#6 - Becoming a Tech Influencer Through Storytelling - Stephanie Wong

 

“The thing about becoming a Tech Influencer is, content is Queen and consistency, quality and value matter. That’s the trifecta of creating content that sticks."

In this episode, I had a fun conversation with Stephanie Wong, a Developer Advocate from Google Cloud. Stephanie is well known for her online developer contents ranging from YouTube videos, podcast and blog posts. She also hosts her own YouTube channel called “Steph You Should Know” where she talks about career, tech and productivity tips. Stephanie shared her story on how she started in technology even without technology education background and what led her to her current role. She also shared great tips on public speaking, storytelling, building a personal brand, and CV writing. She also gave her view on how to empower women to thrive in technology and dealing with imposter syndrome.  

Listen out for:

  • Stephanie’s career journey and how she started in tech - [00:03:31]
  • What DevRel is - [00:08:29]
  • How to be a good Tech Influencer - [00:16:04]
  • Tips on public speaking - [00:21:04]
  • Importance of storytelling - [00:25:23]
  • Tips on career advice and personal branding - [00:29:43]
  • Women in technology and imposter syndrome - [00:33:28]
  • Interesting DevRel experience - [00:40:29]
  • Stephanie’s 3 Tech Lead Wisdom - [00:42:18]

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Stephanie Wong’s Bio
Stephanie Wong is a speaker, writer, and architect with a mission to blend storytelling and technology to create remarkable online developer content. She is the creator of the Google Cloud Youtube series Networking End-to-End, Kubeflow 101, and Eyes on Enterprise, and the host of Google’s Next onAir broadcast. Before Google she helped businesses implement cloud technologies at Oracle. Born and raised in San Francisco, Stephanie’s active in her community, supporting women in tech and mentoring students. She hosts her own Youtube Channel called “Steph You Should Know” where you’ll find career, tech, and productivity tips and advice. She’s a former pageant queen, Hip Hop dance gold medalist, and has an unhealthy obsession with dogs.

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Quotes

On Journey in Tech

  • One of the ways that I found that worked for me was to just constantly be hungry, to learn and leverage a lot of the mentors who had been at the company for a longer period of time and not be afraid to ask them for one on one sessions to sit down with me and go to a whiteboard and begin to architect out solutions, so I could truly understand the big picture as opposed to just all the fine grain details at a very low level.

On Developer Relations

  • Developer Relations originally began because companies wanted a way to advocate for developers. You had sales teams, you had marketing teams who were able to reach out to customers and clients, business decision makers, and market the products to those audiences. But when it came to developer challenges, it was very difficult for a group of people who had specialized skills in that area to empathize and to be able to understand the deeper challenges that came with developers.

  • Traditionally before, Developer Relations primarily focused on offering in person events, meetups, and presenting at conferences all over the world. Though that’s still a huge focus today, online content has become even more prevalent in the industry.

  • Online and scalable content has become extremely effective at reaching the largest number of people and developers as possible.

  • Attributes of a good DevRel: developer empathy, public speaking, and domain expertise.

On Becoming a Tech Influencer

  • In order to become a Tech Influencer, it’s all about sharing content. And in the beginning, you may not know, where do I get started? What do I share? I don’t have the expertise. I don’t have the knowledge. I don’t have the authority. But it doesn’t matter because everybody online is the same. They had to get started somewhere where people didn’t know who they were. Think about small pieces of information that you can begin sharing on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on your social feeds and just start with anything. You can try to create a framework first, but if it’s too daunting of a task, just start sharing your thoughts, your opinions, or just pieces of information that you find interesting in your field.

  • One thing that I like to do is I take documentation and articles and I break that down and start to understand the patterns and what my audience might want to know, what are the narratives that aren’t being told to your audience today.

  • It’s actually great to become a generalist, even if you are considering yourself a specialist, because you can create a broader narrative and story flow.

  • You need to make sure that you are sharing the content very consistently to your audiences.

  • You want to make sure that the content you share is valuable. It’s perhaps opinionated because as you know online, people appreciate opinions. And it’s targeted to your audience. It’s solving one of their challenges. It’s showing them something they didn’t know before.

  • The thing about becoming a Tech Influencer is, content is Queen and consistency, quality and value matter. That’s the trifecta of creating content that sticks.

  • Don’t just focus on one medium. The key thing about creating content is sharding your content. In other words, create one piece of content and then replicate it across mediums and that’s how you reach an even broader audience.

On Public Speaking

  • I personally find it better to simply get yourself in front of a camera or in front of a mirror, if you don’t want to film yourself yet, and just speak for two minutes on any topic. And then watch yourself, if you did film yourself, and critique yourself if you’re comfortable with it. And send it to your friends or colleagues who you know are better public speakers. And then just getting on stage in any form.

  • It doesn’t really matter what the format or the topic is, just practice getting in front of people and just do it as many times as possible.

  • People appreciate authenticity no matter what field you’re in. So just practicing that authenticity and not feeling so much pressure to be or look like someone else or sound like someone else is key.

On Storytelling

  • And usually in order to draw your audience in, not only does it need to target the developer persona, but it needs to really target his or her challenge that they’re trying to solve. So in order to tell a good story, it needs to be an extremely solution-oriented storyline. So you want to make sure that you present that in the beginning of your presentation or in your video, what challenge are we trying to solve here? Why is it relevant to you? And then you dive into step-by-step, this is how this product solves it or how this methodology solves it. And then you can wrap up by kind of reflecting back on what you said and summarizing or providing any caveats or next steps. That’s sort of a high level overview of how you should structure your narratives.

  • Instead of just consuming the information the next time you watch a TED Talk, why don’t you watch the TED Talk and really absorb the structure in which they tell that entire story and start to take notes.

