On this episode, I get the chance to speak with Lynne Tye, the creator of Key Values, a place for Software Developers to find a company that fits their values beyond just what tech stack they use or salary they provide.
Lynn has had a diverse career and only started coding in 2015. Once she cut her teeth freelancing, she realized it was hard to find the right company to work with. When job listings and recruiters proved unhelpful, the idea for Key Values was born.
Tune in to hear us talk about finding the right company culture, work/life balance and why it doesn't mean the same thing to everyone, and the value of hands-on involvement.
● Weighing the importance of your time
● What does work/life balance mean to you
● What it takes to launch your project
● Why loving what you do is so important
● Taking investment money
● Ambition and expectations with yourself
● Lynne’s previous career path vs. her current one
● Figuring out what works for you in your education
● Starting a business when you just started to program
Joel Hooks: So, I was watching The Hot Ones. Have you seen that show where they eat the hot chicken wings?
Lynne Tye: No. I was like, what is that?
Joel Hooks: Yeah, so it's this YouTube show put out by Complex, and it's called The Hot Ones. It's this guy Sean Evans, and he started out by inviting kind of C, B list celebrities onto the show, and then-
Lynne Tye: And, they just eat spicy wings?
Joel Hooks: Yeah. So, he has 10 wings, and it goes from sriracha up to like, blow your gourd, triple ghost pepper.
Lynne Tye: I've heard of the show, or I've heard of this, yeah.
Joel Hooks: So, he had Gary Vaynerchuk on there who started out on wine, he's just kind of a big boot strapping, crush it kind of guy, and at the end of it he's like, "Do you have a podcast?", and he's like, "No." He's like, "Why don't you have a podcast?", I saw that and then John saw that, and the Monday following the episode we're both like, "Hey man, we need a podcast."
Lynne Tye: That's amazing.
Joel Hooks: It's interesting, and then it's also interesting to talk to people, too.
Lynne Tye: No, of course. I think people have actually said I should have a podcast but, then of course you know how much work it is, or it can be a lot of work. It's deceiving I think, how much work goes into it but, maybe someday. I do like talking.
Joel Hooks: I mean, for me personally, the hard work is the research. That's where I try to put in the work, and then the grueling work I really just don't want to do, I've managed to outsource at a fairly reasonable-
Lynne Tye: Yeah, if you can do that, then by all means.
Joel Hooks: I mean, I know I've read, you've thought this way before too, like when you're freelancing, or you've determined what your hourly rate is. Am I going to pay that hourly rate to edit a podcast? Or can I get a much better rate and get somebody else to do it?
Lynne Tye: Totally.
Joel Hooks: I think at some point you have to organize your life around that sort of thing because, there's just finite time, right? I don't have time to edit podcasts, or even worry about it really. I just wanted to record the thing, have a cool conversation, and then it's done.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, no I think that's a good attitude to have. It's actually funny, I was just telling someone else about that. The difference between being an employee, and doing freelance work, or being a consultant has really changed the way I think about my life. Because, you're literally ... I don't know, you're more conscious of trading time for money. I don't know if that's what you were talking about earlier but, it's just an interesting shift in the way that ... your outlook I guess.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I mean sometimes I'll do stuff. It's like you start applying at the house chores and whatnot. Which, inevitably have people do that for you too, and it's like there's a huge culture of that though. San Francisco and all these services popping up. How do we remove this? I think it stems there from developers working 80 hours a week at these starts ups.
Lynne Tye: No, yeah, absolutely. Also, I don't even know if you meant to say that because, you know I used to work at Homejoy but, I'm very familiar with the home cleaning base, or I used to be at least. So, no, it's definitely an interesting way to think about it. That applies to everything else. It even made me like, when there were barbecues I would get invited to from like, third tier friends, acquaintances, it's like, do I really want to go? Just knowing what my time is worth, decide not to go. It's really strange.
Joel Hooks: I've intentionally tried to pick up because, I've got to the point where I was doing basically nothing outside of the tasks, my job, whatever work it was I was mainly trying to do. These days I really try to suppress that instinct. The, this is my hourly rate because, you know, working in the garden, or doing wood working or these other kind of hobby level I guess really but, I can't apply that same thought to them.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, well that's different because, you really enjoy doing it. I think you apply it when it's a chore like when it feels anything chore like.
Joel Hooks: Yeah. It's just higher level thought.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joel Hooks: So, anyway, I didn't do an introduction. Hi Lynne.
Lynne Tye: Hi.
Joel Hooks: I wanted to ask you because, I've read this in a couple places, and it's like you mentioned in an interview, and you've written it down that the number one choice on Keyvalues.com is work life balance. I'm curious if you think there's such a thing as work life balance, or if we're just living life, and work is part of that?
Lynne Tye: Oh, that's a really interesting question. I mean, work life balance is definitely real in the same way that happiness or something like that. Happiness is very real. It's just different for different people. I think work life balance is really tricky because, a lot of people don't really dive deep into how they define it, and then if a company says we have great work life balance, you're like great, I'm so glad, I was looking for that. Without even pausing to dissect what that means. I think that's kind of where ... it's like a trap that people fall into. But, no, yeah, it's definitely real. Work life balance is not even consistent for me, it changes daily, and I think for individual people not only do you define work life balance different than I do but, it probably changes. Our own definitions change as time goes by. You know? What I cared about, what I thought it meant in my early 20s is different than what I think now, and I'm certain it will change again, and again. What does work life balance mean? I think it's really just balancing enjoying in your life, and I guess achievement, or just feeling like you're working towards a goal, and being productive, and getting towards that, and obviously you can see how those sometimes are at odds with one another. So, for me it's not really about time. A lot of people say like, "Oh, if you work over 40 hours a week there's no work life balance." I personally would much rather work 60 hours a week if I got to choose when, and where I worked. That makes me so much more happy, and makes me feel like I have more freedom. But, of course there's lots of people who would disagree with me. I don't know if that answers your question though.
