My Top Tech, Software and Comedy Podcast List

Podcasts are an excellent source of entertainment and learning new things. I find that when I’m doing a mindless task like working out or commuting I can actively focus on something more interesting. Being a student at the moment, I have a lot of time going to and from classes, making food, and procrastinating. I fill up as much of that time listening to podcasts since I enjoy keeping up with the latest tech news, learning new skills and having a laugh.

Click here to jump to the list if you can’t wait.

My Podcast Listening History

I’ve been a huge listener to podcasts shortly before I got my first iPod (iPod nano 3rd generation, 8GB, turquoise) which was sometime during 2006, I think. Back then I started listening to a lot of the podcasts from the TWiT and Revision3 networks. Here I am now, just over 10 years later and I’m still addicted.

Having had a twice a week paper route gave me a lot of mindless time that I soon took over by listening to podcasts. I prominently remember delivering papers in my neighbourhood during a cold, Canadian winter night listening to an excellent holiday episode of Major Nelson Radio. I also remember laughing my ass off to Diggnation, hosted by Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht, where they share the greatest posts from Digg that week.

Security Now! was a momentous podcast for me. I started listening to it around 2006 when they were at episode 60. Ever since then I’ve been a listener. I can’t thank Steve and Leo enough for their excellent discussion on current security issues and in-depth episodes on various technologies, like their how the internet works series and explanation of the Stuxnet virus. Because I’ve been listening to Security Now! for so long I’ve learned so much about security and the web that I’m practically acing the fourth year computer security class at my University. The valuable knowledge learned will stick around with me forever, already a great asset for my professional career.

The List

Here’s my list of favourite podcasts over the years, all categorized by genre.

Technology

Keeping up with the latest in tech is a given when you’re heavily immersed in the ecosystem, less being a computer scientist.

Security Now!

Security Now Logo

One of the reasons why I’m studying computer science is because of the Security Now! podcast. Every week, Steve and Leo discuss the most interesting and current topics in security. Whether that’s huge corporate hacking, the latest ransomware, IoT security or even various health topics, it’s a polymath of useful information for anyone who’s interested in security.

This Week in Tech

TWiT LogoThe best source for tech news, This Week in Tech is hosted by Leo Laporte, a hero of mine for creating the TWiT network, and continually educating me. I wouldn’t know half of what I know now if it wasn’t for Leo’s work. Each week the latest and greatest tech news is dissected with a representative panel of tech journalists. It’s very informative to hear experts in the area give their opinion.

I remember when Twitter was getting big, it was all that TWiT would talk about for weeks on end. It was even expected: “What Twitter news do we have this week?” was saild by Leo almost every episode when Twitter was growing. Those were the days, when Leo was the #1 user on Twitter. Then the masses came and it went to shit. Okay, I still love Twitter. Rant over.

Hak5

Hak5 LogoBasically a technology hacker/DIY/hardware/software show with a lot of original content. I really got interested in Linux and hacking because of it. Just recently I saw that they’re working on quadrocopters. So cool! One of my favourite segments was the usb multibooting using grub. No need to burn multiple CDs for all of your live-boot isos and images, just put them all on one USB stick and give it a shiny menu to choose which one to use. The show has a kick-ass soundtrack and it looks like they’ve expanded to a new studio and are now producing multiple shows. These guys have grown a lot!

Maximum PC No BS Podcast

Almost forgotten, I remembered this one as I was building the Runners Up section. The Maximum PC No BS Podcast could also go under the Comedy section, but Technology suits it better. On that same paper route I had when I was young I listened to this podcast religiously as soon as each episode came out. Gordon Mah Ung and Will Smith were a perfect pair when talking shop about computer hardware, tech news and building computers for the Maximum PC magazine.

Besides being overly frustrated about certain things, Gordon had a segment called Gordon’s Rant of the Week where he would vent about anything and everything from Star Wars to breaking motherboards to shitty software. Every new year there’s usually a best of Gordon’s rants episode, which is a must listen if you find Gordon’s rants funny.

Comedy

These podcasts are timeless. You can go back and listen to all of them like I’ve done.

Rooster Teeth Podcast

One of the funniest podcasts, various members of the Rooster Teeth company talk about ridiculous stories, gaming, current news and Science. They really don’t know much about Science, but the cast always tries to argue it out until someone say’s something so illogical, the cast and crew burst out into laughter. Moments like these are animated into short videos and posted to their YouTube channel as Rooster Teeth Animated Adventures.

It was the summer of 2013, between my first and second years of university, I was living back home trying to find work. I landed this landscaping job, being paid directly by the owners of a large Caledon estate, to fix up their property. That landscaping was fun but hard work. I discovered the Rooster Teeth Podcast early into the summer. Each day, I would be listening to maybe five or six episodes in an eight hour day. I blew through the backlog of episodes really fast and ended up listening to them all before the end of the summer.