  • If you can start to change how you do a quick presentation at work, why don’t you start by presenting the challenge and then going into the solution and then a conclusion that’s very clear and direct.

  • The largest difference between in person and online is that you just don’t have audience feedback. So, that’s the biggest challenge, being comfortable by yourself in your own skin and presenting the information without necessarily receiving any feedback from your audience. In order to overcome that, doing it a bunch of times in front of a camera without anyone there. And the second is being very comfortable in the material that you are presenting. The way that you’re good at it is usually because you know the material very well and you know the story, you know what you’re about to present.

On Personal Brand

  • I think it’s crucial these days to build a brand around yourself. You want to make sure you always have opportunities in all places. No matter what happens in the world. So that’s one way of creating sort of like high availability for yourself in terms of creating your brand outside of just one thing, not putting all your eggs in one basket.

On Career Advice

  • If an opportunity doesn’t both challenge and excite you, then reconsider.

  • Your resume should tell a story. You should tell your own story. You should make sure that your resume represents your story well.

  • Unapologetically take ownership in your greatest achievements. So instead of just simply describing your job function and what you do at the company, you should be describing your biggest impact and how you were integral to making that happen. And one way to do that effectively is to replace all your duties with measurable impact. You want to be very specific about why, how you did that and what the measurable outcome was. In summary, duties tell accomplishments sell.

On Women in Tech

  • Think about the impact that you can make.

  • Don’t use your background or your existing skill sets to determine whether or not you are qualified for a position in tech. Use your drive, your mentality, your work ethic and how much you’ve grown in the past couple of years to push you to where you need to get in the future.

  • It’s important for women to really understand that they can go for those stretch goals. They can really go for those positions, even if they don’t think they’re qualified just yet.

  • Women and men need to recognize women’s work and really give them more opportunities to take stretch goals.

  • We need both men and women to continue to support one another.

  • Managers and executives have to show visible commitment to ensuring that there’s equity, diversity, and inclusion of women and people of color in their teams.

  • Opportunity and recognition for women need to come from all levels in technology.

  • I think that there is a long history of systemic issues that exist that create this sort of glass ceiling for women in technology. I also think there’s a mentality shift that needs to happen in order for women to push themselves and continue to persevere through these glass ceilings.

On Imposter Syndrome

  • Use it as motivation rather than reasons to be self-conscious or lose self-esteem. Funnel that into motivation to grow.

  • If you surround yourself by people who are achieving something inspiring, or a role model that you look up to, use that as additional drive to continue to push yourself.

  • It just takes time and practice to get used to any change and adapt to a new skill or environment.

  • You have to be self-aware first about it. The next key action is actually to acknowledge it and to think about other things that you’re good at.

Stephanie’s 3 Tech Lead Wisdom

  1. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Remain curious, let your intuition tell you when an opportunity doesn’t feel right. And when you think you should learn more in a certain skill and just say yes to challenges that allow you to get out of your comfort zone and challenge you, continue to say yes to those opportunities.

  2. For public speaking, practice makes perfect. To build your brand, definitely focus on practicing public speaking.

  3. Content is Queen. The trifecta of creating content that sticks is consistency, quality, and value.

Transcript

Episode Introduction [00:01:20]

Henry Suryawirawan: Hey everyone. Welcome to a new episode of the Tech Lead Journal with me your host, Henry Suryawirawan. If you’re new to the Tech Lead Journal, make sure to subscribe and follow the podcast on your favorite podcast app in order to get notified for any new episode going forward. It is my mission to have the podcast community grow even bigger and to have more awesome and inspiring guests coming and sharing their wisdom with us. And if you are a regular listener, do consider spending some time to leave me any feedback about the podcast. I would love to hear more from each of you, and let me know if you have any great suggestion on how to improve the podcast.

For today’s episode, I’m very excited to share my conversation with Stephanie Wong. Stephanie is a Google Cloud Developer Advocate, and you might have seen her online on YouTube talking about Google Cloud related technologies, see her in action presenting at conferences, or even listen to her on the “How I Launched This: A SaaS Story” podcast.

Stephanie has a personal mission to blend storytelling and technologies to create remarkable online developer contents. Stephanie also hosts her own YouTube channel called “Steph You Should Know” where you can find career, tech, and productivity tips and advice. There are a lot of great things that we discussed about in this episode, ranging from personal brand, being a tech influencer, public speaking, career advice, and also how women can thrive in technology. I really enjoy this conversation and I hope you all enjoy it as well. So let’s get started.

Introduction [00:03:24]

Henry Suryawirawan: Hey, Stephanie. Welcome to the Tech Lead Journal. Very excited to have you here in this show.

Stephanie Wong: [00:03:28] Hey, thank you so much for having me today. I’m so excited to be here.

Career Journey [00:03:31]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:03:31] So Stephanie, maybe you can tell the audience here about yourself. What’s your role and what are you up to now?

Stephanie Wong: [00:03:38] Sure. So I am a Developer Advocate at Google Cloud and I focus on online, scalable content specifically. And what that means is that as a DA, I go out into the community and I create content online that makes developers want to share, tweet and talk about it. And essentially the goal is to advocate for them and give feedback back to product to eventually improve the product. Prior to being a DA, I was a Customer Engineer or in industry it’s also known as a Sales Engineer. And an interesting point about me is that I actually didn’t graduate with a CS or Computer Science or engineering degree. So I’ve had sort of a unconventional path to where I am today. In my spare time, I am a big performer, I dance and I use a lot of that into my day to day work as a public speaker at Google.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:04:26] Interesting. You mentioned you didn’t graduate from a CS degree. Can you share a little bit more, what’s your journey like from the University and then your turning points in your career until you have this DevRel role.