Joel Hooks: Sure. I mean it's a hard question. I think the answer like, work life balance, and like you said, if you're looking for a job, and they say, "Oh, we provide great work life balance." What does that actually mean?
Lynne Tye: Exactly. Yeah.
Joel Hooks: For me, all my really good friends I made for the most part in the last 10, 15 years have been work related. So, for me, work and life, the whole thing really mixes in together in a lot of ways.
Lynne Tye: I think that means you're doing it right.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I think so too. I mean, there was a time in my life where I was working a day job, and then to make ends meet I was working another 40 hours. I would freelance in the evenings, and over time ... in my 20s I could handle it, and now I just can't do that. I don't have the energy or concentration. I have five more kids than I did when I was in my early 20s, that sort of thing.
Lynne Tye: Yeah.
Joel Hooks: So, it's tricky, and it changes too, I think, the balance.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, no, exactly. I think for me before, it mattered so much that I think I'd always blurred the professional, and personal line. I've never really liked keeping a very strict divide between those two worlds but, work life balance to me, I was fine. So, I used to work at Homejoy, I mentioned this earlier. We worked a lot. I certainly worked a couple of hundred hour weeks which, is nuts to me now but, we were all just so bought into it, and it felt really fun. Like, we would ... oh my God it's like embarrassing to say this now but, we would sometimes sleep at the office because, we just have to be there in three more hours. So, why not just crash there? But, it was just a really exciting time, and I felt like I had that balance because, I was doing it with my friends.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, like a team, right?
Lynne Tye: Yeah.
Joel Hooks: Like, a real team.
Lynne Tye: Exactly. We were all just taking this risk, and we were gambling, and saying we were going to go all in, and try to make this work. Obviously it didn't work out. Homejoy folded but, no regrets. I think it was a really good experience. But, of course now, oh my goodness. You couldn't, I would not do that again. Yeah. So, my definition has definitely changed.
Joel Hooks: Yeah. So, you wouldn't do that again for one reason because, you've started your own business I would think.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, and if I do work a lot it's kind of like what you're saying, it's because there's no real external pressure. It's because I genuinely want to. Actually, this is something I've been thinking about a lot recently too just because, I have like these really ... I mean, everyone has the ebbs and flows of feeling motivated, or just with energy. I feel like I have some pretty drastic ones, and sometimes when I'm not very inspired, or motivated, I don't like forcing myself to work, because I just know I'm not as productive. It takes me five hours to do something that should take me an hour. But, then when I do have that rush, and I feel real excited I just run with it, and I'll work really long weeks because, I have that. I'm in a state of flow and I don't want to lose the momentum.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, sure. Speaking of your business, so you started a job site which, to me, or to a lot of people even might seem like a nutty idea given the competition. It's Keyvalues.com. I got Shawn Swyx Wang, where was I originally saw the link to the site, and I clicked through, and I'm like, this is amazing. In terms of finding a job, that you've taken this different approach. Can you describe why Key Values is different?
Lynne Tye: Yeah.
Joel Hooks: Keyvalues.com is different to other sites because, it really truly is, and I think it's pretty special.
Lynne Tye: Thanks for saying that. I obviously think it's pretty special too but, I'm biased. So Key Values, the goal is to help software engineers find teams that care about the same things they do, so if you're a developer who cares a lot of contributing to open source, and you want to work on a diverse team, you can find engineering teams who share those values. Or, we were just talking about this, maybe you're starting to think about starting your own family, and having some kids. So, now your priorities change, and you want to find a company that's parent and family friendly. Key Values is really the only site that I've heard of where you can even search for companies, and discover companies based on things like work life balance, or practicing inclusion. If you're a social being, and you don't want to just stay at this one company, maybe you want to work somewhere that really engages with the community. Whatever that community is, but people care about different things, and ultimately that's what differentiates employers. If you're not looking just for a job, there's what matters most, I think it's who you're working with, how you work together, and why. I started Key Values because, those are the things I care about, and there's just no way to search for those things. You Google companies that value work life balance, and yeah, the results aren't great. More importantly, I think people talk about things at the company level but, everyone knows that as a software engineer, your life, your day to day is so different than someone whose on the sales team, or the marketing team. So, it's really just a question of what does your day to day look like? Can you find out more information before having to do the cover letters, applications, phone screens, take home test? There's just so much that developers have to jump through before they can even ask these questions. So yeah, Key Values was just hoping to reverse, or re-order the steps of the interview process.
Joel Hooks: You don't list ... there's no salary information which, I think is pretty radical. That's a decision I'd like to hear more about. Also, how many times a week do people request?
Lynne Tye: I was just going to say I think, to me, of course money matters but, it's just not the most important factor. Especially for software engineers who for the most part, can get any job they want. If you're an experienced developer, you're in high demand, and you really can choose. You're pick of the litter. So, I don't think salary is really the biggest factor. Even honestly just thinking of the range, the range is, I don't know, if we even want to go crazy it's probably from like $80,000 dollars a year to $350,000 dollars a year which, is a big range but, still that's just one dimension. There's so many other things that matter more. So, yeah, I just left it off because, I think .. yeah, it was a really radical decision. People used to ask me a lot more for some reason. I don't think anyone's asked me in a few months. When I first launched it was definitely like, one of the most common comments. Like, where's salary? Your site's great except for it's missing the most important thing, salary. But, I think there's dozens of other job sites out there that focus on compensation. So, those tools already exist for people who care about that the most.
