Dave Balzer
Observations from a Dev Coach

DogFoodCon 2016 Just the Beginning

October 7th, 2016


My First Conference Talk

For quite some time now, I have had a goal to start speaking at conferences. The biggest challenge to this has been my imposter syndrome.  I always feel as though what I have to offer is somehow less valuable than that of others.  I also think that I’m probably one of the least interesting people I know.  These factors have always kept me from writing an abstract and submitting when the call-for-speakers goes out.  After all, what better way to avoid rejection than to not try in the first place.  I have started to overcome my anxiety and realize that if I want to be a part of this community I have to do something about it.

I got the opportunity to do my first talk at DogFoodCon in Columbus, OH on October 6, 2016.  When I was presented with the opportunity, at first I wanted to run from it, but I took on the challenge and overcame my doubts.  The result?  I had a great time!  The session went very well despite a short visit from the “Demo Gods.”

My talk, “A Gentle Introduction to .Net Core,” was well received.  I expected a decent crowd given the shiny newness of the technology, but I didn’t anticipate that it would be standing room only.  As my time concluded I had a good number of people stay to ask questions and discuss the future of this new direction that Microsoft is taking with .Net.

In addition to the success of my talk, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to spend time with a number of the other speakers.  Some of which I have followed for a long time.  It was fun to get their advice and feedback.  I hope to get to know more people in this area as time goes on.  I have always believed the way to improve is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and be willing to act on their input.

In retrospect, I can say that I am hooked.  I intend to find more opportunities to speak and more chances to share what I’ve learned over the course of my career.  No longer will I sit by and fear putting myself out there and trying things.  The only way to achieve your desires is to stop waiting for perfection and just start.


I wanted to take a moment to thank the organizers of this conference for all the hard work they put in to stage such a wonderful event.  Their enthusiasm and professionalism carried over into every area.  I was impressed with the quality of this conference and will recommend it to others in the future.

Shepherd or Sheep Herder

September 15th, 2016

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What kind of Leader are you?

I have come to believe the concept of leadership has become skewed over time.  In today’s culture supervisors, managers, and executives often find themselves chasing people around with the proverbial “big stick” to get results.  Hours are spent producing utilization reports.  Meetings are convened to discuss dips in productivity.  Correction is swift, but rewards are rare.  In many of the organizations I have been a part of, there is a lack of understanding of true leadership.

I recently heard a comparison of the traditional middle-eastern shepherd and the western sheep herder.  The shepherd is gentle with his sheep.  He builds a bond of trust with them.  He protects them from threats.  He makes sure all their needs are met.  As a result, they trust and follow him wherever he decides to lead them.  By contrast, the sheep herder drives his sheep.  He often moves them by fear with dogs nipping at their heels.

The employees in your organization are like sheep.  I know this is a cliche, but it seems appropriate given the title of the post.  Granted, both methods may result in outcomes that on the surface appear to benefit the organizational goals. The actual differences become apparent over time.  Those employees who have a “shepherd” type of leader are inspired to follow.  They respond out of respect and trust.  They operate with a single-minded focus and shared belief in the organization.  These are people that are more likely to be content in their job and less likely to be searching for “greener pastures” (pardon the pun).  Conversely, employees who are under a “sheep herder” type leader are less likely to take total ownership of their work.  These are the people that can often be heard complaining about the state of things.  The quality of their work will often decline over time as fear has a way of losing its effect with long-term exposure.  These are people that will likely jump on any opportunity that comes their way to leave the company.

I know this is not a thorough treatise on effective leadership, but I found the analogy intriguing and wanted to consider the type of leader I want to be.  Being a sheep herder is easy, being a shepherd is a lot more difficult.  It requires time, patience, diligence, consistency, and care.  However, I would much rather embark on the more difficult path and inspire people to follow rather than push for results using fear.  I hope to embody the role of shepherd in my leadership style.

Having a Work Family

August 27th, 2016

Together We Are Family

Starting Over

I find myself inspired to begin blogging again.  I not only blogged years ago but ran an entire blog community.  Life got busy, situations changed, and I found myself stepping away.  Over the years I have begun to miss blogging as an outlet for my thoughts and ideas.  I find that when I write about a topic, it helps me solidify the message in my mind.  For me, blogging is not so much about what wisdom I can provide to the world through my words, but more about the lessons I’m learning and helping me to give roots to the subject.

I probably would not have come back to blogging if it wasn’t for my work family.  They have inspired me to pursue once again the things that make me a better programmer, teacher, and person in my career.  Being more involved in blogging, speaking, and the tech community have been a big part of my goals for many years, but I just haven’t found the time to devote to making these a reality.  No More!  I am endeavoring to clean out the cobwebs and start blogging again.  Blogging is my second step into pushing myself back into community involvement again.

Dev Coaches

The first step I took toward my goals was in launching the Dev Coaches Podcast.  Podcasting was an idea we started kicking around almost a year ago now, but I finally took the initiative to bring to life.  It is a show that I do with my work family.  The purpose of the show is to help software developers advance their careers or those interested in the field to learn a bit more about it and navigate the challenges of breaking into the field.

We have been doing the show for just over a month at the time of writing.  We have released five episodes and have two more in the can ready to go.  It has been a fun journey already.  The first few episodes were rough as we were all coming to grips with being comfortable in front of the mic, but the content is getting better as we progress.  Additionally, the sound was a challenge to start with, but we have been adding the equipment we need to do a more professional job recording.  Over time I think the quality of both the content and production will continue to improve.

The Software Guild

After nearly 17 years of working as a software developer, I pivoted in my career and took a job as a Lead Instructor at The Software Guild in Akron, OH.  I was brought in by Eric Wise, the founder.  Eric and I had known each other for many years having first worked together over a decade ago.  I had lots of respect for him and was very interested in helping people better their lives with a new career.  When he called me to join the staff, I jumped at the opportunity.  I love what I do.  One of my primary desires is to help people.  Getting to do this while incorporating in my second passion (software development) means I’m working in my dream job.  Working at the guild set me on a new path.

My Work Family

You’ll notice that throughout this post I have referred to my co-workers as family.  That is because they are more to me than colleagues or even friends.  They are family.  Few people ever get the opportunity to work with a group of associates who are all marching the same direction with the same goals.  Without opportunism, political aspirations, and corporate ladder climbing.  Somehow, I have found just that.  All I can say is I am blessed to work with some of the finest people I have ever had the privilege to know.

No situation is perfect.  Families still have disagreements, hard feelings, and misunderstandings, but what I have found is special.  As a staff, we care about one another, support one another, have each other’s backs, and all work together in ways I never dreamed were possible before.  All I can say is I am blessed to work with some of the finest people I have ever had the privilege to know.

It is their encouragement, enthusiasm, and example that has pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and back into the community.  Starting with podcasting and blogging.  Next speaking and user groups.  What may follow?  That’s yet to be seen, but I’m excited to find out.