Episode 11

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Published on:

26th Jul 2022

S1 E11: The Rejections are Flowing In (Kathryn / @kathryngrayson)

Kathryn Grayson Nanz joins the show to talk about her origin story, how she got started in graphic design and after being pulled into the front-end developer life had a surprise turn and became a developer advocate.

We discuss her joy for conferences, the differences between online and in-person conferences as well as what it's like to face rejection and some tips for getting out there and trying it out yourself!

Transcript
Eddie:

Welcome to Episode 11 of the WebJoy podcast.

Eddie:

I'm your host, Eddie.

Eddie:

In this podcast, we interview guests about their origin story and what

Eddie:

makes them excited and joyful to be part of the tech community.

Eddie:

I hope you enjoy today's episode.

Eddie:

"The Rejections are Flowing In" with Kathryn Grayson Nanz.

Eddie:

Hey, Kathryn.

Eddie:

Thanks for joining us today.

Eddie:

I am very excited to have you on, particularly, there's been a lot of

Eddie:

different people on the podcast, but you're the first person that- okay.

Eddie:

I don't actually know in real life, cuz we've never actually met real

Eddie:

life, but we have been had meetings.

Kathryn:

Yeah.

Eddie:

I know.

Eddie:

It feels like I know you in person, even though I don't.

Kathryn:

I mean, we worked together for over a year, something like that, about a

Kathryn:

year and yeah, it just so happened to be right at the beginning at the height of

Kathryn:

the pandemic when no one was traveling.

Kathryn:

And so there were no in person work meetings or work retreats or anything.

Kathryn:

It's such a strange thought that yeah we never have actually been in the same room.

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

Yeah, exactly.

Eddie:

we had one person come on the team, right before you, that literally

Eddie:

was right as the pandemic hit.

Eddie:

And so they were the first person to not actually fly out and

Eddie:

meet me and go to the office.

Eddie:

And then you were the second.

Eddie:

So yeah, it was sad.

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

Well that's okay.

Kathryn:

I feel certain that at some point our paths will

Kathryn:

cross . I'm not too worried.

Eddie:

No, that is for sure.

Eddie:

Yeah, so we worked together at ThreatConnect and got to enjoy working

Eddie:

with each other and chatting, I know you, but all of our wonderful audience

Eddie:

doesn't so how about you let them know who you are, what you do, where you

Eddie:

work, you know, just a brief intro.

Kathryn:

Yeah, absolutely.

Kathryn:

My name is Kathryn Grayson Nanz.

Kathryn:

I am now the developer relations person for Kendo React at Progress.

Kathryn:

I'm a front-end engineer, UI designer, dabbled in a little bit of all of

Kathryn:

that kind of front-end-y stuff before moving over into dev rel and dev

Kathryn:

advocacy been really happy doing that.

Eddie:

Awesome.

Eddie:

Let's see a short version of how you got involved in tech.

Eddie:

Cause you've done a lot of movement.

Kathryn:

I wandered around.

Kathryn:

Yeah.

Kathryn:

it was a journey.

Kathryn:

Yeah.

Eddie:

Tell us what your journey's been like.

Kathryn:

Yeah.

Kathryn:

I actually started off thinking that I was going to be working in graphic design.

Kathryn:

That was what I went to school for.

Kathryn:

Got a fine arts degree.

Kathryn:

And in a couple years after that, working for Ad Agencies, mostly kind of bopping

Kathryn:

around and then it was becoming more and more common for graphic designers to

Kathryn:

also be expected to do some web design.

Kathryn:

It was one of those things where I feel like it was right on the cusp for it.

Kathryn:

I had to take like one class in web design to graduate and it was very much

Kathryn:

done begrudgingly by my professors.

Kathryn:

You know, like they say, we have to teach you this now, but

Kathryn:

like whatever kind of thing.

Kathryn:

But then working, it was like, oh, this is actually a lot of fun.

Kathryn:

I'm actually enjoying this.

Kathryn:

I dabbled a little bit, took a Java class in high school and stuff and had

Kathryn:

made my own websites and customized my MySpace page and whatever . And so

Kathryn:

having just enough HTML and CSS to be dangerous meant that I ended up getting

Kathryn:

put on a bunch of web design projects.

Kathryn:

Just cuz I knew what people were talking about and the more of them I

Kathryn:

did, the more I was like, this is fun.

Kathryn:

This is really fun.

Kathryn:

I kinda wandered.

Kathryn:

Graphic design into web design, into web development, into UI design and

Kathryn:

development and app development and front end engineering specifically

Kathryn:

and one thing led to another.