Stephanie Wong: [00:04:37] Yeah, absolutely. So I didn’t know what I wanted to do at university or even out of school. While I was at UCLA, I was very undecided and I ultimately did a Communications Studies degree because I thought I wanted to go into entertainment or the entertainment industry. I knew that I loved being around production. And so in that major, I was able to study both interpersonal and public speaking. And then I did a few internships in the entertainment industry. I remember working at a YouTube startup for a dance channel, and I also worked at Warner Brothers Records. So I kind of did production assistant work here and there as well as some sales and I did one tech internship as well.

Throughout that time, I knew I had a fascination with technology, though I didn’t know that I wanted to become extremely technical at the time. I ended up finding a new minor called Digital Humanities, where I did research in analytics and visualization, but it focused primarily on the study of humanities. So I would study arts and literature and history and we would visualize it and sort of modernize that practice. So it was clear I had an interest in the intermediary and fusion between communications and technology. So when I graduated from college, I was applying all sorts of places. And I ended up applying to and making it into Oracle as my first job. I didn’t really know too much about Enterprise Technology at the time and I did it sort of as a Hail Mary and I wanted to give it a shot. I knew that it was a large stable company with a well known name and I already knew I had an interest in technology. Though I wasn’t extremely confident because I didn’t have a Computer Science background. Though they were hiring for sales engineers so I knew that it would be a great entry point to learn both business and technical skills. So when I started there, I was able to start with a lot of other college grads and I embraced it, I learned as much as possible and within that year, I joined the Business Intelligence and Analytics team.

After the first year and a half, I started to notice that cloud technology in the platform and infrastructure as a service regions and sections in technology were gaining a lot of momentum. So I decided to pivot and do post-sales implementations for our customers, for our cloud technologies on the platform and infrastructure side. After doing that for a year and a half, I eventually ended up getting reached out to by Google.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:06:57] Right. When you deal with this technology especially when technology was not your background, is there any major challenges that you foresee along your journey? Whether to keep up with the fundamentals about technology, or even to understand about technology products. Are there any major challenges that you foresee then and also how to overcome those?

Stephanie Wong: [00:07:16] Yeah. So I think because I didn’t come from an engineering or computer science background, a lot of the learning I did at the time felt like I was presented a problem, and I had to go back and learn the foundation or the fundamentals of database design or what a virtual machine was, how to virtualize technology and then microservice architectures had just started becoming more popularized back then as well. So I really didn’t have a huge context about how were data centers and on-premise technologies before and how are they now? So a big challenge was working backwards in a sense. Learning the fundamentals and foundations of Computer Science and enterprise technologies, starting with the problem and then going back and trying to understand the context of why it was a challenge and how they could solve those challenges using more modernized technologies today.

One of the ways that I found that worked for me was to just constantly be hungry, to learn and leverage a lot of the mentors who had been at the company for a longer period of time and not be afraid to ask them for one on one sessions to sit down with me and go to a whiteboard and begin to architect out solutions that involve multiple products and integrations between databases and between message brokers, et cetera. So I could truly understand the big picture as opposed to just all the fine grain details at a very low level.

Developer Relations [00:08:29]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:08:29] Thanks for sharing that. So moving on to your current role as a DevRel, I know it’s kind of like trendy these days to see DevRel role. You guys are popular in the YouTube channel, LinkedIn, any kind of social media, maybe you can share what is a DevRel role?

Stephanie Wong: [00:08:43] Yeah. So Developer Relations originally began because companies wanted a way to advocate for developers. You had sales teams, you had marketing teams who were able to reach out to customers and clients, business decision makers, and of course market the products to those audiences. But when it came to developer challenges, it was very difficult for a group of people who had specialized skills in that area to empathize and to be able to understand the deeper challenges that came with developers, especially those who were either leveraging API products or were working on creating customized solutions on top of the company’s platform. So because of this more technical approach and audience, Developer Relations became more popular over the last 10 years or so.

Now the team that I’m on is new at Google Cloud, relatively speaking. We are one of the first Developer Relations teams to focus more on the online content side. And the reason is because, the person who started that team notice that creating online content reaches a vast number of people and audiences online, especially those who do not typically have access to go to tech events and see people in person.

Traditionally before, Developer Relations primarily focused on offering in person events, meetups, and presenting at conferences all over the world. Though that’s still a huge focus today, online content has become even more prevalent in the industry, especially given COVID and the remote working world where online and scalable content has become extremely effective at still reaching the largest number of people and developers as possible. So that’s what my team does is we do podcasts like this, we do talks online, we do meetups. But YouTube is such an incredible platform to reach such a vast majority of people, even those that you may not have been targeting because all of this information has been democratized and made accessible to anyone.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:10:29] Makes sense. So what are some of the major attributes that are required to be a good DevRel?

Stephanie Wong: [00:10:35] Yeah. So the interesting thing about DevRel is that we have so many people coming from various backgrounds. And the one thing I will say is that in developer advocacy specifically, most people need to have a technical or developer background in the product that you’re representing or the language that you’re representing for client library, for example. So public speaking is huge as well as domain expertise and I would also say developer empathy. Be able to understand when the developer has an issue, really work towards solving their issues and listening to them, and then providing feedback back to product in an actionable way where product can take your suggestions and be able to create a feature that will prioritize developers challenges. So I would say as a conclusion developer empathy, as well as public speaking and domain expertise.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:11:22] So you mentioned also in the beginning about you’re using your performance background and also probably gel that with your DevRel role. Can you tell me more about it? How do you use your background in the performance, entertainment, doing production and to now?

