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Developer Empowerment with Saron Yitbarek

In this podcast episode, Saron Yitbarek, founder of Code Newbie, discusses empowering developers through enhanced learning resources, financial opportunities, and community building, highlighting the importance of newsletters and the "Big Cash Money" community.

In the podcast, Saron Yitbarek, the founder of Code Newbie, shares insights into empowering developers through enhanced learning resources, financial opportunities, and community building. With Code Newbie evolving into a comprehensive media company and her successful venture into designing The Story Graph, Saron highlights the importance of newsletters for personal engagement and the benefits of fostering a learning-centric community. Additionally, she underlines her commitment to financial empowerment for developers via the "Big Cash Money" community, paving the way for broader discussions at the Epic Web Dev conference.

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Meet Saron at Epic Web Conf.


Saron Yitbarek
Saron Yitbarek


Kent: Hello everybody, I am super jazzed to be joined by Saron. Say hello, Saron.

Saron: everyone nice to see you

Kent: Nice to see you also. So I'm super excited for you to be one of the speakers at Epic WebConf in April in Park City, Utah, April 11th, to be precise. And yeah, I just thought this would be a really good opportunity for people to get to know you ahead of the conference. So could you give us an intro to yourself?

Saron: Sure, so my name is Saron. I'm probably most known for starting Code Newbie like a million years ago. It's been a decade now, can you believe it?

Kent: No way, not

Saron: It's

Kent: a decade!

Saron: been a decade, it was like early 2014 that

Kent: Holy

Saron: I started

Kent: smokes!

Saron: Code Newbie, yep.

Kent: That's

Saron: That was

Kent: amazing!

Saron: our first Twitter chat was like, I think in January or February of 2014, so like exactly

Kent: I remember

Saron: 10

Kent: that.

Saron: years

Kent: I

Saron: ago.

Kent: was,

Saron: Yeah.

Kent: I don't think I participated, but I saw it for

Saron: Yeah, yeah.

Kent: sure. And that was very early in my dev career as well. So my

Saron: Oh!

Kent: goodness,

Saron: Okay,

Kent: amazing.

Saron: yeah, yeah. So that was started as a Twitter chat. It started as a Twitter chat that happened every Wednesday night at Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern time. And we did that for literally 10 years.

Kent: That is

Saron: We

Kent: amazing.

Saron: did it every week for 10 years. And that grew into a podcast and a conference and then another podcast and meetups and newsletters and a bunch of content and really became a proper media company that got acquired a couple years back. what I'm best known for and then recently and what I'm gonna be talking about at Epic Web Dev is my personal creator journey. So I've always loved design that's always been just a passion of mine but I've never taken a proper course. I've read a couple books here and there but I've never been like trained as a designer and I've always felt like I had a good eye for design. I had a good like sense of things but I didn't have that polish that I see from like a proper designer and I really wanted that polish and I wanted to figure out what the right way of doing things, what really is a grid in design terms, not just in like front end terms, and

Kent: Hmm.

Saron: how do you pick a font, and what's a scale, and there were just all these questions I had. And for me, the real power of design came when I had the privilege of doing a redesign for one of my best friends, and my husband actually, so they co-founded a company called The Story Graph, which is the number one bookreads competitor, they have millions of users,

Kent: Hmm.

Saron: and I think it was last year. Yeah. for some design help and I said well I'm not a designer but I love design let me see if I can make some improvements and I didn't redesign the whole thing but I redesigned the main book page app and it got such great reviews and it was so cool to see like my little idea used by literally millions of people and to see people literally comment on the UX and the UI and say how beautiful it was and how much

Kent: Oh,

Saron: better it

Kent: cool.

Saron: was it was such a cool feeling and I was like man if I better.

Kent: Hahaha

Saron: And so earlier last year, I decided that I was going to take that mission a little bit more seriously. And I said, I'm going to learn and teach design at the same time, I'm going to level up, and I'm going to share my learnings along the way. And I didn't want to pretend that I'm a design expert, I didn't want to come off as like this, you know, design educator. So I called it not a designer, because I'm literally not a designer. And you

Kent: haha

Saron: are I started this newsletter and I did it really for two reasons. Number one, I was really excited about learning these new skills, but also I was really interested in just the world of newsletters. I feel like in

Kent: Hmm.

Saron: the last maybe like five years, newsletters have really taken off. I feel like everyone has one.