Kathryn:

I did HTML email development for a minute I just kept trying stuff to

Kathryn:

see what was fun and what stuck and bounced around between jobs for a

Kathryn:

bit and just tried things out and I was feeling settled as a front-end

Kathryn:

engineer, when someone at progress reached out to me and was like, you

Kathryn:

ever thought about developer relations?

Kathryn:

I no, but tell me more.

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

So what you're saying is that programming like slowly drew you

Eddie:

in and we took you over to the dark side and then devel stole you.

Kathryn:

It's been interesting.

Kathryn:

Cause that was one of the things I was really like worried about.

Kathryn:

I remember asking like a thousand times during the interview process

Kathryn:

I don't wanna forget how to code.

Kathryn:

I don't wanna lose my skillset.

Kathryn:

And they were like, don't worry.

Kathryn:

which was true.

Kathryn:

I'm still coding so much doing workshops and demos and building

Kathryn:

out sample stuff with our product and working with our dev team.

Kathryn:

But I joke to everyone that it took me a long time to get used to not

Kathryn:

living my life in two weeks sprint

Kathryn:

It's just different when you're not developing a product and

Kathryn:

working constantly in product cycles in quite the same way.

Kathryn:

But yeah, still fun.

Eddie:

Probably a nice change of pace, right?

Eddie:

After being in sprints and cycles for a while, to be able to, Hey,

Eddie:

work on this little project and work on that little project.

Kathryn:

There was definitely a couple months of rough adjustment where I was

Kathryn:

like, who's assigning me JIRA tickets.

Kathryn:

What am I supposed do I have to assign me JIRA tickets,

Eddie:

Please tell me you don't actually use Jira.

Kathryn:

I don't use JIRA, but I do use a Kanban Board.

Kathryn:

To this day, my life has still lived in the like Kanban Columns.

Kathryn:

So do not.

Eddie:

I mean, Kaban columns is fine.

Eddie:

If you move to dev rel, I feel like you have earned the right to step out of

Eddie:

JIRA, the all encompassing eye of JIRA.

Kathryn:

I do technically have an account so that I can look at stuff

Kathryn:

that our dev team is working on.

Kathryn:

Cause they work in Jira every once in a blue moon I'll pop in and I'm

Kathryn:

like, oh yeah, didn't miss that.

Kathryn:

I'm good.

Kathryn:

I live mostly out of notion now

Eddie:

Nice.

Kathryn:

so you get my new, like home base.

Eddie:

Well see, we probably should have made the topic

Eddie:

about Notion, but that's okay.

Eddie:

We're, we're already in this thing.

Eddie:

But because you We're trying to subvert into using notion

Eddie:

at our last job together.

Kathryn:

I'm a big notion of fan

Eddie:

So I, I'm not surprised that you are in Notion

Kathryn:

Yes.

Kathryn:

(laughing).

Kathryn:

I'm getting to be a hardcore fan.

Eddie:

I can appreciate it.

Eddie:

I've tried bits and pieces of it here and there, but I put stuff

Eddie:

in there and then I never go back to it much like my to-do app.

Eddie:

So it just kind of sits and gets dusty.

Kathryn:

Everyone's gotta find something, some process that works for them.

Kathryn:

And I don't think it's ever gonna be the same for two people, which

Kathryn:

is probably why everyone hates Jira.

Eddie:

That's true.

Eddie:

Everyone is different and Jira is trying to be one thing to all

Eddie:

people and that's gonna, Yeah.

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

Awesome.

Eddie:

Well, alas, we aren't talking about Notion today.

Eddie:

But we have some other really fun stuff to talk about.

Eddie:

So, you know, this podcast is all about what brings us joy.

Eddie:

And so you've been doing some stuff recently that brings you joy.

Kathryn:

Yeah.

Kathryn:

I try to think about it when you first posed that question to me.

Kathryn:

I really liked.

Kathryn:

I feel like it's something that we don't talk about enough in tech it's

Kathryn:

so easy to like gripe or complain about, whatever's not working for us.

Kathryn:

The idea of like, what are you doing that you've been really into recently?

Kathryn:

It is like, yeah, what am I doing?

Kathryn:

and after a little bit of thought for me, the answer was definitely

Kathryn:

getting back to tech conferences and speaking at conferences.

Kathryn:

That was something that I have always dabbled in.

Kathryn:

but back before I was a developer advocate, it was something that I had to

Kathryn:

fit in outside of my, nine to five job.

Kathryn:

And you wanna figure out the work life balance.

Kathryn:

I enjoyed doing it.

Kathryn:

I liked the ways that it helped my career.