Stephanie Wong: [00:11:36] Yeah. So one thing I didn’t mention yet about my personal story is how I transitioned from Oracle as a Customer Success and Implementation Engineer over to Google into Developer Relations. So when I was about to leave Oracle, I wanted to actually go and travel and experience the world and I also was trying to decide what I wanted to do next. What was my next stepping stone. Customer Engineering was a huge experience and I found success through that, but I was still in this searching phase where I was trying to figure out what my true passion was. And I’m sure that you’ve heard the term find your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life, which I took to heart very seriously, a little bit too much because I started to overthink that phrase. So I decided to look around and see what other people on LinkedIn were doing, what my friends were doing and it seemed like everybody at the time was applying to graduate school because of course it’s a logical step in your career to get more schooling. So I decided to apply to Stanford thinking that I wanted to go to journalism school and try to do digital journalism, which was a new field. But as I was taking the test and writing my personal statement, I realized while I was writing it, that I wasn’t applying for the right reasons, I was really doing it because I was following others’ step to apply to grad school as a logical next step and I wasn’t truly passionate about the field like most other applicants would be. So I decided to move away from that approach and really reflect back on what I wanted to do in the next two to four years. What skills would be most important and what did I enjoy doing? So I knew that I already had an interest and fascination with production, performing, but also technology. So I dreamed of eventually finding something that would allow me to do both, but I kind of just left it in the back of my mind and said, okay, I don’t really know any roles that would merge those two things. So I’ll just see what happens, I’m just going to keep on going with the travel plan.

Then at the time Google happened to reach out about a sales engineering position or customer engineering and I went through the interview process and eventually got the role, which I was super excited about. So as I was starting my journey at Google, I actually got reached out to, by somebody who was also a customer engineer and he was working on his own online content for Google Cloud. And he asked me if I was interested in helping him and I thought, wow, this is interesting. We’re kind of doing this small startup within Google, creating online content, using our webcams and microphones and it wasn’t funded by any means. It was just a grassroots effort to do this. We started running around the lobbies, running around the offices, trying to find quiet space to film demos, and invite other people on our shows and have guests on our show. And eventually we started doing that for about six months and DevRel reached out to us to ask if we wanted to create online content in collaboration with them on the Google Cloud YouTube channel, which we were thrilled to be involved with. So we started doing that and through that, my work creating online content started to bubble up and get more attention, and I was asked to do larger opportunities like present and host the broadcast of our largest conference, Google Cloud Next. So through that, I just kept saying yes, because they were challenges, they were exciting, and I could do what I had envisioned and dreamed of doing and it started to become more real to me.

Eventually one thing led to another and now I started on a team of the first online, scalable developer advocates. So that’s exactly how I ended up in DevRel, which was totally unexpected, but something that I wanted to do. One thing I will say though, is that it absolutely terrified me to join DevRel because I knew it was even more of a technical role that’s part of the tech engineering side of Google. I didn’t really have any plans on becoming more technical or joining engineering given my background, but, you know, I said, Hey, this is an exciting, yet challenging opportunity and I’ve always been told that if an opportunity doesn’t both challenge and excite you, then reconsider. So I said, you know what, I’m just going to try it. It’s better just be more technical in the beginning of your career and challenge yourself because eventually when you go into management or higher levels, you’ll start to lose that edge later down your career. So I just took a chance and I’ve never looked back since, and it’s given me so many opportunities to build my brand and become this Tech Influencer, as you said. It’s been a great experience.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:15:41] Yeah, thanks for sharing that. I think, I can relate to some of your sharing as well, especially when you talk about finding a passion and trying to figure out what you should do next, trying to find out what your strengths are and what kind of roles that will excite you. I think these are very good sharing, especially for those listeners who are also still trying to find your passion or what you should do next. So, advice from Stephanie here, definitely you should check it out.

Tech Influencer [00:16:04]

Henry Suryawirawan: So about Tech Influencer, right , given your online contents and all that, you should position yourself most likely as an expert when you present that. So what are the basic things that you should know about being a Tech Influencer, especially for those people around, that wants to position themselves as a Tech Influencer in any area that they want to market themselves in?

Stephanie Wong: [00:16:24] It’s a growing field and as I said, building your brand is crucial in today’s market with so many people online, competing for that real estate and that air space. So I would say that in order to become a “Tech Influencer”, it’s all about sharing content. And in the beginning, you may not know, okay, where do I get started? What do I share? I don’t have the expertise. I don’t have the knowledge. I don’t have the authority, but it doesn’t matter because everybody online is the same, in the sense that they had to get started somewhere where people didn’t know who they were. So I would say really encourage yourself to think about small pieces of information that you can begin sharing on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on your social feeds and just start with anything. You can try to create a framework first, but if it’s too daunting of a task, just start sharing your thoughts, your opinions, or just pieces of information that you find interesting in your field.

Once you start to do that, then you can start building a pattern, a framework, a strategy around what your niche will be. It might be helpful to start with that too, maybe you just want to focus on networking content, perhaps you only want to focus on machine learning, you can definitely begin with that as well. One thing that I like to do is I take documentation, I take articles and I break that down and start to understand the patterns and what my audience might want to know, what are the narratives that aren’t being told to your audience today. For example, I begin to learn by understanding common technology architectures. Let’s say I want to focus on a broad architectural group of topics like streaming analytics, or IoT. Maybe you want to focus on how to scale your architectures. Maybe you want to focus on Kubernetes and microservices. In my mind, it’s actually great to become sort of a generalist in the sense, even if you are considering yourself a specialist, because you can create a broader narrative and story flow over let’s say 20 topics over time.

