Whiskey Web and Whatnot

A whiskey fueled fireside chat with your favorite web developers.


113: Self-Taught Engineering, Boot Camps, and Veganism with Welch Canavan

Show Notes

Some engineers have a linear path to their careers, but most of them take unconventional routes to become a developer. For Welch Canavan, Principal Engineer II at Stitch Fix, his journey into coding was a complete accident.

Welch was thrown into coding after the entire senior team above him left the company. He had two choices, sink or swim. With very little coding experience, he decided to tackle the problem-solving on his own and pick up the pieces that the senior team left. That experience propelled him into his career today. According to Welch, once you are motivated enough to learn, you might not need to invest in a boot camp. He also touches on some important aspects of tech like the complexities of maintaining state in URLs and highlights the innovative solutions by T3 stack.

In this episode, Welch talks to Robbie and Chuck about his journey into becoming a self-taught engineer, his responsibilities at Stitch Fix, and how he quit veganism after 20 years.

Key Takeaways

  • [01:11] - Introduction to Welch Canavan.
  • [02:21] - A whiskey review: Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative.
  • [07:11] - Tech hot takes.
  • [11:26] - Self-taught web development.
  • [20:46] - Chuck, Robbie, and Welch talk about the current state of boot camps.
  • [23:59] - Welch’s current position at Stitch Fix.
  • [32:35] - Why Welch is no longer a vegan after 20 years.
  • [38:20] - Welch’s hobbies.
  • [39:36] - What career would Welch pursue if he wasn’t in tech?
  • [42:43] - Projects Welch is currently interested in.


[13:05] - “I have been making websites as a hobby essentially since I was in middle school.” ~ Welch Canavan

[24:21] - “I kind of got a weird amount into my career without learning much about code.” ~ Welch Canavan

[29:56] - “I really am a big believer that the only worth in a progressively more senior engineer is their ability to teach other people.” ~ Welch Canavan


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[00:00:05] Robbie: What's going on everybody? Welcome to Whiskey Web and Whatnot, your favorite podcast about Whiskey, Web, and Whatnot, with your hosts, RobbieTheWagner and Charles William Carpenter the 452nd.

[00:00:17] Chuck: Mm hmm. There's just, it runs deep in my family, and I can't wait to potentially have the 453rd. I don't know if it'll be by blood. It'll have to be adopted at this point. Sorry. It, I respect its privacy. Anyway, this episode is sponsored by Vercell.

[00:00:35] Robbie: Yeah, it is.

[00:00:37] Chuck: They don't know it

[00:00:37] Robbie: you used Astro? Cause, uh, it's, uh, sponsored by Vercel

[00:00:40] Chuck: Yeah, perfect.

[00:00:41] Robbie: anyway, we have a guest today.

[00:00:44] Welch: of your kids, Chuck, like George Foreman, and just numbered them all sequentially as

[00:00:49] Chuck: Yeah, yeah.

[00:00:50] Welch: also help up the

[00:00:51] Chuck: Charles William Carpenter III. 2 Something like that. That's a great idea. See, this is why you're a principal engineer.

[00:01:01] Robbie: Or you just put it in the name instead of actually making it the same name. You put an official part of their name, the

[00:01:07] Chuck: Alright, uh, save this for the whatnot. Anyway, our guest

[00:01:09] Robbie: Yeah.

[00:01:10] Chuck: Welch Canavan. So for those who don't know you, Welch, tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

[00:01:17] Welch: Uh, hi, uh, yeah, I'm a principal engineer. Uh, these days I work at Stitch Fix. Uh, I've been doing this about ten years. my first job was at National Geographic, and that's where I met Chuck. , and then I worked at a few other places, and uh, and actually... In different permutations, I've worked with Chuck and Robbie off and on.

[00:01:38] Chuck: For a decade. Uh, what was your job before you got hired at National Geographic?

[00:01:45] Welch: Uh, I've done a lot of different stuff, but the immediate job before National Geographic is I was working in a vegetable oil refining shop. Like, just, uh, I just, as a handyman essentially, like, kind of like breaking down pumps, uh, making pickups. It was, uh, pretty gross work.

[00:02:05] Chuck: A long and winding road. Uh, I mean, you'd be remiss if you didn't mention your career as a Levi's model, but...

[00:02:12] Welch: Yeah, yeah, I mean, I really have done a lot of different jobs. I'm thankful for all the different perspectives.

[00:02:20] Chuck: Alright, we'll get into that a little bit more, but maybe we should start with the quote unquote whiskey. Today we'll be trying Ritual's Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative. Um, because...

[00:02:32] Robbie: claim it's the highest rated and most awarded non alcoholic

[00:02:35] Chuck: Yeah, yeah, well, uh, listener knows, cause listeners heard all of our episodes that, uh, we've tried a couple of these and mixed results. The last time we did a cocktail, uh,

[00:02:46] Robbie: It's got a good

[00:02:46] Chuck: Yeah, it's got a good pop, so I love that. We'll get into it. So it's zero proof, uh, no mash bill, 5 calories per serving, which is 1. 5, uh, ounces.

And, um, No sugar? Yeah, no, it's got a little sugar, no protein, no real nutritional value. I don't know what else to tell you about it. We're gonna give it a shot though.

[00:03:07] Robbie: I wish it had protein.

[00:03:09] Chuck: Yeah, there you go, there's your market. Zero alcohol, full protein.

[00:03:17] Robbie: It's got a lot of smell

[00:03:18] Chuck: Yeah, it does.

[00:03:19] Robbie: not expecting that. It smells kind of minty.

[00:03:21] Chuck: minty. No, I'm not.

[00:03:24] Robbie: Or licorice y maybe?

[00:03:25] Chuck: I'm getting a little bit of like a licorice. Citrusy licorice. And that's just in the smell. So, I'll give it a taste.

Um, It's not like whiskey. It's, it's, it's an alternative to whiskey and many other beverages. Um, It has a little bit of the citrus up front. It has kind of like a, do you remember those wax lips that you could get? You know, and then you could kind of like chew on them. They were always in the candy section for whatever reason.