Kathryn:

I enjoyed the experience of being at conferences.

Kathryn:

But also they were a lot of work and so do 1, maybe, 2 conferences a year.

Kathryn:

Now it is 1, maybe 2, conferences a month, it feels like

Kathryn:

And it's been really interesting to approach that with the new mentality

Kathryn:

that's part of my job and get to dedicate a bunch of time to working

Kathryn:

on talks and writing things and getting to attend so many conferences.

Kathryn:

Especially.

Kathryn:

I don't wanna say post pandemic, cuz we're not really post pandemic, post

Kathryn:

the height of the pandemic with things opening back up a little bit, in person

Kathryn:

conferences have been back and it's been a real joy to get to be in the

Kathryn:

same room with other folks and to feel that energy and make those connections.

Kathryn:

So that's really been something that's been lighting me up recently.

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

Particularly, I think you went to React Miami, right?

Kathryn:

Yep.

Kathryn:

That was my last in person one that I did, gosh, I think just

Kathryn:

three or four weeks ago, maybe.

Kathryn:

And that was a blast.

Kathryn:

That was fantastic.

Eddie:

I saw all the photos on Twitter that people were posting.

Eddie:

And I was like, ah, that looks so fun.

Kathryn:

It was just genuinely they were just having a great time.

Kathryn:

It was so fun.

Kathryn:

It was one of the most fun conferences that I've done.

Kathryn:

And it was great to get to run away to Miami while it was still a little bit

Kathryn:

cold back home and be like, all right.

Kathryn:

This is work.

Kathryn:

I get to hang out here, under the Palm trees and talking about React,

Kathryn:

all right, I can get used to this.

Kathryn:

I can see that.

Kathryn:

I've gotten to do a few.

Kathryn:

I was in Knoxville for code stock a couple of weeks before that , I've

Kathryn:

done a few online conferences.

Kathryn:

I've got code land coming up with, Forem Dev.To and, Code Newbies.

Kathryn:

That'll be an online one that I'm still very hyped about.

Kathryn:

I'll be in St.

Kathryn:

Louis for Dev Up in, uh, two, three weeks.

Kathryn:

That's sooner than I thought.

Eddie:

Wow.

Kathryn:

Then I'll get to go React Next in Tel Aviv at the end of June, which is like

Eddie:

That's exciting

Kathryn:

what?

Kathryn:

That's insane.

Kathryn:

So it's definitely been, it's been something that I very much thrown

Kathryn:

myself into this conference season and it's been just so much fun.

Eddie:

What do you feel like you've missed most about conferences?

Eddie:

Right?

Eddie:

There was definitely a lull, during the height of the pandemic.

Eddie:

And there was some stuff online.

Eddie:

I can't remember if you did a lot of them online or not.

Kathryn:

Yeah, there were definitely a couple, I did

Kathryn:

ByteConf React sometime in 2020.

Kathryn:

I did one of the WomenWhoCode conferences , I believe Connect Reimagine, and

Kathryn:

then more recently have done, the Women in Tech Summit and did Web

Kathryn:

Directions Hover the CSS conference.

Kathryn:

And those are they're great.

Kathryn:

I think there's honestly.

Kathryn:

So much good to be said for online conferences, especially in terms of,

Kathryn:

accessibility and allowing people to attend, who might not have previously

Kathryn:

been able to attend a conference in person cause in person has a lot

Kathryn:

of barriers in terms of travel and childcare and financial obligations.

Kathryn:

And it can be really hard to set aside what three, four days in the middle of

Kathryn:

a week to, run off and do a conference.

Kathryn:

I'm glad that we've seen a rise in online conferences and at the same time,

Kathryn:

it's very hard to replicate the energy of a room full of people who are all

Kathryn:

really excited about the same thing.

Kathryn:

so I kind of waffle back and forth.

Kathryn:

I think both are good.

Kathryn:

I think both.

Kathryn:

Kinda serve different purposes and have different goals.

Kathryn:

And I enjoy doing both, but for me, I think especially after the

Kathryn:

extended isolation of COVID times, it's been especially gratifying

Kathryn:

to be back in a room with people.,

Eddie:

(laughing) yeah, I remember, like when I got a job working with a

Eddie:

government contractor they had in the budget, to be able to send a couple

Eddie:

people to a conference every year.

Eddie:

I remember getting to go.

Eddie:

I was in DC area and Esri, the geospatial company, they're out in San Diego.

Eddie:

So they had the conference in Palm Springs.

Eddie:

And so in February, I got to leave DC where it was cold and

Eddie:

horrible and go to Palm Springs where it was warm and enjoyable.

