Jonathan: Well, hello and welcome to the Exercism podcast. It's Jonathan here and I'm joined by, with Taiyab, not by, with Taiyab. Taiyab has been an integral part in the whole design of Exercism and another company called Kaido. You can go and check that one out as well, kaido.org. But Exercism is the one that he's kind of spent a lot of his time recently putting together, especially moving it from V2 to V3. And we'll drill into that a little bit later, but Taiyab, it's super to have you here with us today. Thank you for your time. Thank you for joining us. Tell us where are you currently? What are you doing? And, yeah, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Taiyab: So first of all, Jonathan, thanks for taking the time out to speak, much appreciated. So, where do I start? I guess right from the beginning, right? Origin stories, this is. So yeah, so I was gonna say, I was born. No, no. So let's, let's go. Let's start from something a bit relevant. So I guess the best place to start is probably, I guess, where I grew up, where I was born. So I was born in Birmingham in the UK. In quite a, I guess, looking at it now, quite a deprived area, actually. So I'm from a town actually, just technically slightly outside of Birmingham called Smethwick. There's literally like a, almost like a border sign. Like if you just walk like five seconds down the road, there's like a border that says Birmingham and then on one side it says Smethwick and on one side it says Birmingham. So technically I'm like on the outside of it. But yeah, it's quite a deprived area, at least as I've been growing up. And it's very, very diverse, very multicultural, like everyone's here from everywhere, like all over the world. It's quite an interesting experience growing up here. Like I'm currently still in the same area in the same city. And yeah, like it's, it's been interesting getting to be in a place where you have like a complete melting pot of ideas, a complete melting pot of different types of people with different perspectives from all over the world. And that's kind of, I think, shaped me in a lot of how I see the world today. You know, I always acknowledge that there's an there's another perspective out there and that like the world is way greater than just my little part of it. So yeah, and I would say that like, my thought like going back a bit to like my father and my mother and all that sort of things too. My father was very entrepreneurial, like as well. So just for context, he was a migrant to the country. So he migrated from from Pakistan. Secondly, technically, I'm a second and third generation immigrant, I guess, because my grandfather, yeah, my grandfather and my father both migrated to the country. So my father, my grandfather actually migrated after after World War Two. And that's a whole separate story. So that was yeah.
Jonathan: Oh wow, so that was like, that's a while ago.
Taiyab: Yeah, a long long while ago. He was actually born in believe it or not. He was born in 1901 So my grandfather really old. Yeah, is he still alive? No, no, he died when I was young he died about 30 years ago.
Jonathan: I was going to say, because he'd be like 119 now. Yeah, he'd be very old right now.
Taiyab: Yeah, he'd be very old right now. But yeah, so that's a whole different story. But both my grandfather and my father migrated to the country. So yeah, whatever that makes me. Second generation or whatever.
Jonathan: And was it just that Birmingham was a natural landing point.
Taiyab: No. So initially, we actually started, I say we like my father's family and how we sell here. I think they started in the south of England first. I can't remember exactly where. I think it was near Surrey, in the south of England. And the reason why they started there is just, I think, as a consequence of the war. So what happened is my grandfather moved to Surrey. In fact, he actually had to escape to Surrey. So what happened is in the battle of Dunkirk, basically, in World War Two, my grandfather was fighting in that war. Really? He was at Dunkirk.
Jonathan: He was a Dunkirk on the...
Taiyab: was deployed. Wow, he was deployed there. So he wasn't, he was part of like the what they call like the transport company or like, basically shipping supplies to the front line, basically. Yeah. And what ends up happening, he had to make a he had to escape in the retreat to and he ended up with they ended up in the south of England, obviously, as a result of the evacuation at the time. And so that's that was his first, I think, exposure to the south of England and being there and all that sort of stuff. And then later on, he kind of moved there as well, and kind of actually migrated and settled there too. So we have a bit of a history from the war basically, in being in the country. And then also then my father then came over after World War Two and stuff and all that. And, you know, for economic reasons, as a migrant came and then worked in the country and all that. So because I come from like a very, I guess, hardworking migrant background, like that, those sorts of like, that sort of grit and that sort of like mindset was kind of drilled into quite a bit. So my father was always like very entrepreneurial, like hustler, go get a time. He like, he's been in every business you can think of. He started to name but a few. He started out selling leather jackets in on like a weekend market. He got into like warehousing, so he used to like, kind of warehouse kitchenware and that sort of stuff. Then he started his own store selling those goods as well on retail. Then he was a driving instructor for a long time. Then he did, he's basically done everything. Done it all. He's done it all. So I feel like that's kind of where I got some of my entrepreneurial DNA from, definitely from him. And so what I started doing, and this is going in now a bit to the story of tech and how I got into it, is basically I was always a very entrepreneurial kid, like always. So what happened is I was like, I have a lot of siblings. So I have four brothers and two sisters, quite a community of us. It's like a football team. Yeah, yeah. We just rock up somewhere and we just take over the place. Yeah. But it's nice having a lot of siblings in a lot of ways because you get to like bounce ideas off each other. You get to like, especially growing up, you play around with each other a lot. And it's robust. I mean, you can't.