Kent: Mm-hmm.

Saron: People are sharing them all over the place and newsletters to me just make so much sense as a content creator because when you're on Twitter, Twitter owns your audience, right? Like I don't know about you. but my Twitter engagement, I have 37,000 followers, my Twitter engagement has been abysmal since it became like X, you know what

Kent: Hmm.

Saron: I mean? And there's like nothing I can do about that, right? LinkedIn, it's not my audience, it's the LinkedIn audience, it's a borrowed audience. And newsletters to me are very exciting because it's an audience that you own. It's a relationship that can travel with you from one platform to another. And so I was really excited about entering the newsletter space, seeing what does it feel like to talk directly to a subscriber? What does it feel like to write and create for them in a regular way? And writing was a new medium for me because I've been a podcaster for again over

Kent: Mm.

Saron: a decade.

Kent: Right.

Saron: And I've done speaking, which is live events and on stage stuff for again over a decade. But I actually haven't done a lot of just straight writing. So that's a different medium for me. And so I wanted the experience of being a better designer and being able to help people level up. But also I wanted to just understand the mechanics and the growth channels and the ways that to become like a content creator. So that's what I created, not a designer.

Kent: Wow, that is, I love your story. I think it's lovely. And one of my favorite things that I wanna call out specifically is your attitude when you got all these wonderful reviews about your UI and your UX. And I think it'd be very easy for myself to look at that and be like, wow, I'm better at this than I thought. And just

Saron: Hahaha

Kent: like pat myself on the back and think like, I'm awesome.

Saron: Yeah.

Kent: But I love that you were like. man, I mean, I'm sure you felt good, but

Saron: I did, yeah,

Kent: I could be better.

Saron: yeah. I could

Kent: And

Saron: be better, yeah.

Kent: like, could you imagine what it could be if I actually were good at this?

Saron: Yeah.

Kent: And I just, I really like that attitude a lot. And we've actually had conversations, if people listen to our Chats with Kent podcast

Saron: Mm-hmm.

Kent: interview a while ago, that goes a lot more in depth into your story. But if you could briefly talk about like, where... Where do you develop that kind of an attitude of self-improvement?

Saron: I feel like... Being a developer is such a humbling job and it really is an act of humility because you get stuck, you feel like an idiot most of the time, then you feel like a god for like two seconds

Kent: Hahaha

Saron: and then you're back to being stuck and I feel like with the ever-changing landscape of technology with all the new tools that you have to keep up with, I feel like, I don't know about you, but I've never felt like good enough as a developer. I feel

Kent: Hmm.

Saron: like I'm constantly a work in progress because you build a feature, but then for a new feature, out how to build that and you have to play with tools you haven't touched before and there's a new challenge. So it's a very humbling activity. So I think that unlike, you know, like for example, when I do writing, I try to, I put a lot of effort into being a good writer. I actually have, I have a team of what I call beta readers, just like you have a beta users, I have beta readers and it's about eight people who volunteered to read and give feedback to every draft if not a designer before I publish it.

Kent: Oh,

Saron: And

Kent: cool.

Saron: so over I give them like a Google link and they leave their feedback and they rate they give me like a rating for the For the issue and then I sometimes I've like rewritten the whole thing based on that feedback So

Kent: Hmm

Saron: there is still like a bit of kind of that work in progress built in But I feel like once you kind of know how to write you just kind of keep doing it You know what

Kent: Mm-hmm.

Saron: I mean? Like you're not constantly learning a new writing trick You know what I mean the

Kent: Yeah,

Saron: way that

Kent: yeah, yeah.

Saron: you are constantly learning a new way of doing things so I think just by virtue of being in tech and being humbled by all the things that are changing around me. It's kind of kept me in a beginner mindset whether I like it or not.

Kent: Ha ha ha.

Saron: I feel like it's kind of a part of the job, a part of the profession.

Kent: Yeah, yeah, you know that makes a lot of sense. And I also really like your approach to writing as well and your newsletter. Definitely, I'm subscribed and so I can recommend it. But I love that you have this iterative process for developing that material. You clearly take it very seriously and wanna make sure that you're delivering something of high value for people, which is... Fantastic. It's awesome.