Eddie:

And I remember cuz it.

Eddie:

Government related and stuff the car rental is covered

Eddie:

and the hotel is covered.

Eddie:

I remember that was the feeling.

Eddie:

I feel like I hadn't made it.

Eddie:

I was in tech.

Eddie:

I was like, here I am at this cool conference in a warm sunny place.

Eddie:

Having fun.

Eddie:

This is awesome.

Kathryn:

Absolutely.

Kathryn:

Oh yeah.

Kathryn:

My husband keeps joking.

Kathryn:

He's like, when are you gonna start applying to more conferences in Hawaii?

Kathryn:

like, can you try to apply to a conference in, in Paris?

Kathryn:

all right, babe.

Kathryn:

I'll work on it.

Eddie:

JS Conf Hawaii does exist.

Kathryn:

I would love to go.

Kathryn:

I'll put that out there.

Kathryn:

I have applied before and it's not worked out.

Kathryn:

I'll manifest it right here.

Kathryn:

I would

Eddie:

that's

Kathryn:

to

Eddie:

That's right.

Eddie:

Yeah, for sure.

Eddie:

Well and in that topic, for people who might be interested in speaking

Eddie:

at conferences it can be intimidating.

Eddie:

I think right before we get into that it's good to call out and say,

Eddie:

Hey, you applied to JS Conf Hawaii.

Eddie:

I'm sure you've applied to other ones.

Kathryn:

Oh, I get rejected all the time.

Kathryn:

yeah, yeah.

Kathryn:

That's something that I think almost hit home more once applying to

Kathryn:

conferences and speaking at conferences became part of my full time job was

Kathryn:

the reality of I literally can spend almost as much time as I want on this.

Kathryn:

I have the resources thanks to my company.

Kathryn:

And I still get declined.

Kathryn:

I would say probably.

Kathryn:

60% of the time.

Kathryn:

I'm trying to think what the numbers actually are.

Kathryn:

I do keep track of it.

Kathryn:

so, uh, I don't know if that's a good or bad thing for me mentally.

Kathryn:

But I made a little in notion I have a little table of everything that

Kathryn:

I've applied to and where it is.

Kathryn:

And is it virtual or is it in person and how long are the session things just so

Kathryn:

I can keep 'em all straight in my head.

Kathryn:

And as part of that, I'll just mark, you know, accepted, declined, whatever.

Kathryn:

And I get plenty of rejections.

Kathryn:

Like plenty of places are thanks, but no thanks.

Kathryn:

I think that's totally okay honestly, cuz so much of it has nothing to do with

Kathryn:

a reflection of your skills or anything.

Kathryn:

They're just trying to balance a set of offerings and they're looking at

Kathryn:

your topic and they're looking at the general vibe and what they wanna focus

Kathryn:

on and what's hot this year and what they think will draw people in and

Kathryn:

just trying to check boxes to make sure they've got an offering that's

Kathryn:

balanced and interesting and on trend.

Kathryn:

Sometimes it's not gonna shake out in your favor and that's, uh, them's the breaks.

Kathryn:

I don't know.

Eddie:

Yeah, For sure.

Kathryn:

I've always kind of joked with this.

Kathryn:

And also with job applications, it's truly just a numbers game.

Kathryn:

The more you can put out, even if you're submitting the

Kathryn:

exact same thing everywhere.

Kathryn:

And I also double dip plenty, and I'll give the same talk wherever, you know, but

Kathryn:

I'll submit the same thing with the same description and the same all the way down.

Kathryn:

And some places will like it and some places won't and that's just life.

Eddie:

Yeah, that makes sense.

Eddie:

And I actually did my first application for a talk or whatnot,

Eddie:

submission for a talk to code land and they accepted you, but alas

Eddie:

rejected me.

Eddie:

that's okay.

Kathryn:

one was tight.

Kathryn:

I didn't realize until I got the email, what a small speaker set that was,

Kathryn:

I think there's only like, 13 or 15 talks, which like, again, for a lot

Kathryn:

of conferences will be really big and have like multiple tracks and might

Kathryn:

have, you know, 30 or 40 speakers.

Kathryn:

And so to see that one was oh yeah, of course the numbers are

Kathryn:

not in anyone's favorite there

Kathryn:

. Eddie: Yep.

Kathryn:

So.

Kathryn:

Put yourself out there.

Kathryn:

If you're interested in speaking at conferences.

Kathryn:

I got rejected my first time.

Kathryn:

It's okay.

Kathryn:

I'm gonna take that and throw it to another.