Diggnation

What’s the latest crap from Digg, you might ask? Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht answered this tough question for 340 episodes from 2005 to 2012. The two would discuss the most interesting news bits on whichever sofa they landed on. Often very entertaining, Diggnation had me dying of laughter.

Software Development

Most, if not all of these Software Development podcasts are timeless. A lot of the topics discussed are still useful today. The only real difference is the adoption of the tools and methodologies. I usually look through the list of earlier episodes and listen to the ones that catch my eye. Once you’re hooked on a podcast, it’s not hard to find yourself downloading and listening to everything they have available.

The Ship Show

Sadly, this podcast just announced they’re ending the show a few days ago, so I’m still in my mourning stage at the moment, but The Ship Show has been a fun and informative source of everything release engineering, DevOps, and build engineering in big and small companies. The panel discusses new tools, methods and philosophies for improving parts of your tech company, often from firsthand experience. What makes this podcast special is that they delve into more of the technical and implementation details, which is great if you’re into that.

Arrested DevOps

The ADO podcast is made for people who don’t exactly know what this whole DevOps thing is about but would like to know. Matt Straton, the creator of the podcast makes this point often as he has learned DevOps from scratch. Each episode goes into depth on a DevOps related subject, often having guests from the industry who are knowledgeable in the topic to add more value to the discussion. A lot of the topics discussed are higher level than what is offered in The Ship Show, but Arrested DevOps is still as valuable since its important to understand the big picture and ask the big questions. Both Arrested DevOps and The Ship Show are complimentary to each other.

Software Engineering Radio

Sponsored by the IEEE, this podcast offers excellent interviews on a variety of Software Engineering topics. The episodes mainly consist of two or three people discussing a specific topic, whether it’s a technology or methodology. The time is taken to give listeners a good idea about the purpose and it’s usefulness. The interviewer often does their homework before performing the interview and therefore asks well thought out questions. Because the episodes cover such a wide breadth of topics, surfing through the past episodes is a must!

Software Engineering Daily

If Software Engineering Radio wasn’t good enough, Software Engineering Daily applies the same format and content to a daily schedule. The amazing producer and interviewer Jeff, also a current host on Software Engineering Radio, has amassed hundreds of episodes covering everything from technology, to business, to soft skills – all pertinent to any software engineer. Dozens of hours of content can be queued up for listening just by skimming through the history of episodes.

I wrote a post on marketing yourself from episode 243 with John Sonmez.

Runners up

Here’s a few podcasts that I’ve listened to for a long time, but didn’t make the list:

Floss Weekly – Randal Schwartz and other hosts interview open source software projects to share what the project is about. Generally pretty interesting, it’s cool to hear what people are doing in subjects that you’re usually not interested in or didn’t know existed.

Tekzilla – Great segments! Veronica Belmont and Patrick Norton were a killer team and shared great tips and tricks to do with technology.

Windows Weekly – Paul Thurott had the perfect level of satire as he talked about Windows products that no one uses, like Windows Home Server (I used it, so I can bash it), and things that people use, like Xbox and new Windows operating systems.

This Week in Google – Gina Trapani and Jeff Jarvais have excellent discussions about the cloud and everything Google.

Mahalo Daily – Veronica Belmont was the best in this short daily podcast format!


Update 2017-01-19: Added Software Engineering Daily

Market Yourself

Want to score your dream job and go work for Google, Netflix, Amazon, Github, and the like? The big question: “How do I do it?”

Market yourself, of course!

What do these companies want?

These companies only hire the best of the  best. But what does that really mean? You may see some of the following traits on job postings or you may pick them up from the people who already work at these companies:

  • Continuous improvement
  • Feedback/data driven
  • Solve the toughest/biggest problems
  • Extremely collaborative
  • Intuitive

“I’ve got all of those traits! I should have no problem getting hired”.

Sure, you may be qualified, but how do you stand out from the person beside you who’s as qualified as you are? There are plenty of methods that can make you stand out in the minds of recruiters, hiring managers, and even high level employees of the company.

Market Yourself

Marketing is the action of promoting and selling products or services

Marketing yourself is therefore promoting and selling your skills and providing value to a company.

Standing out from the crowd involves work! I listened to an excellent podcast from Software Engineering Radio titled SE Radio Episode 245: John Sonmez on Marketing Yourself and Managing Your Career. John provided some helpful methods on standing out from the crowd, getting noticed by the people who can help you get your dream job, and useful tips on managing your career to make it the best it can be.