Like, it has a little of that flavor to me, like, I've got a little liquid wax. Yeah, but not like, but it's, it, you know, it's like, edible, and fine.

[00:04:05] Welch: They gotta get that on the bottle.

[00:04:08] Robbie: Yeah. Waxy? Yeah, advertise

[00:04:09] Chuck: yeah, that's our next sponsor.

[00:04:11] Robbie: this has some, some weird, weirdness to

[00:04:14] Chuck: I think it has like a light mint or cinnamon, maybe more like a light cinnamon on the finish,

[00:04:19] Robbie: I think the cinnamon is the attempt at like, being a little burn like. Like the one that we had that had like

[00:04:25] Chuck: Yeah, oh yeah, like the fake Bernie. Yeah, it's supposed to give you that kind of feeling about it. I like how Welch went right to ice, too. He was like, I can't drink this warm. Um, well, that's fair.

yeah, so,

[00:04:37] Robbie: not the worst non

[00:04:38] Chuck: exactly, it's not. Yeah, so, that's kind of the thing, is, so we have the tentacle scale, one to eight, zero to eight tentacles.

I keep forgetting to remind myself we're zero based. And, uh, so zero, Ugh, disgusting, don't give me this. Eight, amazing, this is all I'm going to have when I want to have a pseudo libation, I guess. And, obviously, four is, like, just fine. We try to categorize all of our different things, so for us, obviously, this will be like, Uh, in whiskey alternatives, how do we rate this comparison to the others?

We've definitely had, like, pretty much a zero. And we've had, like, yeah, not bad, what was that, like four or five, something like that. So far, based on those things, it's um, yeah, it's okay. I think I want to, well, so, straight up, I would say it's probably four range for me.

But I think it has some potential in a cocktail, so I might re evaluate at that point. What do you think, Welch?

[00:05:34] Welch: Well, you know, obviously my, my perspective is pretty different

[00:05:37] Chuck: Yeah.

[00:05:39] Welch: You know, I've lived a lot of years through the bad days of mocktails where it was just like different fruit juices. So it's really nice to have all these alternatives all of a sudden. having stuff that's like more interesting, more complex is, for me really preferable, but like also I have nothing to compare it to, you know, like the last time I drank whiskey, I was 12, I think, you know, like,

[00:06:03] Chuck: Mmm. Well, there's a


[00:06:06] Welch: So yeah, it is really interesting.

I like that it kind of burns a little bit in the back of the throat when you kind of let it sit for a while. so I think for me, I would kind of rank it in various NA things I've had. Um, and I would probably give it like, yeah, like a five or a six. Pretty interesting.

[00:06:21] Chuck: Yeah, that's fair.

[00:06:22] Robbie: I can't remember what we rated the other non alcoholic ones. I know the first two were trash and like the last one we had was pretty good. I would say this one's a little less good than that one. And I want to say I gave it like a five or a six cause it was like surprisingly good. So I'm going to give this one a four, I think.

[00:06:39] Chuck: Yeah, I think that's fair. I'm mixing up my cocktail right now, so

I'll give you the...

[00:06:45] Robbie: All I had was Fresca. So I'm going to try a Fresca in this and see what it tastes like.

[00:06:48] Chuck: I think it might work. I don't know that I've ever mixed fresco with actual alcohol in the past, but obviously, you know, whiskey wouldn't lend itself as much, but you can throw vodka in just about anything. It just


[00:07:01] Robbie: I shouldn't have moved now. I'm never going to have a focused camera again.

[00:07:04] Chuck: it's okay. You're doing the people



[00:07:06] Robbie: Sponsored by Sony.

[00:07:09] Chuck: It wasn't because these weren't free.

Uh, alrighty, so we'll jump into the next part of the show as we, uh, work on the cocktail section. Uh, so hot takes, just different things that folks are talking about on tech Twitter, , or that just kind of seem to get, spark a lot of opinion. , so we'll start with, do you use inferred types in TypeScript or explicit types?

[00:07:32] Explicit vs inferred types

[00:07:32] Welch: Mostly inferred types, you know, my understanding is really like the real benefit in explicit types is once your code base has just grown to really like enormous proportions where it actually is going to impact either your compilation times or your IDEs like, you know, Uh, computational, uh, bandwidth, you know, um, but yeah, it really depends on what I'm doing, but largely inferred types.


[00:07:56] Chuck: It depends is the only right answer, that's true.

I just want to show you guys this for a moment. What we're doing here.

Yeah, there you go. Whiskey Sour. We'll see how that goes.

[00:08:08] Robbie: The fresca is, uh, not recommended. Um,

[00:08:13] Welch: Oh man, I wish, I wish I'd known I would've had a little mocktail mixer or

[00:08:17] Chuck: Mmm,

[00:08:19] Robbie: yeah. Um,

uh, tailwind or vanilla CSS.

[00:08:26] Tailwind vs Vanilla CSS

[00:08:26] Welch: I found myself reaching for Tailwind more and more when I'm just trying to get something out the door, like a little side project idea. but then I realized that like, I actually know CSS better than I know Tailwind shortcuts. And it actually, I spend all of my time just looking up Tailwind shortcuts.

So probably Vanilla CSS. I mean, I think particularly once Vanilla CSS lands nested, , classes or nested selectors.

You know, that's really like at that point, just, you know, why, why anything else?

[00:08:57] Chuck: I would have expected that answer out of you having run Sassy DC in the past.

[00:09:02] Robbie: yeah. I guess we didn't give SAS as a choice. It was CSS or tailwind,

[00:09:06] Welch: Yeah, I mean, I've given up on sass. That's for sure.

[00:09:09] Chuck: Yeah, they've, they've, so much stuff is in the spec now that I think like most of the benefits of that are. And hey, that's a great thing, you know, the tool kind of leads the way for the spec and, and, uh, and things get merged in. So,

[00:09:24] Welch: Yeah. And I, and I really have not found a CSS in JS solution that I really like all that much either. It just, all the trade offs are bad. Either the syntax is bad or just, yeah,

not a fan.