Joel Hooks: To me that's interesting because, keyvalues.com, it isn't the end. Right? If I'm looking for a job, I want to go to Key Values. One, I want to see the company that has inquired, or I'm inquiring at, and what their values are, and then there's one, they probably have an official job listing that has that information-
Lynne Tye: Exactly.
Joel Hooks: And, that kind of stuff so, it's just part of the overall.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, exactly. The way that I think about it also is, the world is kind of split between missionaries and mercenaries. I think a lot of the other tools, and job boards, I think they're built for mercenaries, and there's this other set of people that have just been forgotten. Maybe they're not in the majority but, they don't have a tool for them. They don't have a product made for them. So, that's kind of the intention, to build something for that group of people. Who I belong to.
Joel Hooks: Right. I think I'm like 50/50. The family, and just the general expenses make me have to be mercenary but then, like it's so important to me to have a job that ... I mean, I love work, I don't like jobs. That's how I always put it. If you're going to have to do a thing then, it really should be something that fulfills you in more ways than just financially.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, also because you know that you can do that. You have lots of options to get the dollar amount that you need. So, then how do you chose between those options?
Joel Hooks: Yeah.
Lynne Tye: Exactly.
Joel Hooks: So, you built Key Values by yourself, you programmed it, you marketed it, you had mentors and input but, you've done this thing by yourself. I'm wondering like, skill wise, what have you had to learn and do to get to the point where you could start a business on the internet?
Lynne Tye: That's a good question. I think, I mean, you don't have to know how to code but, it definitely really helps. I'm sure you know this, I didn't know how to code until 2015. I remember in 2015, I started a book camp, Dev Boot Camp. They're actually not around anymore. I actually didn't finish the program so I didn't technically graduate but, it was really helpful for me, and I didn't even know ... I thought you had to download your terminal. I really was starting at zero. Then, I freelanced a bit. I don't even consider myself at all, experienced with web development. So, I think it depends on your site to be honest. Key Values is not a complex app so, it didn't require too much. I think it's mostly confidence to launch something, and build something. I think it's just being really excited about something, and taking the chance because, the fear is that you'll build something, and no one will like, or it won't work, or it will be a dud but, I think it's the confidence to go for it. That's probably the most important thing.
Joel Hooks: Does it really matter if it's a dud, or it doesn't work?
Lynne Tye: I mean, of course it does but, it doesn't. It doesn't matter in the scope of life but, obviously it sucks to build something that doesn't work out. Actually, Key Values is the first ... it started as a side project. I just wanted to have a side project that I liked enough to work on for more than three days because, I'd always just get bored. Maybe just because, my ideas were bad. But, Key Values like, a week in I was like, I still love this. Then it quickly turned into the thing I wanted to spend all of my time doing. So, yeah, I think that's really important. It's just being really excited about it.
Joel Hooks: So, one of my favorite books is called Apprenticeship Patterns. It has one of the chapters, each chapter is like a pattern in building your skills as a software craft person. One of them is the idea of the breakable toy. So, this is like a side project or whatever. It's something you can play with. It doesn't matter, you can break it, if you break it then it's broken but it's not tragically effecting anybody's life. I looked at side projects that way which, in a lot of ways is like, Egghead IO is my breakable toy. There's a lot of people that watch it but, I always describe it as, it's a video blog. Right? I started a video blog. I've programmed professionally for 10 years now. I switched careers, and then I started this thing, and it wasn't a terribly complex idea. It's the sea of competition that you deal with, and it's like, you've done a business in a sea competition too. Do you worry about all the other people in this space? The big sharks, and being kind of a minnow in the pond?
Lynne Tye: This is such a good question. I've talked about this. I talk about competitors all the time simply because, I don't think we should be talking about competitors all the time but, no, I don't really. I think in the beginning I was really worried about it, and then I was listening to actually a couple of podcasts on Indie Hackers, and they kept saying this thing where you don't need to have a brand new idea. It's okay if it's already been done before. It didn't really click until, I don't know, maybe the tenth time I heard it. If anything, it's actually a huge advantage to have competitors because, you know that there's money flowing. I think there's a lot of companies, founders that I meet, and they just don't even know if people will pay for the thing that they're building. That's a problem I had never had to really think about because, from day one I knew that people ... I know there's a lot of money going into recruiting, and there's a lot of individuals who will pay for recruiters to help place them. So, I knew that was a need. Every company you meet talks about how hard it is to hire engineers. Yeah, the fact that there's all these other tools like Hired, and Triplebyte. There's people paying LinkedIn like, tens of thousands of dollars a LinkedIn recruiter. It means there's a need. So, I think it's an advantage in a lot of ways. Then, in terms of just like, the founder psychology of knowing at any moment you could get crushed, I just think that's okay. I don't know, I've kind of made peace with it. So, this is why I talk about it a lot because, a lot of people tell me I should be more aware of what my competitors are doing. But, I just don't want to live that way. I think it's really stressful, and if I'm not having fun then, it's probably not worth doing to be honest.
Joel Hooks: I actually completely ignore the idea of competitors when I'm building Egghead.
Lynne Tye: That's awesome. I mean, that's awesome to me. I feel the same way.
Joel Hooks: Because, there's huge players, and ed tech is massive. Right? It's billions, and billions of dollars, and billion dollar acquisitions, and all that stuff going on. I'm like, well we're just going to do things how we like to do them to solve the problem that we're trying to solve for the folks that we know and understand. Right?