Once you kind of nailed down, okay, these are the top 10 to 20 topics. So I want to talk about over time. Here’s this broad story arc, then you can start creating specific episodes or specific podcast episodes, maybe even it’s just a picture that you want to share or an article or a GIF and a quick caption. Then the next thing you want to think about is creating frequency around that. You need to make sure that you are sharing this content very consistently to your audiences. If you don’t have consistency, then people will not see that you are becoming an influencer in that space. Once you do that, you want to make sure that the content you share is valuable. It’s perhaps opinionated because as you know online, people appreciate opinions. And it’s targeted to your audience. It’s solving one of their challenges. It’s showing them something they didn’t know before.

The thing about becoming a Tech Influencer is, content is Queen and consistency, quality and value matter. That’s the trifecta of creating content that sticks. And two books I recommend about creating valuable content is “Content Rules” and “Made to Stick”. And I also follow Gary Vee on social media, cause he is all about creating content, so I recommend checking out his tips as well.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:19:17] Thanks for sharing that. Especially for those of us who are still thinking about creating contents. I think just do it, find your niche, find a specialty where you are good at obviously, and then start creating the content and be more frequent and consistent in terms of your message and in terms of value.

So specifically about format, I know there are few things that we can explore, things like blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, or any specific other content. Are there any channels that basically more effective than the others?

Stephanie Wong: [00:19:46] I’ve had this question before, and it’s interesting. I think that depending on the audience, of course everybody has a preference, whether they like to consume information via YouTube or articles, or perhaps live stream on Twitch.tv, there’s live coding on there, for example. They’re all valuable and you can build an audience through any of those means, if you follow my three tips around consistency, quality and value of information. I think that there is something to be said around YouTube and blog posts being something that’s proven to be effective. I think those are two solid forms of mediums to use. But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give live coding or live streams the chance, because there’s probably less people on those platforms doing such a thing. So it could actually carve out a good opportunity for you to go there and start building your brand there.

The other tip I’ll say is don’t just focus on one medium. The key thing about creating content is sharding your content. In other words, create one piece of content and then replicate it across mediums and that’s how you reach an even broader audience. So, if you were creating an article, maybe you think about doing a podcast. If you think about doing a podcast, create an article around it, create a video, film yourself doing the podcast. Less work on your part and you really maximize and expand your efforts.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:20:59] Thanks for the tips. I should also follow one of your tips as well going forward.

Public Speaking [00:21:04]

Henry Suryawirawan: So I’ve heard this quote before, public speaking is actually the number one fear in the world, even much scarier than being death itself. What are some of your advice for people, you know, want to do public speaking, not necessarily on stage, but also recording their first YouTube video, because I’m sure that will terrify some of us, really, really bad, including me. First time I did it, it’s like, wow, what am I doing? Why am I doing this? Can you share some of your tips around that?

Stephanie Wong: [00:21:29] So in my past, I had the opportunity to take public speaking in college since I was a Communication Studies major. But I also spoke on stage a lot because I had done pageants, I was a dancer. I was very used to performing on stage. And then in my first position at Oracle, I presented many times and in front of customers as well as in front of our colleagues.

Luckily I’ve had somewhat of a predilection to speak in front of others and on stage, but by no means, was it a natural tendency or a natural skill for me. And a lot of people come up to me and say, wow, you’re so natural at public speaking, you seem very authentic on camera, but that is something that I’ve built over the last seven years, at least. And it really takes practice. I think that’s the key thing to understand. I joined an office club called Toastmasters, and I think they have that at many offices, many companies around the world. And it essentially got you in front of a group of colleagues, you come up with a topic every week and you present for two to five minutes and there’s somebody who sort of critiques you or counts how many times you use ums. Well, I didn’t love that method. It really does help if you have it available to you if you want to give it a try.

I personally find it better to simply get yourself in front of a camera or in front of a mirror ,if you don’t want to film yourself yet, and just speak for two minutes on any topic. And then watch yourself if you did film yourself and critique yourself, if you’re comfortable with it and, or send it to your friends or colleagues who, you know are better public speakers. Because I think when you watch yourself, you’ll start to see that you might be looking off to the side, or you might be using your hands in a weird way, which I definitely did at the beginning. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my hands, so I kind of kept them like I was holding something and it just looked really awkward. I had to practice that but that really helped. And then just getting on stage in any form. Maybe you’re a community leader, maybe you want to stand in front of your family and give a presentation about your favorite Netflix show. It doesn’t really matter what the format or the topic is, just practice getting in front of people like I did with pageantry and just do it as many times as possible.

I also took a course a couple of years ago called Speechless that we have available at Google sometimes and they offer virtual classes as well. They’re based in San Francisco. But the reason why I like them is that you get one-on-one time with someone who will get you thinking and on your feet, actually standing up doing silly exercises that feel ridiculous to you, but it’s really just to get you out of your comfort zone. So you might do a lot of weird vocal exercises where you’re just doing weird sounds and shapes with your mouth, or perhaps you need to make up an improvised story about a princess or a prince, and they want you to just navigate storytelling and be very improvisational about it. And that just helps you to think on your feet, be very comfortable taking questions from the audience and also learn how to tell a story from an authentic point of view. People appreciate authenticity no matter what field you’re in. So just practicing that authenticity and not feeling so much pressure to be or look like someone else or sound like someone else is key.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:24:18] Yeah. So I think the tips of starting maybe in front of a mirror, another tip that I learnt myself as well is that you can even record yourself using your handphone. Be like a Vlog style, two minutes, one minutes, whatever length you’re comfortable with and just watch it for yourself personally, criticize yourself and also think of your sound. Does it sound good, confident, natural, authentic, and things like that. And once you are comfortable, maybe you record it daily. You can share it with few people and ask for feedback. Because I’m sure there are many people who can give a good critical feedback for you to improve on. And as you continue that practice, I think over the time you’ll get more natural, at least that’s in my experience.