[00:09:39] Chuck: That's fair. Yeah, don't put all the stuff in JS. I'm gonna go ahead and go to the last one, Robbie, because I added it. Um, so there's a lot of talk around, should you buy or build, basically. So should you go and get auth as a service, or roll your own auth?

[00:09:54] get an auth vs roll your own

[00:09:54] Welch: Uh, I mean, again, it just like really, really depends, you know? It's like, what are you doing with your auth? You know, do you need something that is bespoke or not? mean, the reality is also I think that like there's just so many open source tools at this point that handle auth really well. Where it's like, why, why do you even need to pay for it if your whole goal is just to avoid writing all the boilerplate?

[00:10:16] Chuck: Yeah. Yeah. I don't know. I think that, um, some of it has to do with, it depends, of course, because like, what is it? Is it your own little project? Open source? Probably fine. , is it, you know, early stage enterprise? Yeah. I don't know. I think that paying for auth, when, you know, there's, There's like a dedicated team there for this well treaded path.

Like, do you want to learn that path amongst the other logic in your application or can you kind of offload that and let experts who are dedicated to that constantly like give you all your needs there and then you don't have to worry about it anymore. So I don't know. There's seems like there's some benefits around that, but

[00:10:56] Welch: Yeah, I think my only, you know, my only rejoinder there is, you know, I'm, I'm almost always a proponent of build, of buying rather, you know, um, I, I really think there are a lot of ways in which, uh, it almost always makes sense and you shouldn't really buy your own stuff. But at a certain point, like, what are you still doing, you know, at a certain point there actually is diminishing returns on that.

[00:11:18] Chuck: yeah, it makes sense.

[00:11:20] Robbie: I just like to not do anything hard myself. So, know,

[00:11:24] Chuck: There you go. There is that.

[00:11:26] Robbie: yeah. So the next one is get rebase or get merge.

[00:11:30] Merge vs Rebase

[00:11:30] Welch: Oh, rebase all day


[00:11:32] Chuck: See, that was the only right

[00:11:34] Welch: I love a clean commit history.

[00:11:36] Chuck: Hmm.

[00:11:37] Robbie: Yeah, some of these, there are right answers, um, but only in our

[00:11:40] Chuck: Yeah, exactly. Again, I think it's obvious why these kind of like spark, uh, heated, opinionated conversation, which is why they're fun.

[00:11:51] Robbie: Cool. Those were all the hot takes

we had,


[00:11:54] Chuck: Unless you've got something top of mind. I took the HTMX stuff out just because you're like, I don't even understand what this is. I live in

[00:12:02] Robbie: I think htmx is just a buzzword that people use to get people riled up on

[00:12:07] Chuck: Now there is a hot take.

[00:12:09] Robbie: If any app that's like a real app gets built in it, I will be surprised. Come

[00:12:14] Chuck: Okay. Fair enough. You can reach him at at RobbieTheWagner

[00:12:20] Robbie: W the


[00:12:21] Chuck: Make sure you don't spell third out though. It's the number three. It's very important. now, uh, some of the things we were going to talk about, uh, today, you know, along the lines of you getting into tech and how folks can kind of become self taught and go into the path.

Although I feel like that's started to become a hot topic as well on Twitter where, Because it's a flooded marketplace, some people are saying, well, now anyone who doesn't have CS degrees can really just kind of get pushed to the side a lot, and it may be a lot, a lot more challenging, but so, uh, yeah, I don't know.

What are your thoughts around getting into web development as someone who was self taught?

[00:13:00] Thoughts on getting into web dev

[00:13:00] Welch: yeah, I mean a little bit of my, my path, I think. , is that, you know, I had been making websites like as a hobby essentially since I was in middle school really, , I had had a computer and, you know, had experimented with HTML and CSS and, , I just always had been doing that, , and then I actually lived with a guy.

, who I, I needed a computer and he was like, I'll help you build a computer, but you have to actually do it all. Um, his name's Brian Harrington. He was the, uh, architect at core OS, which was sort of a Kubernetes competitor for a while. , but, uh, yeah, now he works at red hat.

Great guy. he helped me build a computer, eventually got me a job at a systems administrator. , And then Sass came along, and that was just this weird intersection of like, , my skill set, basically. Like, because I remember at the time, you know, front end people really were not... There was not a lot of tooling.

Um, so people were really freaked out by it. They were like, how do you even do this? What is the command line? How do you work in Bash? And I, I knew how to work in Bash. And I knew how CSS worked. , so that was really like my in. , and that was also right around the time that, you know, responsive web design was coming to be.

, and I was like, oh, this is really interesting. You know, and I just. I just really made a bunch of things for myself, for like my own projects, my friends projects. Um, and I just cranked out a bunch in a row. you know, it's a little bit of like, you know, luck is, you know, mostly preparation.

Which is that, ... , our old boss, Adam Lake said, you know, uh, we're making this new site. I really just don't have enough people who know responsive design well. And I've seen the stuff that you've been working on and you've been talking about, do you want to just come on as a contractor? So part of it was just like right time, right place.

You know, I think that was like my way to get in the door and it's hard to really kind of recommend that to other people of like, Oh, just be in the right place, you know, but the other thing is also like work really hard, you know, like I, I was studying and getting my reps up constantly, you know, like I was working in this vegetable oil shop And it was like the pumps were constantly breaking down, so I was just like disassembling pumps and cleaning them and putting them back together, and I would just wear headphones, and I would listen to podcasts all day long, I would listen to Jen Simmons, and Chris Coyier, , they both had podcasts at the time, , and that would kind of just help me like familiarize myself with the vocabulary of like a professional working person.

and also all of that kind of came together and really helped me be well poised, to, yeah, you know, be a professional.

[00:15:42] Robbie: Chris Coyier still has a podcast and, uh, has many, many episodes. Like they're what six or 700 now or something like it's insane.

[00:15:50] Chuck: quite a bit. And, uh, I mean, I wonder, was it shop talk? I guess it would have been, probably, shop talk, right?

[00:15:56] Welch: Yeah, yeah, it was shop talk.


[00:15:58] Chuck: And you were in the shop, listening to shop talk.

[00:16:00] Welch: Yeah, yeah, it was funny.

