Bros.

Pre-keynote address at Code PaLOUsa

Back in June of 2017, I spoke at Code PaLOUsa over lunch, prior to the keynote. At first, I struggled to find something what I really wanted to say that could prompt everyone to think, yet be true to me. After a few days of deliberation with colleagues I was still undecided. I had a few ideas, but they felt forced. Then I remembered what someone told me once, “speak about what you know.” The night before, I changed the topic and decided to talk about the power of building, making, and having a side project. I’ve always had side projects and valued building something with my hands. Here’s what I said (more or less):

Hi. I’m Mike, and I have something important to share with you. It’s something I care deeply about, and it’s so important, that you need to stop for 5 minutes. So stop. Listen.

I’m just like you – I work in Technology. And I’m guilty. Absolutely guilty.

And that’s because I’ve done what we all do. We let our families, Friends, and heck even bosses think we deal in magic. Straight out of Hogwarts magic. And it’s because we work with technology. According to my next-door neighbor, I know the secrets of the internet, because, and I quote, “when to single click or double click a link with a mouse”.

Let that sink in for a minute: double or single click a link.


But, as guilty as I am. You know what, it’s kinda funny. Come on, it’s ok to admit it.

We also have something else in common: we love to build and make new things. Deep down inside, there’s a drive to learn, create, and make things. And it doesn’t have to be technology things. It could be art, it could be clothing…whatever avenue it is, we’re all here because of our love of building something new. And it’s that love and the drive to build that drew us to technology. It’s why we’re here today.

What I want to share with you is about something I ask almost everyone I meet: what are you building, what side-projects are you working on? And I ask it because it’s incredibly important for you to have a side project. Not a work project you do after-hours, but a legitimate, fun, hobby, side project.

Unless you’re part of a team that’s innovating every day at work, you probably don’t get the chance to learn new tools, experiment without consequence, and make for the sake of making. The process of building and seeing something transform from nothing is the root of inspiration. This is where more ideas, and energy comes from.

Now, Chad gave me 10 minutes to talk, and I’m not going to use that. I’m yielding it to you: those of you who have side projects and those that don’t. Use the next 3 minutes to turn to your neighbor.

Share what you’re building.

Find out what someone else is making.

And if you’re not building already, make a resolution to start something new.

Thank you.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.