Lynne Tye: Yeah but, I think that's the other lesson. It was Laura Router I think, yeah, it was Laura Router, she was talking about this. She was just saying how in tech, people have this strange paranoia of building a similar product to something that already exists, and is successful. But, in everything else like, water bottles ... these were her examples. Notepads, sunglasses, there's so many competitors, and they all do well. People still buy these things. So, in other industries people don't think like that. Like, Italian restaurants. If you we're like, hey I want to open an Italian restaurant, I wouldn't be like, oh no but, there's already an Italian restaurant.
Joel Hooks: I'd tell you it's a huge mistake. Restaurants always are.
Lynne Tye: But, you know, there's dozens of bakeries, and Indian restaurants, and salad places, and people still open them, and people still go to them. So, it's funny that in tech, people feel like you have to have this brand new idea. It's so funny to me now because, it really honestly didn't make sense to me for a long time, and now it's so obvious. It's hard for me to un-know it. But, it really did trip me up for a long time.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I mean, it's tough. Psychologically I think it's tough until ... you have to make that mental decision that this is how I think, and it's not like I'm unwaveringly, we've done competition research. I just try not to let it drive what we do. I want to stick to our core, our key values.
Lynne Tye: Yeah.
Joel Hooks: And, hold the course on that.
Lynne Tye: But, I think that's the thing also, like people who love Egghead, and Egghead is such a cool product. They like it because of the decisions that you've made. You're right, there are other ed tech products out there but, it didn't speak to them. I think that's kind of the beauty of it also, and it makes it easier for us to just be ourselves, and not have work feel like work because, it's just so easy for us to be ... I don't know if that makes sense. You're not trading off, or compromising what you care about, and how you want to do things, and therefore it just ... yeah, I mean that's a decision that I also consciously make.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, like that's why we've forgone taking any investment, too. Right? I don't want ... somebody who gives me millions of dollars, or maybe that's being optimistic. If they give me millions of dollars, they expect something, we're not just passing millions of dollars around, and most of that's going to be like, well you need to move the company this way, we need to get a board in place to check your reckless abandon to doing good business.
Lynne Tye: I'm so on the same page as you. If anything actually, before we even ever talked, I followed you on Twitter, and there's some tweets that you wrote on the same, about this, and I think it really resonated with me, and honestly, I don't know, I think I've told you this but, you basically gave me permission to feel the way that I do. It was really, really helpful for me when I was trying to figure out if I should fundraise or listen to the advice people were giving me.
Joel Hooks: That's awesome.
Lynne Tye: So, thank you. No, really, it actually was a really memorable ... it was late one night. I had a really rough week, I felt a lot of pressure to fundraise, and start a company the way that most startups do in Silicon Valley. I saw your tweet, and I had been like crying, and it was like, I really needed to see that at the time that I did. So, thanks. I don't know if I've told you that.
Joel Hooks: No, you haven't, that's awesome.
Lynne Tye: Yeah.
Joel Hooks: I kind of shied into the void on Twitter a little bit. So, hearing that something landed, and actually resonated.
Lynne Tye: Oh my gosh, no, it really, really did. I shared it with so many people. I remember it was really late at night, too. Everyone's like, why are you on Twitter? Shouldn't you be working? I was like, no this is why. I want to do it my way. So, it was really helpful.
Joel Hooks: So, speaking of doing it your way, and not having investors, how did you pull that off? You live in San Francisco, it's the most expensive city on the planet, arguably. Yet, you still managed to boot strap a business that I think has been ... it's profitable, and growing. So, how did you get from working every day to being able to do this, and build something for yourself?
Lynne Tye: So, I actually did take money because, I did YC.
Joel Hooks: Oh, okay.
Lynne Tye: But, it's funny when I did YC, I was like, the reason why I didn't want to do YC is because, I was really, really attached to this identity and wanting to be a bootstrapped, self funded company. But, also of course, YC is a network of startups that are doing really cool things, struggling to hire engineers. Key Values is trying to help startups doing really cool things hire engineers. So, it seemed like an obvious-
Joel Hooks: That's a good fit.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, if I was doing anything else, I almost definitely wouldn't have done it but, I actually haven't touched any of YC's money. Honestly, that's probably silly but, I just do it for myself. I'm like, I didn't need it, I didn't want.
Joel Hooks: Gain interest on it.
Lynne Tye: Yeah. But, I saved up a lot of money consulting. I think I was saving up not knowing for sure if I was going to start a company but, I knew that I wanted to save up money for something. Like, maybe I wanted to start a family which, I still do. If I wanted to start a business, I wanted to have that cushion, and some run way. But, to be honest I live really frugally. When I first moved to San Francisco I was a grad student at UCSF living on $30,000 a year, that was our stipend. I actually don't know how I did that.
Joel Hooks: That's what I was just thinking.
Lynne Tye: It was a lot of anytime anyone had a free I was there.
Joel Hooks: Right?
Lynne Tye: Ate a lot of oatmeal. It was definitely hard. Then I worked at a startup which, didn't pay well. So, I never really had money or saved. So, consulting was the first time. Getting paid to code, that was really exciting, and then people pay well. Developers do well, and so I got really obsessed with that for a while. Just it was so fun to me, to be able to make money, and save money for the first time. When I started Key Values I think leading up to it, even before I had the idea, I knew that I should probably build up some good habits, and live cheaply. I think I was saving, hoping that I would start a company, and that helped me prepare for it.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, you had to have the thing to do the thing kind of situation.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, exactly. But, yeah, no, I mean I think it's just planning. I think planning is the answer. Otherwise, you do need investment, and a lot of people have good ideas but, don't have the cushion, or the space to even explore or try it. They end up looking for investors before they even have a product, and that's a game I didn't want to play.
