Hi! I'm Adam Gordon Bell

When Working Hard Isn't Enough

Published about 1 year ago • 3 min read

Happy 2023 Newsletter, readers!

The first episode of the year is a very special one to me. It’s an interview with long-time podcast guest and sort of neighbor Don McKay.

Often times when I have Don on the podcast it’s a zany light episode where we explore a tech topic in a light-hearted way. Today instead, Don is sharing his personal experiences of working as a software engineer and the struggles he had to overcome. It’s about being disillusioned about work.

Check it out in your podcast player or here with a full transcript:

Guest Suggestions

I often get guest suggestions: “You should invite on so and so on the podcast”. And many times, those guests don’t end up on the podcast. I thought I might explain why. (None of this is to suggest I don’t like guest suggestions. I do! Please keep them coming. But what I need even more is story suggestions. I’ll explain the difference. )

Problem #1: They won’t come on.

Once someone suggested that I have on as a guest Adam Savage of Myth Busters fame. You might think this is a bad suggestion because he is not a software developer. However, he is a maker, and I read his book, which is fantastic, and so I loved this suggestion.

I tracked down his contact information and sent him an email. I got a response from his assistant, who said he was busy for the next six months, and an hour to talk would never happen. But, she said she could get me 15 minutes to speak to him at some point, six plus months from now. I was excited about that, but it wouldn’t be a podcast episode. So its basically getting a no.

Getting a no is what happens with many guest suggestions. I exchanged dms with Tony Fadell, who has a fascinating book about being a product manager. But when I tried to book him on the podcast. I got his assistant instead, who said to reach back out in 12 months. He’s busy now. And he had recently published a book, so that is mainly just a no.

I have so many stories like this I could share. Most people don’t have assistants, so they either ignore my reaching out or say to reach out again in a month or a year or so on, and this continues month on month. But actually that is not the biggest problem I have finding epsidoe topics. The biggest problem is finding someone with a story to share.

Booking A Story

The bigger problem that makes guests not a fit for the podcast, though is that the person needs a story to share. I need a guest who has a personal experience to share. There are many different tech podcasts out there, with lots of different formats, but I like to have someone share a personal experience with me. This is the hardest part.

Here’s an example. If someone suggests I interview Debra, creator of a new programming language excel, that sounds interesting. But I still need a story. I need to look into Debra and hopefully find that she’s got a blog or wrote some articles explaining what it was like for her to build the language – what the complex parts were, where she doubted herself, and what working on it cost her. If I can find that, then I’ll try to book her. If not, then I will usually move on.

The reason for this is that what I need for a podcast episode is not a person but a personal-story. The person is often the first step, but without the story, it’s not an episode.

So what this means for you is if you suggest a guest and you know the person has an exciting story to share, then let me know what it is! If you know Debra created excel while she was on leave from work and working to care for her mother, tell me! That would make a great episode.

It doesn’t have to be a fully fleshed-out story, either. For example, someone may mention offhand that they came up with the idea for this service mesh while on-call, and a critical service went down - well, that sounds like it may be a story to me.

Put another way - I don’t interview guests and discover what story they should share as we talk. Instead, I find someone with an exciting story to share and then try to convince them to share it with me for the podcast.

I need your help!

So, you may think that this means you shouldn’t suggest guests to me, but that is very much not what I’m trying to say. Even a vague idea of ‘this person sounds interesting’ is excellent. Suggest as much as you like.

I take all suggestions seriously and look into each of them. ( Often times a suggestion will lead me into a niche I didn't know about and I'll end up interviewing someone else in that area.)

But, if you know someone with an exciting story, where they solve a problem with code, with software, share that with me.

I’m not looking to interview the most famous software developers ever. I’m looking to interview the people with the most compelling stories: the stories that we can identify with and move us.

So don’t stop sending me guest suggestions but also, please send me your story suggestions. Story suggestions are very, very welcome. ( And the story can be about yourself. )

( You can respond to this email with them. You can join our slack community, where there is a channel for suggestions. You can hit me up on Twitter or sky-write it over eastern Ontario. )

Thanks, Adam


Hi! I'm Adam Gordon Bell

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