Jonathan: A bit of theater. And it's robust. I mean, you can't get away with a bad idea. It's going to get pulled down and trampled on pretty quick. Exactly.
Taiyab: Exactly. So there's no place for nonsense, basically. But what I used to do taking advantage of this community is I would always be the guy or the brother that would kind of see an opportunity and then try and take it. So I remember selling sweets and things to my brothers when we were really small, like this is like an eight or something or whatever. I'd be the guy who hoarded all the sweets and the chocolates and everything. And then as soon as it was late at night and my siblings were like, oh, I want a chocolate, I want a sweet, I want this, I'd be like, you can buy it off me, it's only a pound. You must have done pretty well, I tell you. I was doing pretty well as a kid with all that stuff. And then growing up, I carried on having this kind of seeing the market, seeing the demand and trying to fill it sort of mindset. And then I did the same thing in school as well. I sold stuff in school and got in trouble for that as well. That's a different thing as well. But then carried on doing this more and more and then obviously discovered the internet. Everybody got on. This was when I was probably about 10, 11, 12 years old. We got the whole dial up modem and did all that.
Jonathan: And then.
Taiyab: that that noise is still etched in there. Yeah, and I still get frustrated when people pick up the phone, right? And it could used to cut the line off as well. Yeah, no, that was so annoying. Yeah, but yeah, and they got connected to the web and then just got into like all sorts of stuff from there. So my family, we're all like really big gamers. So we got into all the games like typically played a lot of RPGs actually. So this is for them. This is for the gamer nerds. But we played a lot of Korean MMOs growing up. So this is like lineage, lineage two. And also some Western ones too like Runescape as well. That was the game to play. This is back in the early 2000s.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. That was so annoying. Yeah, the link will be in the show notes, presumably, if it still exists.
Taiyab: RuneScape is definitely still around and Lineage is here and there but yeah link in the show. But yeah, and then and then sort of we got from there. And then this is where like the tech stuff starts. So got from getting into gaming, and then basically, my brother was really into his games and therefore joined clans and stuff for them. And then these clans and these guilds, they needed like websites and stuff, right? So they started building like communities around them. Like my brother would be the guy who then they would go to and say, Well, can you like make a website for this, please? Yeah, or this webpage, right. And this was back in the day when you used to use something called Microsoft front page, which is like, what you see is what you get editor. Remember that?
Jonathan: Do you remember that? I can't say I do. I mean it sounds like a primitive version of Wix or like, you know, it's like the most basic fundamental version of that.
Taiyab: Yeah, basically. And what people used to do on front page is they used to like you'd used to design an image as the web page, stick it on, yeah, stick it on front page or whatever. And then you used to in order to kind of put content in in in in it, you would have to cut out a slice of the image, set it as the background, and then add the text on top of that. So that is how you used to create web pages, essentially an image and you just slice it up into a million different pieces and then present it with some of the things as background and text.
Jonathan: So a very primitive version of React and components on some level you could say. Maybe we're getting a little bit of a video at this point. But okay, now that's...
Taiyab: Maybe we're getting a little. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So this is OG internet, right? This is how it all began. And then like what I used to do, I mean, this is back in the time where households had like one shared computer amongst like everyone in the house. And with eight siblings. With eight siblings, I mean, I was a professional backseat gamer, a professional backseat developer, you know? Like I would just sit behind my brother watching, like, oh, do this, do that. Like, oh, you should move this over there. You should do that.