And also another thing that I found from your sharing as well, is that, obviously, you will find some awkward things, either your sound, either your ums or your silence and your hands waving. For me, especially doing this podcast, I learned that I talk a lot, like, you know, right. So when I edited the episode, basically I learned, Oh, Okay, I tell all these things, maybe I should improve next time. So I think that’s also partly good learnings, so everyone will have their own story, their own quirks. You just have to improve over the time.

Storytelling [00:25:23]

Henry Suryawirawan: You mentioned something about storytelling. Why is it so important for example, Tech Influencer or your DevRel, or even like in general, people just want to present stuffs, why storytelling is very important?

Stephanie Wong: [00:25:35] Storytelling is hugely important because think about the last piece of documentation you read for a technical product. Let’s say it was for a Machine Learning products. And this is fine because when people write documentation, they’re thinking, let me be very clear about it, let me write the step by step. But it’s hard for you to read it end to end sometimes, or let’s say an entire white paper, unless it has a solid story, unless it draws you in. And usually in order to draw your audience in, not only does it need to target the developer persona, but it needs to really target his or her challenge that they’re trying to solve. So in order to tell a good story, it needs to be an extremely solution-oriented storyline. So you want to make sure that you present that in the beginning of your presentation or in your video, what challenge are we trying to solve here? Why is it relevant to you? And then you dive into step-by-step, okay, this is how this product solves it or how this methodology solves it. And then you can wrap up by kind of reflecting back on what you said and summarizing or providing any caveats or next steps. So that’s sort of a high level overview of how you should structure your narratives.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:26:38] Is there a way for us to improve our storytelling capability? We all see, for example, TED Talks, obviously they are like one of the best speakers in the world about storytelling and presenting their message. Is there any place where we can learn how to do this storytelling better?

Stephanie Wong: [00:26:53] You presented a good example right there. TED Talks are known for great presenters and great stories. Instead of just consuming that information the next time you watch a TED Talk, why don’t you watch the TED Talk and really absorb the structure in which they tell that entire story and start to take notes. What are they talking about in the beginning? Why is it captivating? And then what’s the next thing they start to move into and how do they conclude the presentation? What’s the takeaway and why was it so memorable and try to really analyze it if you have time. The other thing I’ll say is, again, practice, practice, practice.

If you can start to change how you do a quick presentation at work, why don’t you start by presenting the challenge and then going into the solution and then a conclusion that’s very clear and direct. See if that actually bodes even better with your audience and encourage people to actually take action. So both practice and analyze or study are two things that I do. I’ve actually taken a couple classes on it. I’ve taken MasterClasses, which is a startup company that has some online classes, given by some very prolific writers and TV storytellers. So I’ve taken some courses on that. Even Disney, I know they have a couple of free courses online about how Pixar and Disney tell stories and that’d be a great resource to follow as well.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:28:01] So given in this current situation of people being locked down, working from home, are there any difference between presenting onstage and also virtual?

Stephanie Wong: [00:28:10] Absolutely. I mean, I have focused so much on virtual from the get go in terms of doing scalable content, but occasionally I’ll go to conferences as well and speak in person. The largest difference between in person and online is that you just don’t have audience feedback. And sometimes it’s really helpful for some people to not have someone in front of them. And other times somebody will get into the studio and they’ll start to look at the camera and they might have a teleprompter and they just completely freeze because it’s a new environment, you don’t have people nodding and smiling at you and giving you non behavioral cues, which if you didn’t know, count for 70% of how people understand communication.

So, that’s the biggest challenge, right, is being comfortable by yourself in your own skin and presenting the information without necessarily receiving any feedback from your audience. In order to overcome that, again, it’s just, I would say twofold. Doing it a bunch of times in front of a camera without anyone there and then the second is being very comfortable in the material that you are presenting. You don’t want to just show up on the day of and wing it unless you’re good at that. But the way that you’re good at that is usually because you know the material very well and you know the story, you know what you’re about to present. So just go into your meetings and create content, having practiced a few times, knowing what you’re about to say. The same goes for onstage presenting as well.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:29:22] Right. So I still remember the first time I did like a live webinar as well. You’re right, it feels weird having nobody, you just saw the camera man giving you feedback and cues.

Stephanie Wong: [00:29:32] Yeah.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:29:33] It felt weird to me. And I think the key here again is just to try it out, experiment and see which format that you like. But obviously, these days, we are forced to do virtual. So I guess we just need to get used to it.

Career Advice and Personal Branding [00:29:43]

Henry Suryawirawan: So I think from your website, I saw as well that you are trying to be more prominent in terms of helping people about their career, for example, CV writing, what makes you interested in doing this?

Stephanie Wong: [00:29:55] Yeah, so I decided to start my own website because I wanted to create a brand online. And I think that’s crucial these days is to build a brand around yourself. I wanted to diversify my brand beyond Google as well. I wanted to be known as Stephanie Wong and not necessarily Stephanie Wong from Google Cloud all the time. Because I think it’s key, you want to make sure you always have opportunities in all places, right? No matter what happens in the world. So that’s one way of creating sort of like high availability for yourself in terms of creating your brand outside of just one thing, not putting all your eggs in one basket. Yeah. Tech joke right there. So, yeah, I did that. It’s called stephrwong.com and you’re right, I do provide professional services and coaching and CV or resume reviews and edits. And the reason why I started that is because I started helping my friends and family years ago doing this. And they said, well, you’re actually pretty good at this and it’s really helpful, you should eventually do it. And as you know, with COVID and the quarantine, people have more time on their hands and it was a great side project for me to get that up and running and start to offer it to people. I’m hoping to build out additional offerings in the future.