Kathryn:

And Kathryn gets rejected plenty 60%.

Kathryn:

So

Kathryn:

Yeah.

Kathryn:

I guess it's probably higher so it probably should have been like 65 or 70,

Eddie:

the longer the podcast goes on the higher than number

Kathryn:

It's just gonna keep getting the, the rejections are flowing in as we speak

Kathryn:

but Yeah, I think, especially when you're new and you're still figuring out there's

Kathryn:

a little bit of like salesmanship to it too, in terms of framing, what you've

Kathryn:

got and being confident in your offering.

Kathryn:

And especially if you've got other work, if there's stuff you can

Kathryn:

point to and be like, here are some other talks I've given, here's some

Kathryn:

blog posts, I've written, those things all help your chances too.

Kathryn:

Cause it lets the organizers see a little bit of who you are and

Kathryn:

how you speak and how you write.

Kathryn:

Kinda how you approach things and it's never a bad thing to be able to point them

Kathryn:

to things and be like, here's my vibe.

Kathryn:

See if I make the vibe check.

Eddie:

That's good.

Eddie:

Well, as we wrap up today, I always like to say as a community,

Eddie:

we love to support each other.

Eddie:

And so just wanted to see what are you working on?

Eddie:

What would you like to throw out there for the community to check out?

Kathryn:

Yeah.

Kathryn:

I mean, I gotta give props to Kendo React, which is obviously the component

Kathryn:

library that I am the Dev Rel for, but we just had two released and we've got

Kathryn:

some great new stuff in there and it's honestly just a really great, I know.

Kathryn:

You kind of go, yeah, yeah, sure.

Kathryn:

They pay you to say that and yeah to an extent, but also I was really

Kathryn:

hesitant about third party component libraries before I worked here.

Kathryn:

And Eddie can vouch because I was building one from the ground up at

Kathryn:

ThreatConnect to basically avoid.

Kathryn:

That was what I was doing before.

Kathryn:

I worked at Progress.

Kathryn:

And I was really hesitant cuz I had such frustration dealing with those

Kathryn:

kind of third party libraries and trying to like design around them,

Kathryn:

especially as a UI designer and working in CSS and trying to override styles.

Kathryn:

So they really had to sell me to come over and talk about Kendo.

Kathryn:

I really believe that they've done a good job of prioritizing

Kathryn:

the designer experience just as much as the developer experience.

Kathryn:

And that was what sold me, what got me on board, and what I think

Kathryn:

makes them really different.

Kathryn:

So there was my spiel, But yeah, if you check it out, you can

Kathryn:

go to Kendo react.com, free 30 day trial experiment with it.

Kathryn:

Play as much as you like, uh, at me on Twitter, ask questions.

Kathryn:

I'm always happy to talk Kendo with folks.

Eddie:

Awesome.

Eddie:

Well, you heard it.

Eddie:

They literally converted her from being anti third party libraries to actually.

Eddie:

Telling people to use Kendo.

Eddie:

So it must be good if they got her over.

Eddie:

So check it out.

Kathryn:

folks

Eddie:

Well, thank you for joining us today, Kathryn.

Eddie:

It's been so fun.

Kathryn:

Yeah.

Kathryn:

Thank you so much for having me.

Kathryn:

This was great.

Eddie:

Thanks for joining us for Episode 11: "The Rejections are

Eddie:

Flowing In" with Kathryn Grayson Nanz.

Eddie:

You can find out more about Kathryn on her website, kgrayson.com

Eddie:

or her Twitter @KathrynGrayson.

Eddie:

You can find links to everything we talked about in this episode, as

Eddie:

well as a link to Kathryn's website and Twitter in the show notes.

Eddie:

If you enjoyed this episode, help others discover it as well

Eddie:

by rating and reviewing it in your favorite podcast directory.

Eddie:

And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @WebJoyFM

Eddie:

thank you for listening.

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About the Podcast

WebJoy
Find your happy place
The WebJoy podcast is an inclusive community centered on celebrating the diverse origins, skills, and experiences that make up the tech industry.

Talking with guests about their origin stories, what they love about working in their roles, and what they find joy in keeps this an upbeat and rather lighthearted podcast.

We approach the world with optimism and hope, while recognizing the flaws and challenges within our own industry and the world at large. We believe that if we work together, we can all find our happy place.

About your host

Profile picture for Eddie Hinkle

Eddie Hinkle

Eddie's mission is to bring joy and empathy to the tech industry. He does this through engineering leadership, mentoring and podcasting. Eddie currently works as an Engineering Manager at Glassdoor, Mentors on ADPList and hosts the WebJoy podcast.