[00:16:04] Chuck: Yeah, I think it, uh, as someone also who's, uh, gone down the path of self taught and I think, uh, it's hard to recommend that path, though, in the future or to current folks, or at least anyone who is Looking to have a job tomorrow, right?

I think you need to essentially take the time to assemble the skills, show competency, and then wait for the right opportunity along the way. I mean, I think that's just really how it works. It's kind of, uh, you know, you can be self serving. Making things for yourself or, or, you know, those around you as, as part of that.

Uh, I know, uh, Robbie's mentioned a couple of different times, like some of his web skills came out of his need for his band and my space and things like that, like, did you have similar experiences initially or

[00:16:53] Welch: Yeah. I mean, a hundred percent, you know, it was like these, I was in these DIY punk bands and we were, you know, booking our own shows and making our own flyers and, you know, at the time making our own websites. So yeah, a hundred percent. Yeah. It would make it make sites for my bands, make sites for friends bands.

[00:17:09] Robbie: yeah, that's, that's really what I did. And it was, uh, it was a big rabbit hole. Like I had no idea what I was doing at the, in the beginning, you know, it's just like you copy a bunch of, I mean, similar to how anyone does anything now too, I guess you copy stuff you don't really understand to start and like, just change the bits you do understand.

And then you start to understand the bigger picture and like, learn how everything fits together and all of that. So, Yeah, I mean, I think anyone who's, like, worried about the big scope of front end these days should just, like, find a working example and tinker with it instead of, like, trying to learn a ton of shit at

[00:17:45] Chuck: yeah, kind of like the reverse engineering path and things of that nature. I mean, that's a good point that you make though. There's a big difference and divide around the complexity of the web now within front end. Just making a website, you know, for yourself in that way and thinking you need all these other layers.

You don't always need that, HTML, basic. And you can still make a site in that same way these days. So I think that's probably not touted enough. Like, just get something on the web. That you can access,

[00:18:17] Welch: And I, I would also argue that that understanding is crucial, Do you need all of that tooling to be, a competitive applicant in this day and age? Like, absolutely. But, if you're an applicant that actually understands what the target is, you know, like, if you actually understand the specification of CSS, of JavaScript, of HTML, you're so much better poised,

[00:18:38] Robbie: I think that that makes a lot of sense and it's, like, you know, something we've mentioned a few times that... HTML and CSS are really, well, they're not taught, but then JavaScript is also not taught. It's like, you know, jump right into React. I guess this is maybe contradicting what I just said about starting with a working example.

But, um, I think there's give and take. Like, you should look at those complex examples and, like, tinker with them and play with them and learn them slowly. But from a learning perspective, you should start with the smallest building blocks. Like, you can build a site with just HTML. And you don't have to style it at all.

, it will look bad. But, like, if you know HTML and know what those things... Do and like know that you can wrap an input in a label and like when you click the label it will select the thing and like stuff like that. that sets you up for success building things down the road.

[00:19:26] Chuck: Yeah, I don't know. I, I, I think you were right in what you said and. In the sense of like go to a site that you might want to replicate and then look in at the source code, you know, look in the developer tools or whatever you need to do. and that's going to give you the output, right? Even if it was a react site, it's going to give you kind of the.

The, uh, the structure and the output, and that's a good place to start. Right. And developer tools can help you to look at all of the CSS that is applied to those things too, and, you know, start to kind of replicate on that level and then add in interactivity once you're more comfortable, like kind of take the next state and the next, next step and stages there.

[00:20:06] Welch: mean, another thing that I think is really beautiful, There's a reason that I was drawn to the web, you know, and that's because these specifications are actually like these giant open semi consensus based, Agreements, essentially, you know, and they're really well documented. Um, and there's examples that are really well documented.

I mean, the Mozilla documentation is incredible. You can learn to do genuinely anything you need to do in a website or web application from that documentation. You know, like if you have the patience to go and read through it, I, you know, I would make the case you don't even need to pay for a bootcamp if you can have the discipline to pursue it on your own.

[00:20:46] Chuck: Yeah, I agree 100 percent because the incentives are different there too, right?

Are you trying to make something for yourself and slowly learn how these things are organized and build upon that while... And not to say that they're not well intentioned, but a boot camp is incentivized to get you hired.

Oftentimes that's sort of the, the trigger for you paying is, you have to get hired or they don't get paid kind of thing or something of that nature. And so they're going to train you specifically for the job that. The partners they work with have, have asked for, I want someone to come and be able to be productive in our react application in our Ruby application or whatever it is, you know, a lot of times in the front end perspective, I think it's, it's just a react application and that's all folks know how to do is come and rinse and repeat that kind of thing, but it doesn't really give you a lot of understanding of, of the tools you're working with.

And then when there's a problem, you don't know why. Okay. And that's, that's really what I think stifles some of that, , advancement and probably ends up being frustration on all sides there because you as a person think that this is what the tools you needed to do the job and the reality presents itself somewhat differently.

And then the company thinks they were getting someone who's proficient within, you know, their, their business. it's not a complete package. So now they're continuing to retrain these people and, and things of that nature. I mean, there's, there's always like outliers, but I think for the most part, that's probably where a lot of the challenge is.

[00:22:19] Robbie: I think boot camps in general, like is anyone getting hired out of them right now? Like, I feel like they're not advocating enough for... Like, or I think a lot of them are probably not even open anymore. Like they've fallen on hard times themselves. but I feel like it's a really high bar right now to get a job at all in any, any capacity, a junior developer, senior developer, anything.

I think self taught is different because it's like, you can spend as much time and get as expert at whatever you want as you want without spending any money. So, well, maybe a little money, you

know, wherever, you might want to pay for a couple of things, but, but like, these, the boot camps are, it's just a smaller scale version of like, paying for four years of college and then having tons of debt and never being able to pay it off.

Because if you never get a job, you're just gonna, you know, spend twenty grand on a boot camp and then, how do you pay for that?

[00:23:10] Welch: I've seen it happen.