Joel Hooks: I think there's value to that approach. I'm not completely anti-investment or anything but, to me, my relationship with the business is really, really strong because, it was literally like from nothing, and every step of the way built this thing, and I'm discussing how we spend money, I'm really discussing how we spend my money, and there's a closeness that comes from not having the big investment and scaling fast, and growing furiously. That's been an interesting experience, and led some depth to the process. Also, I'm generally incompetent in learning as I got along. So, that's-
Lynne Tye: Wait, what?
Joel Hooks: That's how I feel. That's the internal like, I don't know what I'm doing, I'm just kind of like trying to do my best. You know?
Lynne Tye: Yeah, but I love that. I know this is the weirdest ... I feel so guilty saying all these things in Silicon Valley like, sometimes I feel guilty for not being more ambitious but, I think it's just I have different goals. For me, the mental framing that seems different compared to the founder friends have I have is that, it's all ... like, having low expectations makes it so fun because, you just keep surpassing them by doing your best. In the beginning, honestly my goal was just to have a side project that I liked for more than a week.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, same.
Lynne Tye: Once I was there I was like, oh my God this is awesome, I did it. Then it was of course, launching. I've never launched a product, that was super scary, and when I launched that, I was like, I'm done, I did it. I feel like I'm successful. Then of course I was like, okay let's see if I can make money from this. Will anyone pay me for this? Once the first company wrote me a check, and made that deposit, I was like, oh my God I did it, I win. So, I think it's just for me, it helps to have really easy goals to make, to reach.
Joel Hooks: Yeah.
Lynne Tye: Then it just makes it such a fun journey. I have friends who are like, oh I have to IPO in the next 10 years. It's like, what?
Joel Hooks: Why?
Lynne Tye: I'm like, that's not a fun goal to have.
Joel Hooks: No.
Lynne Tye: That seems stressful and distant, and I don't know.
Joel Hooks: To me that kind of goal would be sad, honestly. When I set out to do this, I had no idea, right? Eventually it evolved into like, well I really like helping people, and I like helping people find jobs, and work in a way. Which, is interesting to me in talking to you, and just your site, and why it resonated with me because, I feel like we share a lot of commonality to what our businesses are here to do because, for me it's not really about the videos. It's more about providing the instructors opportunity, and getting people paid, and then also getting people watching the videos into better jobs. That's what everybody wants right? Everybody wants to learn, and grow, and want to get into the salary bracket you were talking about that software can provide. Not only that, you can take that and learn how to program, and start a business. To me, that blows my mind. There's a Paul Graham essay that talks about that, and the generation of wealth in our modern age.
Lynne Tye: I don't know if I've read that. I'm making a note, I will read that today.
Joel Hooks: It's in Hackers and Painters, and I'll also add a link.
Lynne Tye: Oh, yeah cool. I was just going to say though, I would have totally loved Egghead to learn, and then once I felt confident enough to be an instructor, and then when you get ... I think it's just building confidence. Not even as a developer but, to become a founder. After I launched Key Values, I think in the first couple weeks of YC was the first time ... this was like, in January. When I considered myself a founder. I wasn't even comfortable calling myself, or referring to myself as a founder. It's kind of funny now but, I think that's the point. You learn, and then you feel comfortable enough teaching someone, and then over time you feel really comfortable just knowing what you know, and feeling you're an expert in the thing that you do. Or, not even an expert but, just well versed or competent.
Joel Hooks: A little more competent.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, yeah. Then finding jobs, and then being able to ask for the things that you care about, not just for that paycheck. I mean, that's all progression. After I learned how to code, my first gig, I was like, I'll do it for $20, okay, $15 an hour. I was negotiating against myself because, I was just thrilled to be paid at all for coding. I had just learned how to do that. Anyways, I think again, it's a really cool place to be able to go through so many of those places. I definitely wish I knew it existed.
Joel Hooks: My broad vision of it now is more of a pipeline. Like, a job is pipeline.
Lynne Tye: Yeah.
Joel Hooks: We're paying people $20 an hour to review but, the idea is to get those people though to the end. Right? Through to a job. Even working with companies, probably folks that you're working with too to even place them, and if they don't come to Egghead directly. That's the right idea. I love working on ideas that don't scale. People are constantly wanting to scale, and grow, and I actually like trying to solve problems that don't obviously scale. Which, I think having worked with you and done the process for Key Values to get our profile, that doesn't scale right, out of the box? You have to do it.
Lynne Tye: No, not at all.
Joel Hooks: Lynne has to do it all.
Lynne Tye: It's funny, I love that you just said that. I feel the same way. But, I'm kind of shy about admitting it. Because, I'm just in the city where that doesn't make sense. You get looks if you say things like that, I don't know. But, I think the hands on part is so meaningful. Actually you know, when I was in grad school I think one of the reasons why I didn't like research was because, obviously you're helping people. I was trying to think of, or develop therapies for parkinsonian patients, and that obviously has a very clear mission, and impact but, I felt sad that it was so removed. I would never meet someone, and I was really only contributing to that. But, I feel like there's no one that I would sit across a table, and they would look me in the eyes, and say, "Thank you for this that you did." I think I just care a lot more about those, how close you are to the people that you're helping. If that makes any sense.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, totally.
Lynne Tye: Of course helping as many people as possible is great but, it also means a lot to me that I'm close, and know these people.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I've gotten a couple hand written thank you notes.
Lynne Tye: Oh yeah.
Joel Hooks: Sent to me.
Lynne Tye: I'm not surprised.
