Real Talk with Jarvis Johnson

/dev/color
The Compiler
Published in
5 min readJan 3, 2018

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Meet Jarvis Johnson, Senior Software Engineer at Patreon and member of /dev/color.

Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Education: Georgia Institute of Technology

A Quote to Live by: “Done is better than perfect.”

Connect with Jarvis: on his Twitter.

Tell us a bit about your early years.

I grew up in a college town in Florida called Gainesville (Go Gators!). I was a creative kid, I used to draw every day and write scripts based on my favorite cartoons (mostly dragon ball z) and act them out with my friends.

How did you get started in software?

My best friend taught me how to write simple programs on my TI-84 calculator in high school. I was mystified that I could bring my ideas to life even on that small scale.

Later on, I listened to a podcast about computer-related majors and thought computer science sounded cool. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

What are you focusing most of your time on now?

I’m really passionate about making life easier for content creators. At Patreon, I’m working on some creator tools that are going to save creators countless hours of manual labor every month which is super exciting for me. Aside from that, I spend a ton of my personal time making youtube videos, podcasts, and doing improv.

What is the most interesting technical challenge you’ve worked on recently?

I worked on an end-to-end video delivery pipeline at work for an app we’re working on similar to instagram/snapchat stories.

To establish our performance benchmarks, I spent some time at the end of the project reverse-engineering instagram’s api to see where their performance comes from, both actual and perceived.

There’s a ton of depth there, but it was cool to see how much we could achieve with a small team (4 client eng and me on the backend).

Please state 2–3 of your current career goals? Why are these important to you?

  1. I’m actively looking to improve my skills as a leader. I feel really passionately about enabling others to succeed. I was a TA in college and got a lot out of helping people get to where they want to be, so I’ve been seeking opportunities at work for more ways to contribute along that front.
  2. Additionally, I want to contribute in my organization to processes that have a high impact on the growth of the company. We just raised a new round of funding, so it’s a very exciting time. One of my goals is to build resources in the form of documents and talks that allow for consistent and effective onboarding for new engineers joining the company.

Give an example of a recent time you’ve helped a fellow engineer. What lessons can be taken from their situation?

I made a video a few weeks back about my experiences with imposter syndrome and how that affected me throughout school and internships. Unexpectedly, a young engineer who’d had a similar experience in her internship at the same company reached out to me. She told me that she still felt like she didn’t belong and that she hadn’t “gotten over” her imposter syndrome like I had.

I then found myself having this exchange of experiences with a random stranger on the internet. We talked about how feeling a sense of belonging in tech is a journey and you’re never quite done with it. The lessons that can be taken from their situation are the following: You _do_ belong exactly where you are, you are good enough, and finally, you’re not alone — finding a community, whether that’s in person or online can be incredibly powerful in reassuring you and contextualizing your place in the world. I’ve always felt like the odd one out, so it’s comforting to know that there are others like me out there. You’ve just have to look.

In what areas can /dev/color members reach out to you for help?

  • Preparing for technical interviews
  • Backend web development
  • Data structures and algorithms
  • Technical communication

As a member of /dev/color you are also committed to developing yourself. Can you share some areas you are looking to improve?

I’m always looking to improve my time management skills. It’s my only defense against this whole “24 hours in a day” thing. I’m also trying to become a better leader, both technical and non, because I love to enable others to achieve their goals.

Can you speak about any passions outside of programming?

I’m a big comedy nerd. I do improv comedy in SF and I make youtube videos! youtube.com/jarvisjohnson. I really enjoy connecting with the community over there. I comment on tech stuff, but really I just want to share my experiences as a young professional trying to figure out their place in the world, often through a comedic lens because it’s the only way I know how.

Why is being a part of an organization like /dev/color important to you?

When I moved out here, it was immediately apparent how few people in the industry looked like me. /dev/color is a wonderful connector for black software engineers. I believe there’s strength in numbers and the stronger we are as a whole, the more we can inspire the younger generations that are coming up and challenge the stereotypes that surround both the black community and tech. We’re building role models here.

/dev/color is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower Black software engineers to help one another grow into industry leaders. We create environments where Black software engineers can learn from one another and hold one another accountable for reaching ambitious career goals. To learn more, check out our website and follow our blog & twitter account.

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/dev/color
The Compiler

a non-profit that maximizes the impact of Black software engineers. We’re a network for and by software engineers.