[00:23:11] Chuck: Yeah, yeah, indeed. when demand was high, right, three, four years ago, it was a little more of a straight shot. And again, like folks that were productive and effective right out of that wasn't always direct, but there were needs and, uh, companies were hiring like crazy. And it was just beef up, get the numbers and we'll kind of figure it out.

And I think I know a hundred percent we're in a very different place at this point. So yeah, unfortunately I feel sorry for folks who haven't been given an opportunity yet, or have, you know, not very much experience, one, two years potentially, and then being in this particular job market. Like, start your own companies, I don't know, something like that.

I'm not here to give career or financial advice, or medical advice by that


No, yeah, don't listen

to me. So, let's talk a little bit about where you're at now, though. You know, where you were, where you're at now, because I'm imagining the things you're doing today are quite different. So, can you tell us a little bit about what you're doing now for Stitch Fix, and kind of like, what your responsibilities as a principal engineer look like?

[00:24:18] Welch's current role

[00:24:18] Welch: so yeah, I mean, like you said, very different. You know, I kind of like got a weird amount. into my career without learning much about code.

Like, I like really, was like really focused on like design systems and stuff, and I would like do JavaScript when I needed to, and I would do JavaScript when I needed to, but I really, I really disliked it.

And then I kind of had like a lot of, uh, responsibility dropped in my lap at one point. Where basically everyone who was senior above me had left the company. And they were like, okay, you're in charge of the entire application now. And it was a real like sink or swim. Um, and I, I'm honestly, honestly like really glad that it happened because it was the thing that really, it was a huge, opportunity for growth in my career.

Um, and it turned out that I really liked, trying to solve problems at scale rather than just these little features here and there. And I really liked, um, Working with people who had not as much experience as I did to help them level up and understand the kinds of problems that were in front of us.

Um, and that's kind of got me to where I am today, , which is landing at a company. You know, I'm going to digress here really quick because it is very funny to me is that I applied once at Stitch Fix, to, I believe, a senior position and they told me that I didn't have enough react experience. And then I applied a year later and I got hired as a principal, so

to anyone who's feeling down, sometimes it really is just like a funny timing thing, you know, like you'll get just dismissed for these like silly reasons where the hiring manager doesn't necessarily understand what they're looking at and sometimes you just need to align.

with the right person. Um, and I, and I did, you know, uh, this, uh, I've got a great manager brought me on at Stitch Fix. And, one of the interesting things about Stitch Fix is they have like a really deep, , track for individual contributors. You know, it's probably something you've talked about on the show before, but.

A lot of times when people get really senior, companies don't really know what to do with them and they'd shrug and say, do you want to manage? , and if you don't, you know, it can be kind of hard to keep progressing. , so Stitch Fix has a nice mature concept of what it means to continue to progress as an individual contributor.

, and it's really great. You know, I, it means like basically that, my accumulated technical wisdom is, is, you know, kind of appreciated. Um, and I get a lot of time to kind of, uh, help, you know, kind of run ahead and research new features that we know we're going to be going after. And then also a lot of time to work on mentorship with people.

[00:26:54] AD SPOT

[00:26:54] Chuck: So is principal top of the tree or are there more


[00:26:58] Welch: there aren't, yeah, there's, uh, there's, Principle 1, Principle 2, and then I believe Architect 1 and Architect 2. So there's still, still room to grow.

[00:27:07] Chuck: Yeah,

[00:27:08] Robbie: The terminology is so different everywhere. Like all these people have like staff engineer titles. I'm like, what the hell is staff? Like you work there?


[00:27:18] Chuck: hmm. Yeah. It's interesting because I've seen that a few different places and how they define it differs from place to place. But like, uh, you know, staff can mean you're sort of. out of band and not necessarily on a specific team, but like maybe over a group of teams. It's almost like a technical lead over, like an entire org within a group or something like that.

You know, that, that's what I've seen more recently, but, along those rungs you're kind of like looking at different challenges deeper and deeper into like the system and its design and underlying items that could either become antiquated or unproductive or error prone and stuff like that.

I don't know, that's what I've seen, I guess, as far as staff. But then architect can be another one that's sort of like that as well, too. You're looking into the

systems and how they interconnect.

[00:28:12] Robbie: Yeah. I mean, it depends. Like, are you architecting one team or like a bunch of teams? You know, like, I don't, it probably all depends based on the company and how they define it, but.

[00:28:21] Chuck: Yeah, I think once you start going like that, you, there are certain levels where you sort of come out from the people and you're looking at more of the systems and the machines.

[00:28:30] Welch: Yeah, you know, there's a really, you know, at least, you know, in my company, it is really structured. They have it well defined. These are the kinds of things we want to see. and really the higher you move up the chain, the basically what they want to see is that you have an impact on the organization, you know, so for example, like my promotion from a P1 to a P2 was a lot about talking about how, you know, I've made certain proposals and move those proposals through, you know, difficult processes involving multiple teams, , and being able to demonstrate that that's a skill I have.

[00:29:05] Robbie: Yeah. Amazon calls it force multiplication. That's what you have to be a force multiplier across multiple teams or whatever. And like, it's because if you're just contributing as much as you can, that has like a, a limit. Right. But if you're like teaching others and helping teams grow, then it like force multiplies.


[00:29:26] Chuck: out the force, it's a very aggressive though, if you think about it, like, why are you being so aggressive there?

[00:29:32] Welch: Yeah, I will, you know, I would say that's an interesting thing is, is beyond, beyond companies having different concepts of how they view these different titles, I would say that even the people who have the titles sometimes view it very differently because you will run into principals who say, my job is just to write mountains of code and sit in my little cave, and. I'm not a huge fan of that kind of philosophy. I really am a big believer that the only worth in in a progressively more senior engineer is their ability to teach other people. You know, if you are not involved in helping people become better engineers, get their promotions from a technical perspective, then I just don't know what you're doing.

[00:30:15] Chuck: Yeah, it's an interesting overlap with management to a degree. 100 percent agree as you move up in seniority or up the career ladder from the technical side, that basically being a thought leader within the organization and helping foster that thought within the organization is like, that's the number one job there and that's the force multiplier, I suppose.