And then on top of that, I’m actually launching my YouTube channel called “Steph You Should Know” and that’s also another effort to create an online brand for myself and really build an audience.

When I say build an audience, it means you are becoming that influencer. And if you don’t like that title, you are just becoming a content creator and forming an audience that follows you for your brand and what you offer them. So on that channel, I’ll be creating content around career, lifestyle, productivity, technology trying to keep it targeted as much as possible, but so far it’s primarily around things like what we just talked about today.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:31:38] I like your joke about high availability for us. Obviously having brand online, I think it’s also something that all of us should think about, what kind of brand you should have online either, maybe even in your social media. What do you want people to know you about? And I think yeah, we have talked about so many channels and opportunities where you can do that.

So in terms of CV writing, if you can share maybe some high general tips, some of the key things that we should think about when we write a CV.

Stephanie Wong: [00:32:05] Yeah. So I think that your resume should tell a story. And that’s very on brand with what I’ve been talking about today, because I’ve been talking about storytelling a lot today, but really everything does follow that framework. You should tell your own story. You should make sure that your resume represents your story well. And, one of the things that you can do is not just put everything on your resume, but take a look at the positions that you are aiming for or positions that you eventually want to reach later down the road. What in your resume will tell that story and gear you towards that direction and make sure that you are putting yourself in a good position to get there.

So the other thing I’ll say is, I really encourage people to unapologetically take ownership in their greatest achievements. So instead of just simply describing your job function and what you do at that company, you should really be describing your biggest impact and how you were integral to making that happen. And one way to do that effectively is to replace all your duties with measurable impact. So include some quantifiable metric perhaps, because it’s easier for people to wrap their heads around that. You want to be very specific about why, how you did that and what the measurable outcome was. In summary, duties tell accomplishments sell.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:33:16] Nice. So for those of you who would like to have the coaching in terms of CV writing, definitely contact Stephanie, and then you probably get more useful tips and even practical examples on how to improve your CV.

Women In Technology & Imposter Syndrome [00:33:28]

Henry Suryawirawan: So another thing that I want to talk about with you is about women in technology. Obviously we have still this challenge in terms of number of women that is doing technology. So what are some of your message in terms of empowering women to give it a try to be more in technology?

Stephanie Wong: [00:33:44] Me being a woman in tech has been a very exciting journey for me. I didn’t even think that I would be in technology when I was in school. So for anyone that’s even thinking about it as a possibility, or you want to pivot your career into technology, or perhaps you’re even in tech and you just want to grow and continue to push yourself, or maybe you were thinking of leaving tech, I would really ask you to think about the impact that you can make in this male dominated industry and just understand that where I came from was very different than most people in technology. So don’t use your background or your existing skill sets to determine whether or not you are qualified for a position in tech. Use your drive, your mentality, your work ethic and how much you’ve grown in the past couple of years to push you to where you need to get in the future.

I suffer still from imposter syndrome and I especially experienced that when I first joined Google. But I now today use that as motivation rather than reasons to be self conscious or lose self-esteem. Now I funnel that into motivation to grow. And the other thing is that if you surround yourself by people who are achieving something inspiring or a role model that you look up to, use that as additional drive to continue to push yourself in this field, because we really do need more women in not just tech, but in leadership roles in tech. And I believe that we need both men and women to continue to support one another, as others have supported my work. If you see another woman’s work who should be noticed, send a tweet, share it, send an email, give positive feedback and recognition. I’ve talked a lot today about how to promote yourself online and it’s very important that we do that for other women in tech. Because you wouldn’t believe the power of social networking, whether that’s internal at a company or externally. That’s how we make progress and get women in leadership positions.

The second thing I’ll say is that I think managers and other executives have to show visible commitment to ensuring that there’s equity, diversity and inclusion of women and people of color in their teams. I’m grateful I’ve had incredible managers who make it a point to hire many women on my teams from all different backgrounds, even myself who came from a very different background, they gave me a chance and I was able to succeed in this field when I didn’t have the confidence to in the beginning compared to where I am now. So I really do think opportunity and recognition for women need to come from all levels in technology.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:35:59] Thanks for sharing that. So regarding imposter syndrome, I think this keyword is definitely mentioned a lot of times in our tech industry. First of all, for those of us who are not familiar with this term, maybe you can explain what is imposter syndrome? How do you know if you have it? And like you gave some tips already, but is there anything else that we can do to improve not being too much influenced by this imposter syndrome?

Stephanie Wong: [00:36:21] So imposter syndrome is this mentality or belief in which you doubt your accomplishments or your talent, because you have this internalized fear of being exposed as an imposter or a fraud. You know, you think to yourself, how did I get here? I’m not as smart as the people around me, I’m not as talented as them, I don’t belong here. I absolutely felt that when I first joined Google and at different points in my career when I switched teams, for example. So I’m sure many people face that it’s probably has to do with both self confidence and just being in a very challenging or highly productive environment and maybe you have a lot of great, talented people around you and that’s fine. But just think to yourself, okay, I see them as highly talented and they bring a lot to the table in that skill or that expertise, maybe they’re a Machine Learning expert, for example, but what do you bring to the table?