Jonathan: do that. The strategists, the whole strategists. Don't do that.
Taiyab: don't do that. And I think one day he just got so frustrated. He got he just turned around to me and goes, he goes, just do it yourself. Like design your own website. And then and then you can do this all yourself. Stop telling me what to do. And then I was like, Okay, sure. So thank you very much. So when it was my turn on the computer, I would then go on and start designing websites and things for various things I was interested in. It was always like about, you know, what was cool at the time. So I was quite into like anime and Gundam and that sort of stuff at the time as well. into Dragon Ball Z, that sort of stuff. So yeah, I would create like websites for those things that was interested in and then go from there a little bit. And then what happened is I started getting more and more into it. I joined a few forums online around the idea of like freelancing and design and all sorts of stuff because I started thinking, well, maybe I can make some like money freelancing or something. Being a designer. And this is when I also started getting into code more as well. Absolutely. First in websites, and then and then other stuff later. And then yeah, carry on progressing from there. Got more into designing websites and doing all that sort of stuff.
Taiyab: So no, it was everything was from a very utilitarian standpoint, right? So it was, I need to launch this website for this idea that I have. How do I do it? Right? Oh, I need to learn this. I need to learn that. I need to learn that. Right. And then you download.
Jonathan: And then you down the rabbit warren with learning essentially.
Taiyab: Yeah, yeah. Down the rabbit hole. Yep, exactly. So, um, it was, yeah, all everything I ever did was from utilitarian standpoint. So it was just like, yeah, here's an idea I have, or here's something that I want to bring to market. How do I do it?
Jonathan: Yeah. And would you say that informs your design now even like kind of, because I love your designs. I think they're super clear and easy to understand from a practical perspective. And so I can now see that there's clearly a train of thought that runs through how you think through design. Yeah.
Taiyab: Yeah, I would say so, say so definitely. Like, um, I think with design, especially it has to achieve the clarity and the objectives that's needed, right? So like, that's why it's super important early on to be defining what it is you want this page to do on, on, on multiple levels. So not just on like, you know, um, like what buttons or what, what things do we want people to do when they get off here or what do we want them to know, but also emotively, what do we want people to feel when they're on there and, and what are the primary things that we want people to do and feel when they're on that page. Right? So whenever you do any piece of design work, the first thing you do is you define objectives, you define like, I want, I want people to come on here and do X, Y, and Z, and then think of everything through that lens. Right? So, um, and also when you, when it comes to designing a page, you always want to think it through, um, from, from a very heavily emotional standpoint too. So I'll give you an example. So if you're talking about, um, a recent page that we're designing about this, um, we're actually building like a, um, a page on Exercism to describe or show, uh, the build state of a track right now. Right. So, um, that for example, requires a multitude of things. First, it requires what I call the activation, which is like, um, getting people emotionally invested in that thing first. So what I find is when it comes to motivating someone to do something first, you need to get them emotionally invested. Then you've got to show them the details of what needs to be done. Right. So that whole top of the page is dedicated to showing impact as a, and therefore motivating people, um, or, or emotively connecting with them so that they are emotionally invested in doing the thing. So just seeing the impact of their work. So the headline is like, you know, 50,000 students have benefited from the Alexa, Alexa track for argument's sake. And then once you've kind of established the emotive connection and once you've kind of given that piece of motivation to them at the beginning, then you can go into the depth and detail of things. Right. So much like, um, anything, it basically has to follow a story that makes sense from, from top to bottom. Um, and as long as you're following that through line where you're and you're accounting for people who both know about your service and don't know about your service or are part of the Exercism community or not part of the Exercism community or are senior maintainers or lower level maintainers, you got to think of all those personas and then feed them through that story and see if it makes sense to them.
Jonathan: Okay. So, so looking at Exercism, then pulling back as a whole, what were some of the key emotional, um, things that you were trying to hit with Exercism, like when you were redesigning version three, or can you explain kind of w so how you went from version two, which w where it was, I mean, where did you get involved again with Exercism? Was it a V1 or V2? or if you saw it in something of a rock sound, like where abouts do you find it?