[00:30:37] Welch: Yeah, it is. It is really interesting, you know, because I, I, I not only help people with technical hurdles, but also a lot with like communication hurdles, you know, like I really believe in this technical investment and I just for the life of me, I can't get a prioritized. Well, that's a huge thing. I work with people on is like, you know, how to talk about the problem that they think is important.

in a way that the business can hear and easily recognize the value. You know, that's like, that's like an example of something. Um, and it is really nice to have the space to work on those kinds of skills, but also freed from the concerns of a strict people manager.

[00:31:13] Chuck: Yeah, definitely. so another aspect at your current position and company that comes to mind, that seems like you'd be a very natural fit for, I don't know if you'd get an opportunity around this, but, uh, do they have you model the clothes as well as work on the software? I mean,

[00:31:33] Welch: hasn't hasn't

[00:31:34] Chuck: that was on your resume, right?

Like, I hope,

[00:31:36] Robbie: Yeah.

That could be a new title.

[00:31:39] Chuck: stitched fixed?

[00:31:40] Robbie: Ha

[00:31:40] Chuck: Do you

[00:31:41] Welch: Oh,

[00:31:41] Chuck: the product?

[00:31:42] Welch: I, man, I can't believe you put me, I should have asked you not to put me on the spot like this. Um, Stitchworks is clearly a very great product for a particular kind of person. That particular kind of person is not me.

[00:31:55] Robbie: Yeah.

[00:31:55] Welch: I am very much like, I find a shirt, I like

[00:31:58] Chuck: You get it in three, yeah, I was going to say, in my experience, you have the button up in like three very muted, somewhat military colors, and there you go, you know? Maybe you should design a line, you know, for folks

[00:32:13] Welch: For just really boring

people. yeah,

I don't, I don't think that's who the product

[00:32:16] Chuck: look stylish, but

kind of boring. Don't stand out from the crowd.

[00:32:20] Robbie: ha Ha

[00:32:21] Welch: but I, a lot, a lot of my coworkers do use it and love it. Um, I should probably should get a fix at some point.

[00:32:28] Chuck: Yeah, I think you have to, you know, quote unquote, eat your own dog food. We're going to get to food too here shortly, so. Because of the big changes in your life, I, uh, I was so excited the last that I saw you, that we could share the same kind of food together. So I was in Portland for a conference, met up with Welch, He's like, let's go meet at this barbecue place.

We're in Portland. So I'm thinking, of course, they, uh, they offer vegan options. Every place does here. It's cool. You know, and I like that, you know, when you have people who have dietary restrictions, elective or not, having choices is good. And then you just ordered a big old plate of meat. And I was like, what is happening here?

[00:33:11] Welch: Yeah, you, you know, you kept your cool. I thought you were really gonna like lose it, but you just like, you rolled with the punches at least for a few minutes.

[00:33:21] Chuck: Yeah, yeah, I, you know, I, I kind of had all of that on the inside and let that out later on. So make it, make it easy there. So you know, in your journey of change in life, what was the, the big deciding factor there to go from like, I'm going to eat meat.

[00:33:40] Welch: So for people who don't know me for many years. I was vegan for 20 years. Um, and I recently just stopped. and you know, I, I really hate to deny people, a satisfying answer, but the real reason is that I just didn't want to anymore. You know? Uh, I just kind of like, it was a thing that honestly had always been kind of easy for me.

I never really understood when people said, Oh, I could never, I couldn't give up this, I couldn't give up that. It wasn't much of a challenge. Um, and then I just eventually realized that I just was mainly doing it out of inertia.

[00:34:12] Chuck: Right, yeah. Just didn't have any, like, real convictions around it. It was just like, the way you lived life, and then, why not introduce a different way into life? And, boy, is it in Technicolor now.

[00:34:26] Welch: You know, it is really, I think this is an experience that maybe most people don't recognize, but like, when you're vegan, you're always looking around for like, where can I eat? And you're always like, or at least I was very aware of it. And you know, so there's like always like a small little List, you know, you arrive in a city and you're like these are the 10 or 20 places I can go to And it really is crazy all of a sudden to just be like, oh I have thousands of options I can literally, I don't have to plan anything or think about it I literally just have to walk through the world and I will stumble upon food I can eat.

That part is crazy

[00:34:58] Chuck: Yeah. And probably pretty nice. I mean, that literally, anywhere you go in the world, you won't starve. There are options.

[00:35:05] Welch: It's pretty convenient, I'm not gonna lie.

[00:35:07] Chuck: Yeah. We had amazing gelato, also, after all of that meat, and again, there you go. And I'm sure there are plenty of, like, pretty tasty vegan options, because, I mean, it's not like sugar's out, you know, not a part of the lifestyle or of the dietary, uh, restriction there.

So, but, cream, like, gelato with real cream is incredible. And so now you just gotta go to Italy and just eat your way through the, the country.

[00:35:33] Welch: make it over there eventually.

[00:35:34] Chuck: I keep thinking Robbie's mic isn't working, so I give you a like, a moment of pause in order to...

[00:35:40] Robbie: No, sorry. I'm distracted because my dad has been texting me and I'm trying to read on the side of the screen. And then every time I look at myself, I'm all

[00:35:49] Chuck: Blur it out, and we are, oh, see, it's good right now, so that's the position. Do

not move.

yourself. Yeah, just stay still and be more stoic than normal.

[00:36:00] Robbie: Oh, I smiled too much. It's a, it stopped. I don't get it.

[00:36:04] Chuck: I don't know. I mean, we...

[00:36:05] Robbie: Like we need to talk to Jason and be like, make me not look like shit.

[00:36:09] Chuck: Right. We'll have to get him on for some consulting and whatever. So you guys were geeking out on some like audio, audio file like things earlier before we got started recording. I want to know some of these things.

[00:36:22] Robbie: Oh,

[00:36:23] Chuck: think,

[00:36:24] Robbie: really. I

[00:36:25] Welch: just talking about video camera settings, yeah?