A few of the methods mentioned in the podcast are listed below:

  • Get a blog and write a post every week
  • Specializing your career
  • Attending/presenting at meetups
  • Interact with the blogs/social media of developers at the target companies
  • Contribute to open-source projects

The bottom line is to be passionate about everything you do. When you’re giving off that vibe, others can’t help but notice the energy and detail put into everything: blog posts, conversations, presentations… the list is endless. More people remember an enthusiastic person than someone who’s not interested in what they’re talking about. Being detailed in your work is the bare minimum. Expression is key.

Blogging

Writing is one of the best mediums for sharing information. Blogging has the lowest barrier of entry. There is a huge and rich amount of content out there on anything and everything, especially in tech. Ideas are thrown back and forth, constantly iterated, all the while being kept around for others to read years later. One person’s blog post today is another person’s learning opportunity later. Read Why You Should Write Blogs by Steve Yegge for a deeper understanding of this powerful medium.

WordPress.com or Blogger are great services to get going. If you’re more technical, you can use GitHub Pages or even host your own. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter where it’s hosted or that you have a fancy domain name; all that matters is the content and what the readers get out of it.

Your blog can be about anything. I like writing about topics surrounding software development, both involving hard and soft skills. Having a prospective company see you go into depth on various topics gives them more confidence that you’re the right person for the job. Blogging also hones in your understanding of the topic you’re writing about and, over time, improves your communication skills.

There’s only so many people you can talk to. Writing allows you and your ideas to spread without limits.

Specializing

It’s best to be a specialist. Who’s going to receive a larger salary and gain more attention: a Fault-tolerant Docker Microservices Engineer or a Software Developer? Definitely the Fault-tolerant Docker Microservices Engineer.

Lets say I write a lot about fault-tolerant Docker microservices. To visitors of my website they can see that I know a lot about fault-tolerant Docker microservices. From now on they’ll associate me with being very informative and skilled in things fault-tolerant Docker microservices. Once the viewers have an understanding that I’m skilled in fault-tolerant Docker microservices I can expand to writing a lot about Docker microservices in general. I can then be known by others as the guy who knows a lot about Docker microservices. As time goes on and I become more popular I can expand to all of Docker and be known as the Docker guy.

Start small and specialize in a certain area. Its easier to stand out that way since you’re up against less and less people. Once people notice that you’re a specialist for subject X, the association will stick. From then on you can use this to your advantage. Say the company you’re wanting to work at is hiring for the job you’re specializing in. If people from the company know that you’re skilled in this subject they can recommend you to the hiring managers. You can use this tactic with some of the others listed here to get recommended by the employees of the company.

Attending Meetups

Going to a meetup and striking up a conversation with other attendees leaves a (hopefully) positive view of you on them. This is pretty much networking. In the podcast, John Sonmez stated that it is important to have a conversation with the individual without bugging them to help you get a job when you first meet. Meeting these people months before actually asking for their help to get a job improves your chances greatly since you’ve already met the person. It’s even better if you offer to help them. Then they’re more than likely to help you out and do whatever to pay you back.

Performing a talk at a meetup or conference is a great way to get noticed. The meetup or conference does a lot of the marketing for you already! Your name and title of the talk is advertised both at the venue and online. After the event a lot of references to you and the talk are put on the event’s website, YouTube recordings of your talk and news blogs. The viewers are trying to get as much useful information out of your talk. You have to prove that you have useful information. You’ll want to hook your viewers into wanting more information. At the beginning and end of the presentation you can mention your contact information (email, Twitter, GitHub, website..) and even offer a link where the viewer can go to get more information.

In the presentation, including links to extra materials can send those viewers to your blog, GitHub, or wherever else. Mentioning that you do consulting or are looking for an employer (only if you don’t have one!) puts the word out there since it can’t hurt.

Other Blogs and Social Media

Following and having useful conversations on the blogs of employees at the company you’re trying to get into, as well as the blogs of others in the same tech community gets you noticed over time. When a company is in the process of hiring, the employees can vouch for your skills, immediately putting you ahead of other candidates. If things go really well, the company can straight out offer you a position, bypassing the interview, giving you the upper hand at negotiating your salary, benefits and anything else.

Contribute to Open Source

Working on open source projects is one of the new contenders of things that tech companies are looking for in a developer. Its been proven by some companies already that they hire based on your GitHub profile. Contributing to an open source project or two shows that you’re capable of remotely working and good at collaborating with others. It also allows the hiring managers and recruiters to look at the code you write (eg. code style, design), something not shown on a resumé.

Even better, contributing to an open source project belonging to the company that you’re trying to get a job with looks very impressive when they start looking for candidates. If they can see all the contributions that you’ve made to their open source projects, it’ll look amazing since your skills have already shown business value. The company can more easily see the value you would bring to the software that they develop.

Working on your own side projects is always beneficial. It shows that you are creative and intuitive at solving your own problems and have the drive to make things better where you see fit.