I had to get used to telling myself that I am different from the engineers around me. I’m different from the developers. I don’t have that background, but what do I bring to the table? Okay. Well, let me think, I bring storytelling, I bring public speaking and enthusiasm around that and it took a long time for me to get used to believing that in myself. And it took a long time for, I think, other people to believe that in me. But time is everything. Just trust that in six months after you joined a team, that doubt will turn into experience and it will then turn into confidence. It just takes time and practice to get used to any change and adapt to a new skill or environment.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:37:43] Yeah. So I think for me as well, I definitely have imposter syndrome. Just like what you mentioned, everyone has it. So I think the key for me at least is that you have to be self aware first about that. The next key action is actually to acknowledge that and also obviously to think about other things that you’re good at, just like what Stephanie mentioned, right? If you focus on what you’re good at, and maybe you will not have that kind of fear and try to bring that to the table either at your work, either at your school or wherever you are. Try to focus on that and maybe expand a little bit, if let’s say you want to, have other skills that you want to excel as well. So over the time, probably this imposter syndrome won’t be such a massive things that you should worry about. But having said that, we all have it from time to time. It won’t just disappear unless you really train yourself, to be very confident and motivated and driven.

So regarding women in technology, why do you think there are some of these challenges since a long time ago even up till now? Why are these women are not prominent? What are some of the barriers actually?

Stephanie Wong: [00:38:42] Yeah. I mean, I think that there is a long history of systemic issues that exist that create this sort of glass ceiling for women in technology. As you know, computer science and technology has primarily been male dominated because the developer community and engineering communities have been usually focused on male programmers, engineers, and computer science from the beginning. But also even outside of technology, seeing male CEOs and C-level executives has always been prevalent. And that’s something that most industries face. So that coupled with technology being male dominated from the engineering perspective, create a more difficult path for women to become higher ups in the company.

I also believe that, at times, as I said earlier, women and men need to recognize women’s work and really give them more opportunities to take stretch goals. I think that women oftentimes do face imposter syndrome. They don’t apply for the positions that they deserve because they usually apply to ones that they know they’re qualified for. Whereas I think I’ve seen a stat that men more times apply to positions that they might be under qualified for, but they’re willing to take the chance, they’re willing to take that risk. So I also think it’s important for women to really understand that they can go for those stretch goals. They can really go for those positions, even if you don’t think you’re qualified just yet. If you think, Oh, I still need another year before I should go for that promotion, you know, maybe I don’t have as much experience as that guy on my team, who’s going for that leadership position on my team or a project manager for this new project that we’re focusing on. Really push yourself to do that cause I think it’s the responsibility of everybody else to support women in technology. But I also think there’s a mentality shift that needs to happen in order for women to push themselves and continue to persevere through these glass ceilings.

Interesting DevRel Experience [00:40:29]

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:40:29] Thanks for sharing that. So, before we wrap up, I would like to ask you, is there any great experience that you have found so far when you are doing your DevRel role? Any things that stand out, interesting, unique, weird, or whatever that is?

Stephanie Wong: [00:40:43] Yeah. So I had such an incredible experience recently when I was able to start and land a project where I got to visit a Google Cloud data center and create a video around it. And I’m very grateful for that experience because less than 1% of Googlers get to visit a data center and see its interior. And it all started because, I have an incredible team of supporters at Google that were able to give me an opportunity to reach out to the right people and create a story that had never been told about how we handle security at Google. We actually have six layers of defense at Google and a lot of people are like, Oh, this is like “Ocean’s Eleven”, trying to break into somewhere and you know, it’s like very mission impossible style. So, it was really cool being able to go in and see get my eyes scanned, do biometric scanning, go through a circle lock, see what the data center floor looked like and sounded like and see a lot of hard drives getting shredded. So that was just an incredible experience. And then on top of that, I was able to work with an amazing camera crew with the drones, a very high production. So, you know, that was a perfect example of me being able to get that dream experience of working both in production at that level and then also really cool technology and the physicality of technology. Everything in the Cloud, isn’t really in the Cloud, it leads back to a data center. And so, my hope is to one day, create more videos around, the physicality of the internet and where your data resides and how it actually moves around the world.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:42:05] Nice. Yeah. So I saw that video as well, you being in the Google data center. I think for those listeners who are interested to find out, do check out on the YouTube. You’ll find Stephanie, exploring Google Cloud data center, going through all these six layers of security.

3 Tech Lead Wisdom [00:42:18]

Henry Suryawirawan: Lastly, I would ask you this question, in which I always ask my guests in the episode. So Stephanie, can you share with us, what are your three technical leadership wisdom, that you want to share with our audience?

Stephanie Wong: [00:42:30] Sure. So the first one that I will leave with everyone is luck is where preparation meets opportunity. As I’ve told through my stories, I had a very convoluted route to where I am today, but a lot of people are like, wow, how did you do that? It seems like you’ve had a lot of luck. And I say that to myself all the time. Like I’ve had luck to get to the position I’m in. But I really do think that preparation needs to meet opportunity in order to give you that luck. Remain curious, let your intuition tell you when an opportunity doesn’t feel right. And when you think you should learn more in a certain skill and just say yes to challenges that allow you to get out of your comfort zone and challenge you, continue to say yes to those opportunities, to speak at the next large conference for example. Just get yourself out there.

The second one is that for public speaking, practice makes perfect. Public speaking doesn’t come natural to most people. It’s a crucial skill in today’s market. And in order to build your brand, definitely focus on practicing public speaking.

And then lastly, as I’ve mentioned before, content is Queen. It’s similar to the phrase, location, location, location. In this sense, it’s content, content, content. Expand your brand this way and doors will open for you. If I’ve learned anything as a content creator over the last couple of years, it’s that consistency, quality and value matter. That’s the trifecta.

Henry Suryawirawan: [00:43:42] Thank you for your wisdom, definitely those of us who want to build online personal brand, for example, or also producing content. Stephanie, thank you again for being part of the show today. There are so many things that I personally also learned myself, trying to build my personal brand as well. Stephanie, thanks so much and hope to see you again one day.

Stephanie Wong: [00:44:00] Thank you so much, Henry. It was great talking to you today.

– End –