[00:36:27] Chuck: Oh,

okay. Well, what do you


[00:36:29] Robbie: at,

[00:36:30] Welch: I, you know, I, for whatever reason, I woke up this morning and thought, uh, I was too prepared, too ready. I've literally never done this before, but I have like a Sony camera and I was like, I know people do do this, so I'm just going to try to get it hooked up. And yeah, that's what I spent my morning

[00:36:46] Chuck: Oh, okay. And it all worked

[00:36:48] Robbie: yeah, it's the same camera we

have apparently. So

yep. So that's why I was like, Oh, well tell me how to not look like shit. And then like, I was like, Oh, are you using the like cinematic? I don't, I forget what they call it. The one that's like the little piece of film that's supposed to be for like, you know what I'm talking about?

[00:37:04] Chuck: No, I'm just laughing about how your focus keeps changing. Mine doesn't. I don't really know what's going on there. This all works well, but


[00:37:09] Robbie: Well, we have different lenses, and maybe I made a poor choice.

[00:37:12] Chuck: I got the, the Sony 28mm, I think it is.

[00:37:17] Robbie: Hmm. I've got a 35mm

[00:37:20] Chuck: Yeah. I have a 16mm Sigma too, but it was like, a little... Yeah, it wasn't as good, so... Did you just use

[00:37:28] Robbie: I mean, this gives me a lot more blur.

[00:37:31] Welch: No, I have a 30, I have, I have both a 28 on right

[00:37:36] Chuck: Yeah, see the 28th is where it's at, I think, too. Anyway,

now you know. What you have to do, Robbie, is spend

[00:37:42] Robbie: Scott uses like a... Like a 55 or something ridiculous and people are like, did you put this like way off of your desk? And he's like no it like it just sits on the back of my like so I don't understand how he makes that work but

[00:37:56] Chuck: Again, I guess you're just gonna have to, like, get some consulting on your setup or something.

[00:38:02] Robbie: oh I will yeah

[00:38:03] Chuck: Spend all morning working on that, so on and so forth.

[00:38:07] Robbie: Well, I need to look at it when it's not Podcast time like I don't look at it at all until it's time to be recording and then I'm like, oh shit This doesn't work. And then I'm like, well it works well enough


[00:38:18] Chuck: we're ten minutes in, and... So, Welch, when you're not being boring and picking clothing online, what other things are you into?

[00:38:27] Welch: I, I've been doing art class.

[00:38:30] Chuck: Oh.

[00:38:31] Welch: I've been learning to draw for like the last year. so I've been doing just figure drawing. Uh, that's a big, big piece of my time these days. Um, and then also, um, I've been working in my shop. I have like a, uh, like a wood shop. , I recently just moved it out of the basement here into a building a few blocks away.

So I've been kind of building out the new shop. and working with my hand. I put a nail through my hand the other day. That was fun. That was a good

[00:38:56] Chuck: I'm not sure your idea of fun is... You should start drinking alcohol, because...

[00:39:01] Welch: You're saying I don't have enough accidents? Where you're like, yeah.

[00:39:05] Chuck: No, your idea of

fun is askew to me. Like, so here's where you can get, it gets exciting. Just have a drink and pass out like the rest of us.

[00:39:13] Welch: I mean, really, I just like making stuff, you know, so that's, that's really what I spend my time doing is, you know, making photos, making drawings. Um, and yeah, I guess for the first time in my life going to be like venturing into making like, you know, kind of physical three dimensional thing. Have a bunch of, a bunch of furniture I want to make.

[00:39:31] Chuck: Oh, very cool. Can't wait to start that. You can build a website for your shop. So I think it's a good sequitur to, to my question about if you weren't in tech, what career would you pursue?

[00:39:43] Welch: I think I really would have just ended up in a random trade. Um, you know, I think at that, at that time when I kind of stumbled into National Geographic, I actually was applying to be an iron worker when I lived in Pittsburgh, which is basically a bridge builder. Um, but I think I would end up as a carpenter, electrician, something like

[00:40:02] Chuck: And some of us are born that way.

[00:40:05] Robbie: Oh my God.

[00:40:06] Welch: Oh.

[00:40:09] Chuck: There you

[00:40:10] Robbie: Yeah. People don't get that joke. You've made that a few times and people are like, oh yeah, so you like do woodworking,

and you're like, No.

[00:40:17] Chuck: No, not like Jesus, like my last name. Sorry. Who also made furniture, so.

[00:40:22] Robbie: How do you know what he made? Has it been documented?

[00:40:25] Chuck: Um, How do I know specifically what he made?

[00:40:29] Robbie: Yeah. Did the Bible say Jesus made a hutch today?

[00:40:32] Chuck: That. Uh, I can't cite the source when put on, uh, but I have read

[00:40:38] Robbie: just curious. I'm just giving you a hard

[00:40:39] Chuck: no. Uh, he, that there was this, you know, there's the birth, baby Jesus, all the things happened. And then like, all of a sudden he shows up in history at like 31 as a furniture builder. And then, I don't know, you know, you know what happened from there, I, I would


[00:40:56] Robbie: Yes. Yeah.

[00:40:58] Welch: I'd like, you know, the way that some churches will say like, you know, this is some of Jesus's hair, this is like a shroud he was wrapped in or whatever, like if they had like his amateur woodworking

[00:41:08] Chuck: Oh yeah, it'd be

[00:41:08] Welch: like, this

is like, this is a, uh, like a cutting board he made,

[00:41:12] Chuck: Yeah. In


[00:41:14] Robbie: Yeah. I'm surprised no one's done that.

[00:41:17] Chuck: It's all in, it's all in like the, the storage, the catacombs of the, of the Vatican. That's what I understand. You know, they have all the relics, they're not going to release that. It's not going on tour. The body of Jesus. Brought to you by Sony. I make that joke because I've been to the Vatican before and they have these giant screens there.

They're like Panasonic screens so that like, you know, when the Pope comes out and they can, They're dialed in, yeah. Pope, brought to you by Panasonic. I don't know. I would be a voice actor if I wasn't in tech. I think I could've gone down that path.

[00:41:53] Robbie: You could just never listen to the things that you did.

[00:41:55] Chuck: What?

