Episode 59: Geoff Chan – Agency Founder, Path to Becoming a Web Developer, How We Learn, Finding Mentors

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Description:

Today I’m joined by Geoff Chan. He is the founder of a digital agency called StackFive. It’s a great conversation about his journey to becoming a web developer. We share our stories about how our Father’s influenced us along with others. “Getting in the reps”. One of the key ways he gets better at something is to set a goal to do an ‘X' number of projects and then backfilling that with other methods to learn how to do something.

Geoff and I took a similar path to learning that included learning ‘by doing’ projects and learning from others. I worked with people that helped me become a better developer; he did the same. He learned by being part of teams and finding smart people.. and asking lots of questions. Even dumb ones.

We end with what he’s doing today. He now runs a successful agency along with a partner and has built a 5-person team. It’s an inspiring episode! Especially for those that are building a career or business in tech. Enjoy!

Geoff Chan

Geoff Chan is a Founder of Stack Five, a boutique digital product development shop. Stack Five specializes in discovery driven UI/UX design and end-to-end product development with full-stack JavaScript.

Geoff started his career as a front-end developer, working at the largest non-profit in Canada, World Vision, for 6 years. His passion for building end-to-end solutions with JavaScript grew, and he left to work at a JavaScript dev shop and then a tech startup afterwards.

In 2018, he started Stack Five to apply his knowledge in helping clients. He partnered up with his longtime friend Jordan in 2019 and the two haven't looked back since.

Today Stack Five has 5 full-time employees and clients such as adidas, Reebok, Salesforce, and CFIB. They're focused on building a strong developer culture centered on learning, passion, and work life balance.

THE MEAT OF IT!

  • Intro
  • About Geoff
    • Originally from Singapore.. came here when he was 3.
    • Ontario, Canada
    • Interested in Tech Early on..
      • Dabbled in Web Development at age 13 ..
      • High School.. learned Flash.
      • Just for fun at this stage..
    • University
      • Wanted to be an animator at Pixar.
      • School for art. Multi-media.
    • When was getting married..
      • “Should probably get a job..”
      • Joined a Dev team.. there 6 years.
  • Who influenced him?
    • People instrumental in how he thinks about development..
    • Father, 10 businesses.. 9 failed. Last one stuck.
      • Entrepreneurial part of him.
    • Friend in high school.
  • WordPress got him interested in the web..
    • Final year thesis project at university.. building a theme.
    • First experience with server side stuff. Big stuff in knowledge.
  • Sharing out experiences building sites with WordPress before it was a full CMS.
  • Sharing more Dad Stories..
    • Matt’s Dad’s tech background ..
    • Geoff’s Dad’s Exhaust business is the one that succeeded.. and his theory why it succeeded.
  • The Transition from working for someone else to his own business
    • Going from cutting, pasting.. to writing JS. Time to go all in.
    • The Decision: Become the BEST JS Developer I can be.
    • Learning more backend..
  • After 6 years.. left for another Dev shop.
    • Learned Angular .. learned a lot there.
  • LEARNING WEB DEV: How he learned through ‘building projects’. Getting the reps in!
    • Wasn’t so much about the idea.. it was just getting in the reps.
    • Getting used to the tech.. getting better at the coding.
    • Identifying the gaps.
    • Traditional education never really worked for him..
      • Best courses are project driven.
    • Knowledge when you need it.. when it’s applicable to what you’re trying to do.
  • Going from Copy/Paste/Hacking to learning the code… line by line.
  • Learning BY DOING.
  • THE Feeling of learning..
    • The fog lifts.
    • The feeling of ‘getting it’.. feeling more legitimate.
  • Building your first functions.
  • Benefits of getting deeper with the code.. learning the mechanics.
    • Broader understanding of the ‘stack’.
  • LEARN FROM OTHERS: Learning from more senior developers ..
    • Taking advantage of that.. asking lots of questions. Even stupid ones.
    • Finding a mentor.
    • Someone that can inspire you .. encourage you.
    • Working with TEAMS in general.. people doing what you’re doing.
  • Finding the confidence..
    • What you know.. is enough.
  • Seeing the amazing people on social media..
    • The super smart.. are outliers..
  • What he’s doing today.
    • Started doing contract work and started StackFive
      • Doing the same stuff earlier in career..
    • Brought a partner in.. 2019
    • 2020 .. things shut down. Lost business.
    • Just tried to keep busy.
    • Things started changing in the market..
    • He started doing more business development.
      • Reaching out to his network.
    • Started getting leads for projects..
    • End of 2020 .. got busy, 6-7 contracted developers helping.
    • 2021 hired first employee. First official team member.
    • Grew team to 5.
    • Why the name StackFive?
    • Things are going really well.
  • Making the shift from developer to managing the business, marketing ..
    • What he’s doing for marketing.
    • Niche Service company.. figuring out how to market themselves.
    • Outsourcing to marketing agency.
    • Getting the foundation in place.
  • His experience doing his first podcast.
    • Motivated to do more of these.
    • His imposter syndrome .. overcoming that.
    • Helped push him out of his comfort zone.
Matt Levenhagen
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