Joel Hooks: I was just like, what? One, that anything I say or do would have that effect, and that's kind of, it's not really impostureous syndrome, I'm really trying to build something that will help people. So, that result is very much what I'm looking for but, just that it actually works. Right?
Lynne Tye: Yeah, I mean, I'm not surprised that people would do that. That's the best validation.
Joel Hooks: For sure.
Lynne Tye: That's what makes work not feel like work.
Joel Hooks: I feel like when you build this thing, and you have something, especially when ... is Key Values paying your rent at this point?
Lynne Tye: Not quite yet, soon hopefully.
Joel Hooks: Yeah.
Lynne Tye: Also, to answer your question, I have to say, I do have rent control in San Francisco. So, I'm not paying the ... obviously I'm still paying for rent but, it's not as crazy as some other folks.
Joel Hooks: Oh, that's great.
Lynne Tye: So, that definitely is a lucky thing. I'm in the same apartment that I moved into when I moved here in 2010 for grad school.
Joel Hooks: Oh, that's good.
Lynne Tye: So, that's definitely ... I'm very fortunate to have had that.
Joel Hooks: When I got there, as a business, I see it with all the faults right? To me it's like this garden of low hanging fruit is how I describe it. There's so much to do, and so many things we can pick out that add value to what we're building. That's probably one of my favorite aspects of starting something, and that we're able to work on, on an ongoing basis.
Lynne Tye: Yeah. I talked to everyone on your team, and the fact that you've been able to build not only a product that helps so many people but, a company that people genuinely love to work at, and feel lucky to, I mean yeah, you did it.
Joel Hooks: That's good to hear.
Lynne Tye: Of course there's more to do, right? But, definitely I'm all about taking a moment, and being like, I did it. I'm already here, and celebrating that. I'm definitely good at that. I think there's a lot of people who need the reminder to take a moment, and just celebrate what they've done already, no matter what stage they're at. Anyways, I hope you do that.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I try to.
Lynne Tye: Okay.
Joel Hooks: I had a question just as kind of a ... we're running to the end of the thing here but, we can keep talking it doesn't matter. So, I wanted to ask you about your education because, you've done some fairly intense education in your life. You went to MIT, and got a degree, and then moved to San Francisco to pursue your PHD. You were studying essentially how the brain works, cognitive and neuro science.
Lynne Tye: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Joel Hooks: I'm wondering, and I was curious because, of your studies mostly. Right? You're studying the brain, and how the brain works, and how our minds function. Has that helped or affected your transition into the software engineer side of your career?
Lynne Tye: It's so funny as you were asking the question, I was like, yeah I could probably paint a nice picture but, real talk, no. So, I studied brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, and then I was pursuing my PHD in neuroscience but I dropped out. So, don't give me credit for that, I'm a quitter there but, with neuroscience, I mean, it doesn't really translate. I think that was the biggest fear is that I had spent so much time laser focused on developing skills that wouldn't transfer to other things. My parents definitely were really worried for me. For example-
Joel Hooks: That conversation must have been funny.
Lynne Tye: Funny's not the right word.
Joel Hooks: No, it's not.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, that was hard. Also, I don't know if you know this but, my parents and my sister are all academic professors. So, that was the family business. Growing up I knew I wanted to be a professor too. So, dropping out of grad school was for sure the hardest thing I've ever done. It was like, yeah. It was just like leaving everyone I knew, everything I knew. Me coming to terms with the fact that I'm not the person that I always thought I was, it was a hard time.
Joel Hooks: Shattering your entire reality, in a lot of ways.
Lynne Tye: Oh yeah. It was a quarter life crisis for sure. I was like, I feel young to be having this but, I'm definitely having a life crisis. It was a lot but, the skills I learned in grad school I think aside from like, communication, writing, those things definitely are transferable to any industry. But, my surgical hands, I'm not implanting optic fibers into tiny mouse brains. I don't look into microscopes anymore. I don't run experiments the same way with animal models. It's totally different.
Joel Hooks: I'm not going to lie, that sounds kind of fun though.
Lynne Tye: It really is, I think that was the other thing that was tricky though because, I enjoyed doing it which, kept me ... it was confusing because, I enjoyed the day to day but, obviously the goal is to eventually become a professor, and run a lab, and have other people do those things for you. It's just it's very analogous to start a company but, I like doing the hands on stuff. Which, is actually kind of part of the reason why I don't want to scale so fast because, I like doing it.
Joel Hooks: Yeah.
Lynne Tye: I don't want to just hire a bunch of people to figure out how to do these things for me, I really want to learn, and do it myself.
Joel Hooks: That's totally how I started, and then over time kind of grew to, well this would be really neat because, I can't be an expert in everything at the end of the day. So, it's like, let's get an expert that can do this better than me, and learn from them too, right?
Lynne Tye: Exactly but, I think it's different than not knowing any of it, and just hoping someone will figure it out. You're not even capable of assessing if they're doing a good job. I think that's something that I don't feel ... like, I like knowing of course you're right, I'm not going to be an expert at everything. In fact I might not even be an expert at anything if I just keep ... but, I'm okay being good, or slightly above average at multiple things. But, I enjoy that. Obviously when you get your PHD, you're literally trying to become the world's expert at this one very niche topic. That doesn't suit me. I'd prefer to be a jack of all trades.
Joel Hooks: I'm kind of anti school at all levels. Maybe one of my most unpopular opinions that I hold.
Lynne Tye: I mean, it's not for everyone.
Joel Hooks: I agree. I guess it's for some people, and just the idea of the university model in this modern day of the internet feels like it's deteriorating and I don't know, does it have a long and bright future? The university system through PHD's, and kind of the hustles? I read a great articles about the PHD system, and how it's kind of just a scam, and a gate keeping mechanism for educators.