[00:41:56] Robbie: Which one of

[00:41:56] Chuck: I don't know. Uh, you. Robbie, you, first. This is


[00:42:02] Robbie: I just said, I just said that you wouldn't be able to listen to any of the stuff you made

then. So how would you know if it was good?

[00:42:08] Chuck: I don't know. That's, that's true. Anyway. Because I don't listen to any episodes of the podcast. I did listen to, uh, one recently. Just the beginning, mostly. Because we changed the intro music. And I was like, I'm into this. Yeah. Okay, now I'm talking. And I'm done. That's all I

wanted. I'm here.

What do I have to hear about it? You know? I know what happened. We talked about it. You


[00:42:29] Robbie: Well, I listened to it to see if like, you know, the, the producers did a good job or like, you know, if we, if our levels are all messed up so that next time we can do better or whatever,

[00:42:40] Chuck: Okay. Fair enough. So one, one more time back to tech, of course, um, before we wrap up. And that is, are there any other developers or projects that you're like really into right now?

[00:42:52] Welch: I think the T3 stack is, is really, impressive. , I have really enjoyed working with that. You know, I, I think that when you look at the kind of history of, where we are, you know, in the tooling world, you know, we had this stuff like Rails and we had this stuff like Django that began to just absorb way too much, you know, Ember obviously was like, you know, the victim of absorbing too much stuff, um, that ultimately it's just really hard to manage.

Um, and then you have, you know, this kind of complete. About face into stuff like npm where you have like a single package that handles left pad

And there's not really a lot of prescription and t3 is kind of like this fantastic blend of It's the best of all worlds, you know, where, they're basically saying this is the best in class for each piece of the framework puzzle, um, and here's a really opinionated and, a really opinionated take on, on that and, and here it is all wired together and just functioning.

You know, so you can kind of spin something up and you've got an ORM and you've got auth and it all just works. the kind of time you can get from like IDEA to deployed and functioning application with something like T3 is, is, is really, fantastic. so yeah, I've been loving that.

I can give you a longer answer. Like, um, uh, one problem that I've, um, been going into recently is, maintaining state in the URL, but having like very specific interactions in your UI. people are completely excited about this kind of move to islands architecture, they're excited about things like, uh, you know, Astro and, similar. there's really nobody who's actually creating that kind of handoff of the router from the server to the client. You basically just have to kind of abandon any idea of client side routing. Unless, you're using Next.

Next is the only one who's doing that handoff well. You know, I've heard of other people looking into it.

I'm sure it won't be long. But for now, you know, Next? It's still best in class. You know, it's hard to beat. Um, in terms of just its sheer flexibility, you know,

and I think that they really chose a very, smart footprint to say, like, this is what we're responsible for and we're not responsible for anything else.

I mean, it was really, uh, really smart on their part.

[00:45:26] Chuck: Yeah. Does the app directory change any of that stuff?

[00:45:29] Welch: That's a good question. You know, I've played with it some, but not... No, you know what? No, no, the application where I kind of worked out this idea was out of the app directory. So yeah, it totally just has kind of a handoff from the the server to the client in terms of routing. Which is, which is great, you know, and what I'm talking about to be very, yeah, I know it's very hard to talk about very technical things and kind of discernible language.

But what I'm talking about here is, for example, like, transitioning a sort with an animation. While keeping that in sync with your URL so that you can still share your state with somebody else, you know

these are things like you would find in applications with a ton of polish Yeah, and there's just nobody else who's really solving the problem

[00:46:16] Chuck: Yeah, I think, uh, route or URL as state and being persistent, whether from server or client side is, is a pretty, it's funny that it's still a challenge because you mentioned things earlier, Django, for example, like I can remember having this conversations like over 10 years ago. And this is still a thing that we're talking about across the web and web applications.

It's like, what is state and what is state as URL and how do you, like, have that be consistent and represent both the state and the data in a concise way that makes sense. Anyway, perhaps for another episode.

[00:46:56] Welch: Yeah

[00:46:57] Robbie: Yeah. I mean, that's a deep topic of just why is routing such a problem anyways? Like browsers handle it kind of, I guess when you're doing really complex data, like it matters more, but yeah, it's, it just seems like a thing that should have been solved a long time ago and that framework shouldn't have to care about.

It should just work in all browsers. But. Alas.

[00:47:21] Chuck: Here we

[00:47:22] Welch: That's the joy of being a web engineer

[00:47:24] Chuck: That's right. For some of us, that gives us some real job security. I'm just the router expert.

[00:47:31] Robbie: All right. We are getting close to time here. Is there anything before we end that you would like to plug or, uh, projects you're working on? Uh, I don't know. Anything you, you human. Yeah.

[00:47:45] Welch: I am just a plugless human, you know, I, I really, um,

you know, here's what I would say is, you know, I, I think that, um, I used to put a lot of work into like maintaining a blog, you know, I thought it was like a really valuable part of being an engineer. Um, you know, I said, Oh, I want to write about this stuff. And I think that when I get hired, people will look at the things I've written and that will contribute, to getting hired.

And I just never experienced it. Like, you know, never did I. Go through a hiring process where somebody said, we really liked that article, you know, and I think after a while I just realized like, Oh, this is actually like not a great use of my time, you know, like I can spend extracurricular time studying really hard, but like in terms of being like a content generator, it just for me, at least, you know, uh, it didn't work out in the longterm, you know, I think obviously for some people it works out really well, but I'm just not one of them.

[00:48:47] Chuck: You should shift to doing woodworking videos. That'll be your content.

[00:48:51] Welch: Yeah,

[00:48:54] Robbie: Yeah. Build something with wood and then build it with CSS and do a comparison.

[00:48:58] Welch: that's like one of my, one of my projects at home right now is like a, is like a home automation thing. So I basically am having like a server and some remote, mini computers that are going to be housed in like a nice little wooden box.

Um, yeah, so this is just the most complicated way to avoid looking at my phone while I'm going to sleep.

[00:49:20] Chuck: I love it.

[00:49:23] Robbie: All right. Thanks everyone for listening. If you liked it, please subscribe, leave us some ratings and reviews. We appreciate it. And we will catch you next

[00:49:29] Chuck: Boom, boom, boom.