Saron: Yeah, it used to be called, like the tagline used to be design bites for devs, because initially when I was thinking about it, I was like, I'm gonna have these cute little tips and there's gonna be these little design tips and advice that people can use. And I feel like every issue is like 2000 words, like I can't

Kent: Ha ha

Saron: write it. I really want to explain it like I really want there to be like a beginning, middle and end. And usually we work through a problem together and we start with like a wireframe and then I show you all the different iterations and like it just like I can't help but I want it to be thorough. You know

Kent: Hmm.

Saron: like I really take it seriously so there's one time actually that it was so long that someone one of my subscribers Messaged me and said that it got cut off in her email, and I was

Kent: Oh

Saron: like okay You need to like you got to take it down a notch. That's too far

Kent: Oh my goodness.

Saron: So I luckily had a cut off like around the signature portion So it was okay, but still like I need to I need to figure out a way to make it more concise But they're very thorough walkthroughs. They're very well researched. There's a lot of time that goes into it And yeah, I really care about the quality important to me.

Kent: That's awesome. Now, is that some of what you're planning on talking about at Epic Web? Is the newsletter and how you put that together? Or what are you thinking about for your talk for Epic Web?

Saron: Yeah, I want to talk about this idea of learning in public because I feel like we talk about building public and learning public a lot and usually it comes off as I'm going to kind of tweet information that I learned, but the not designer newsletter is pretty much me learning in a very public way, but because I'm forced to write in a blog in, like I said, 2000 words what I'm learning, you really get to see in deep detail what I am learning and learning it and it kind of holds me accountable too. It helps me, like it's really great way for me to look at the end of the week and go this is where all my research went, right?

Kent: Mmm.

Saron: All the videos I watched and book chapters I read and articles I looked at like here this is a memorial almost of like all the work that put into understanding this

Kent: Hmm

Saron: and now because I'm sharing it and sending it out to thousands of people a week it's a public way of learning it. So I feel like that newsletter content style can be a very effective way of learning in public as well in a way that has a lot more depth than I think just tweeting things does.

Kent: Mm-hmm

Saron: And so I really want to talk about the journey of simultaneously learning and teaching at the same time and what that looks like and hopefully sharing some design insights as

Kent: Yeah, super. That I can 100% back up as a lot of what you're describing has been my experience as well. And honestly, people will sometimes ask me about why I teach and stuff like that. And I tell them it's actually selfish. It's how I solidify my own understanding of the stuff that I'm learning. And so yeah, I'm super excited to hear your talk and just like a point on just nodding the whole time. Like, oh, yep, that is so true, so true.

Saron: Very

Kent: So

Saron: cool.

Kent: I definitely recommend people go to your talk or watch it online. It's gonna be awesome, or I should say epic.

Saron: Epic, it'll

Kent: I'm

Saron: be

Kent: sure.

Saron: epic. There you go, there you go. Very cool.

Kent: So Saran, last thing, when we're at the conference. and people are gonna wanna to meet you and talk with you. What are some things that you're excited to talk with people about?

Saron: Oh, that's a great question. I am really excited to, okay, so this is actually a really great question because I think I recently discovered my passion in life and I have decided to just lean into it and just own it. So when we think about passion, at least for me, I always thought it had to be like a hobby, like I'm really passionate about sewing or cooking or some type of activity, or it had to be like a mission, like a really deep mission, like I'm passionate about, you know, helping the unhoused passionate about feeding your hungry kids or something like that.

Kent: Hmm.

Saron: And what I realized is that my passion is helping people make money. That's really

Kent: Mm.

Saron: what I'm excited about. I just want you to make all the money you possibly can. And so I recently with my startup, Disco, we launched a community called Big Cash Money. And it's all about people with multiple income streams. And it's this really, really incredible Discord community of people who are doing speak, just doing speaking, doing consulting, writing a book, doing workshops, and it's all about how to optimize for their personal revenue and how to take care of their families better, reach their personal finance goals, and that's right now what I'm just thinking about all day and all night, and that's what I'm really excited about. So if you wanna talk about money and how to make more money, come talk to me, I would love to talk to you about that.

Kent: Epic, yeah, let's go get that bag, let's go.

Saron: Let's go. Let's go get it.

Kent: Fantastic, and do amazing things in the world while you're at it, right? Like

Saron: Yep.

Kent: you're doing awesome stuff. So

Saron: year.

Kent: thank you, Saran, I'm super excited to have you at the conference and yeah, we'll see everybody there.

Saron: See you at Epic.

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