Lynne Tye: It's tough. I don't know ... it's hard to say what will happen. I feel like academia is just so ... it couldn't be more different from inaudible 00:37:47 and in tech where things change so rapidly. Every couple of years things change, and you really have to keep your ... that's why people are always nervous about their coding skills getting outdated. There's new framework coming in. Maybe what you're doing now isn't going to be relevant in a few years. With academia it's just so slow for any changes to happen.
Joel Hooks: They'll kill you at the last step.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, people don't even retire until they die. A lot of professors ... in that regard, it's really hard because, it's hard to get a job because, it's not like jobs are being created there's a pretty finite number, and you kind of almost have to wait until someone leaves. This sounds really morbid but, you're basically waiting for someone to die to get that position. So, it's really hard, I think a lot of PHD graduates, they don't stay in academia because, they're definitely just doing the simple math, there's not room for everyone.
Joel Hooks: That's why the PHD is a gate keeping process in a lot of ways too.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, this conversation's-
Joel Hooks: We don't have to go into details about this one.
Lynne Tye: It's a touchy one with my family, and I but, obviously everyone in my family is like, stellar, and they're killing it. So, they're not at risk but, it's the hard truth. It was tricky because, for my mom and my dad, 30, 40, 50 years ago things were so different, and the landscape is really different. It's definitely more competitive now. I can't imagine it's going to get less competitive as time goes on but, I do think there are people who do love school. You may not be one of them but, some people really love ... they want to get their PHD, and spend four to ten years just going really deep on something, and basically being a student for longer.
Joel Hooks: It probably depends on what you're studying too because, to me, software, building a business, these kinds of things. Going to get an MBA, I don't think that's going to prepare you to build a business. If you study computer science, you'll definitely learn at a low level how computers work but, if someone was like, hey I want to start programming computers, and get one of these good paying jobs, should I start school today? I would say no, go to Free Code Camp. Get to freelancing as soon as possible, and build it that way, just put it out there, and make your profile wherever, and start gaining experience. Free Code Camp's curriculum is amazing if anybody is trying to start from the beginning, and learn how to code from scratch.
Lynne Tye: Oh, I didn't even know about that. To be honest, I did the boot camp because, I'm a student, I've been groomed to be a professional student. I need the structure, and I needed something that seemed familiar to me to learn. Then half way through I realized, I actually didn't really, I just needed a little push. No, I actually agree. I think the thing that was so appealing about coding is that it's almost like if you start today, in a year or two you might be sitting side by side with someone whose been doing it for 10, 15 years. Because, maybe they were professional, and they're a PHP developer but, now you guys are both learning React. I mean obviously they have more context but, it's easier to get in the game, and not be so far behind.
Joel Hooks: It's an infinite puzzle.
Lynne Tye: Yeah.
Joel Hooks: If you think of this as an infinite rubrics cube, and you'll solve one side, and now you got to work on the other.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, exactly. It's maybe shitty and scary for people who've been in the game for a long time but, for up and coming folks it's like, you can be 30 years old, and learn, and not be that behind but, it is pretty intimidating if you're 30, and you're like, oh maybe I should get my masters or PHD in something I've never studied before because, it's a ladder, it's hard to shortcut. It's harder to skip rungs.
Joel Hooks: I got my first programming job when I was 35. I tried to go back to school, and I was doing it, it was so grueling, and slow. I was trying to do night school. I'd have to leave every day, and then at the end of the last semester I went, I was like, I'm also setting a bad example for my children who are all home educated, I should really just get the stack of books, and do the work at home and represent. Which, is what I did over time.
Lynne Tye: That's a great story, I didn't know that. That's so funny, I love that, that was a motivation for you.
Joel Hooks: I was gone, I wasn't there at home, and then at the same time, I'm like hey, this is one thing, and we should do it this way, and then I'm doing the exact opposite.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, that's interesting, I like that. I mean, things work out, everyone's different, and I think that's honestly the hardest part about life. Not even learning how to code, or starting a company or any of that. I'm guilty of this too, we all want to meet that one person who can just tell us how they did it, and we'll just follow in their footsteps. I want someone to like hand me a playbook or something that worked for me. But, it just doesn't work like that. We're all so different, and not only are we different but, the times change, the context changes. So, you just have to figure it out yourself, and everyone has things ... it's just actually, this is analogous to work life balance. It's just everyone's different, and there's no shortcut, you have to just figure out how things work for you, and what matters to you.
Joel Hooks: This is just actually summarized why I don't like the general education system that we have here in the US.
Lynne Tye: Because, it says you have to go this one way. Yeah, no, it's interesting. Even at MIT there was tons of people, I actually have friends who dropped out for sure, and they're doing great. I don't think dropping out was an option for me. It didn't feel like one with my family, it's totally not. But, I really, really look up to people who drop out I guess because, I've also dropped out now. But, I think it's really amazing when people can do that at an earlier age because, it means they know themselves, and that's the hardest part.
Joel Hooks: I mean, at some point, some folks have the realization that they're going to have to learn everything for themselves, and do everything for themselves and spoon feeding is generally not an option which, isn't, I don't think, what's trained into us as youth going through the normal system. I wish it was, I think you could make school good. It's just for me and my personal opinion, it didn't work for me. I'm trying this radical experiment over the long term on all my children for better, or for worse, we'll see how it works out. So, far it's worked out really well.
Lynne Tye: Good for you, you have a good sample size.
Joel Hooks: Yeah.
Lynne Tye: Please share your conclusions.
Joel Hooks: I play a long game is what it gets down to.
Lynne Tye: No, I love that. No, go ahead.