Hacking the Interview

A few tricks were mentioned around hacking the interview. One of them mentioned earlier, is for the company to want to hire you right off the spot, bypassing the interview entirely. This could mean that you’ve received a recommendation from someone or your personal marketing has worked! This situation is pretty hard to get so the next tip is one we can all use to positively affect our interview outcome.

Another smart trick involves requesting “just five minutes to chat” sometime before the interview. Either over the phone or in person, this conversation allows you to talk freely with the interviewer to find out more about them and the company, including talking about yourself. Once your interview time comes along, the edge is already off since you’ve talked with the hiring manager already. Humans can be biased when it comes to mostly objective tasks such as finding the best candidate for a job. Once you get the interviewer to like you, they work in your favour, often weighing the candidates they like over others.

The Book

soft-skills-the-software-developers-life-manualMentioned in the podcast, John Sonmez has published a book titled Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual which sounds like a must read. He raises the point that the chapters are short, allowing for ~5 minute start-to-finish reads. There are 71 chapters in total, organized into seven sections. The section list is as follows:

  1. Career
  2. Marketing Yourself
  3. Learning
  4. Productivity
  5. Financial
  6. Fitness
  7. Spirit

I haven’t read the book yet, but I definitely will soon. I’m happy that I’m on the right track so far for my personal marketing based on the sections of this book. Besides the book sounding very helpful, you can’t knock the five stars and 178 reviews on Amazon.com!

Conclusion

It’s not an effortless path. Putting in the time and effort over months or years to market yourself gives big returns in the form of giving you more potential, allowing you to make the most of your career.

Take charge of your career. Follow your aspirations and make it count! I certainly will.

Hook, Line and Sinker: How My Early Interests Got Me to Where I Am Today

Having an exciting software job at a newly-acquired company is opening up so many possibilities, and making possible the projects that I want to accomplish to make things better. Whether its big projects like containerizing our multiple apps for scalability, implementing Continuous Delivery to ship our software faster, or smaller projects like versioning our dependencies for traceability and ease of deployment, or updating to the latest Java version for performance improvements and to use all the new libraries; it’s nonstop fun that upgrades my problem solving skills, improves the lives of our team and customers, and gives me a track record of making positive change.

After finishing school I can focus more on teaching myself new skills and technologies that I can use and apply during my professional career. Currently I listen to DevOps and software podcasts when I’m traveling to places and I read a few articles about Docker and other technologies when I have free time. My next logical step is to start applying the knowledge I’ve gained both at work and as side projects.

At least it’s not all bad in the academia life: this fourth year Computer Security class that I’m taking is immensely fun. I’m glad that I have a captivating class this semester. I can give credit to the Security Now podcast for which I’ve listened to around 500 of its 543 episodes as of this writing (read: 10 years of listening!), for giving me the practical knowledge of current security practices and news, diving deep into the details where necessary.

Dr Anil Somayaji, the professor of the Computer Security course, is an excellent lecturer and a hacker at his roots. His interactive teaching style makes the possibly dry subject of security interesting (if you think of security as dry. Who would?), and his course work is very useful in that it promotes self teaching and helping out others. Each week every student must submit a hacking journal. It consists of the student writing about their adventures, frustrations, successes and failures of hacking on security related things – whether that involves using Metasploit to break into a computer, putting a backdoor into OpenSSH, figuring out how to configure a firewall, etc. The list goes on and on. An online chatroom is used to share resources and chat with other members of the class to figure out hacking problems and interact with the professor. (Other classes should definitely start using this)

I’m glad to have had the drive to explore and learn when I was young. Throughout my childhood I would spend my time hacking gaming consoles, jailbreaking iPods, experimenting with Linux, and most of all having a website! Not this website, there was a website before jonsimpson.ca. It was jonniesweb.com. I prominently remember creating logos for my website in MS Paint, printing them out and putting it up beside the Canadian flag that was posted in my fifth grade class. I would use MS Front Page 97 to add jokes, pictures, cheat codes, YouTube and Google Video links, games, and referrals to other friend’s Piczo sites. I remember going through a few designs: spaced themed, blue themed, red themed… I even got interested in PHP and used a sweet template. Each iteration improving with content and coding skills.

Then middle school and high school caught up with me and I stopped updating the website. Sooner or later my dad stopped supporting my hobby, eventually letting the web hosting expire.

Fast forward a few years and what was once a childhood interest has turned into an education and career choice. Building a website sparked the fire, pursuing a degree gave me the drive, and doing co-op (soon to be full-time) at work has shown me the many different problems to be solved.

My plan is to work my ass off in all of my classes, finish up my degree and follow my passions, utilizing my knowledge and expressing my solutions at both my job and in my blog. Ultimately trying to build a successful and happy career.

At the moment I’m just glad that I don’t have a crappy professor.