Joel Hooks: I was going to say, we'll close it out, and I wanted to ... so someone whose learned how to program, and they want to start their own product business, what would be your top tips? Things that you've learned, what you'd advise them to do in terms of getting started, and building something of their own?
Lynne Tye: Okay, I guess first thing is to, if you don't know what you want to build yet, the idea generation part I'm honestly so bad at that part, admittedly.
Joel Hooks: Me too.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, it's really hard, wow. But, while you're thinking, and brainstorming, start collecting the skills that you think you'll need. Sometimes it's just like really basic stuff. Writing marketing copy, really hard. Basic design skills, not everyone has those. So, start trying collecting little bits of knowledge here and there. SEO, oh my gosh, I wish I knew was SEO was when I started. I had no idea. Regret but, just like becoming aware of the things you'll need to know, and gaining some knowledge about those. Then in terms of idea generation it is discipline. You should just practice writing down 10 ideas every day. They can be stupid, they don't have to be brand new. Then eventually some of them will be kind of ones that you think about the next day. You're like, I kind of like that. Then of course that idea of validation, that's a whole other thing but, I think even if you don't know where you're headed yet, it's still worthwhile to prepare. I guess an analogy would be like, if you're going on a trip, you don't know where you're going yet, you still are going to have to pack once you figure out where you're going. So, you might as well start packing a little bit.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I learned how to program so I could start something, I read Paul Graham, and I was like, man I have to learn how to code if I'm going to do any of this.
Lynne Tye: Hell yeah.
Joel Hooks: Then I was like, oh I need to know economics. Oh, I need to know marketing. Oh, I need to know general business strategy, all these kinds of skills. It's stuff you could hire, or work with other people but, at the same time like you said early on, I need to also understand them to have conversations about them.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, of course. How can you hire someone for something that you know nothing about? That scares me but, also if you like learning which, we both obviously do, then it's really fun to learn about all these different worlds. Even to know that they exist, that's really, yeah.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, for sure. Do you have any favorite people, or resources in terms of starting a business, and coding that you send people to if they ask you about these things?
Lynne Tye: Yeah, well I've been sending people to Egghead, and also of course for starting a business, Indie Hackers was key to me even feeling like it was possible for me to start a company. Just hearing all the success stories but, also there's that forum where you can ask other people at the same stage as you for advice, and help, and I think that's really, really helpful. Yeah. I think those are probably two really good resources. Why not start there?
Joel Hooks: My two currently that looking back would be Nathan Barry's book, Authority which, is I think only available in hard cover on Amazon, and then Amy Hoy's 30 by 500 course which, is-
Lynne Tye: Oh yes, I've heard so much about ... by the way, Amy Hoy, and Nathan Barry, I didn't know who they were until Indie Hackers. It's funny, I was in Silicon Valley, I worked at a tech company but, I really didn't know anything about any of this world until last year. Honestly, you know what else? I think people should get on Twitter.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I agree.
Lynne Tye: I used to hate Twitter, I was so anti-Twitter. I love it now.
Joel Hooks: I use an alternative client, I use Tweet Bot, and it's like the anti-Twitter. Twitter just removed a bunch of their abilities to use the API so, now it no longer has the statistics. Which, are vanity metrics like, how many likes and re-tweets you're getting. If they're there, you're going to obsess over them, and a native Twitter client is so anxiety ridden for me but, this client has RegX, muting, and it does chronological feed. It's only on IOS but, it's really, really nice, and makes this calm Twitter that I'm able to treat like a Bonsai tree to get my feed.
Lynne Tye: Nice, Tweet Bot, noted. I think Twitter's great.
Joel Hooks: It does bring a lot of anxiety though I think, with some, and I think they do it on purpose but-
Lynne Tye: You mean Tweet Bot?
Joel Hooks: No. Just Twitter in general. The Twitter official channels feel like they want to amp me up a little bit, and show me too much stuff, and buzz my pocket too much. You know?
Lynne Tye: I turn off all notifications, yeah. But, I think Twitter's something I wish I got into earlier. Especially for developers. It is such a good ... I didn't realize how many software engineers were on Twitter but, I've witnessed so many cool things happen. I've met people on Twitter that are amazing, and helpful but, also people find jobs, people help point each other to good resources, you meet really interesting people that you never would have otherwise had the opportunity to meet them.
Joel Hooks: I put my entire career ... I put Twitter frankly, it was just in terms of socializing and being able to have that work when I was with Fort Worth, Texas where there was no real significant network. I could build this online, and work on how I interact with people, and being able to help and be helpful.
Lynne Tye: That's so cool.
Joel Hooks: Really cool.
Lynne Tye: It's so, so cool yeah. Anyways, I feel like ... it's funny, I talk to people who now hate Twitter but, I was like, I used to, you'll see.
Joel Hooks: I think people hate ... well, it's politics Twitter that's really the horrible part, and politics and development, and politics and government, all that.
Lynne Tye: Yeah, but you don't have to participate.
Joel Hooks: It's easy to filter the keywords, and I'm good.
Lynne Tye: Yeah.
Joel Hooks: I honestly don't worry about oh you're going to live in a bubble, and I'm like, eh, maybe that's okay.
Lynne Tye: I say that too. Yeah, I know, okay.
Joel Hooks: All right, Lynne.
Lynne Tye: At least you're aware of it.
Joel Hooks: We could probably go on for another hour but, I'll let you get back to your day.
Lynne Tye: I know, thank you so much, I'm sorry for going over, I'm a chatter.
Joel Hooks: No worries. I really enjoyed talking to you, and look forward to talking to you more, thanks.
Lynne Tye: Thanks Joel.