Taiyab: Just past the launch of v2. So v2 had just launched. Jeremy had done a very kind of detailed analysis of the launch of v2, what happened. I think it might have been a year after that or two, I'm not sure exactly when. But he had done a blog post on breaking down v2, what impact it had on the user base and signups and all sorts of stuff. And that's the point that I got involved. So it was roughly two years before the launch of v3.
Jonathan: Okay, so then you've come in at V2, just post V2 launch, and you're now going to re-envision this platform for learning to code. How did you go about that? What were the key things that you were trying to hit? Yeah, I'd love to find out a little bit about how you approached that.
Taiyab: How you approached that? Yeah, for sure. So I mean, it started off with a huge amount of sync from Jeremy and I. So at the time, it was only Jeremy and I that were working on the Exercism V3 product per se. So we were the people who were going to do everything. Jeremy was going to code it all and I was going to design it all, right? And that was it. And we're talking about a huge platform here with so much to it. It looks simple.
Jonathan: When you first start out you're like, how hard can it be? And then sort of nine months later you're like, another modal.
Taiyab: Tell me about it. Literally, I mean, it was, I mean, that's like one of the signs of, I think, somebody, I mean, that's what we all do, right? Like, so at the beginning, we sort of have to look at things in like a very simplistic way. Like, let's say, even if we take a business idea or a product that you're building or whatever it is, we say, oh, yeah, that shouldn't be too, that shouldn't be too difficult. Like, we don't quite know the details of it. We're just kind of, you know, thinking, ah, this will be interesting. And we need that sort of naivety to kind of get into it a little bit. And then, and then also then the grit that comes with then seeing the detail of it and then saying, okay, let's break this up into small pieces. Let's try and do this bit first and then this bit. And then once you get into the detail of it and understand how complex and vast that problem is, then just having or just developing, I should say, the grit and the, the, the, the, the consistency to be able to kind of execute on a long-term plan, right? So you need both the naive, like high level thinking at the beginning, just to say, oh, we should do this thing. And then the execution and the deep work part of the actual doing.
Jonathan: Yeah, I agree. I mean, it's like, it's, you need to get to that point where you're like, Oh, we're too far down the road to turn back.
Taiyab: There's no heading back from here. Yeah, for sure. Um, but going back to the, uh, how did the process began, I guess it's basically a huge amount of sync from Jeremy and I at the beginning. So we spoke, I mean, I think we spent three, like I'd say about four or five hours a day chatting to each other for like a week straight or something. Right. And that was just like figuring out our philosophies on things, figuring out like our intentions for things, like me just getting a good understanding of where things are at with Exercism too. So just downloading all it, all his thinking on where we're at, what the history has been, why we're here. A lot of the times when it comes to design, especially you want to know, um, how somebody got to that point. So, you know, what they eliminated in the process. Right. So I then know not to go for going down those routes that might waste a lot of time or they've already been explored or whatever. So it was important for me coming on the project to just really understand everything and not just to try and be like, oh yeah, that needs to be changed. So we should change this without even knowing whether it had been addressed before. Um, so yeah, it was a lot of syncing up a lot of that. Um, and then we just took it bit by bit. So I started out just doing some like more creative conceptual things first. And what I find with these sorts of things is there needs to be a period of exploration of sort of, I guess, opening your mind or opening your opening up the possibilities as to what could be done. So that would be, just be messing around with various visual styles, um, messing around with certain layouts for particular pages, that sort of stuff. Just trying to get a feel for the thing you're going for. Right. Um, and one of the core ideas or core principles in my head that I wanted to kind of base everything off was basically this idea of access accessibility. Right. So code is seen or programming is seen as a thing that's very inaccessible. Um, it's seen as very difficult and it is quite difficult for sure. Especially at times. Um, it's a new, it's a new skill skill that requires a tremendous amount of effort to acquire as do new skills do. Um, so as a result of that, it needed to then, and as a direct response to that, the website itself or the design itself or the branding itself, it needed to be approachable. It needs to be approachable. It needs to seem, uh, it needs to seem fun and easy. Um, and it needs to feel like, uh, like I, as maybe somewhat of a novice programmer can come in and do stuff. Right. This is not some exclusive community of just hardcore devs.
Jonathan: Where your forum is like a nightmare to even decrypt. Exactly.
Taiyab: Like, exactly. Like, yeah, you just like kind of click on you like, yeah, I don't know what's going on. And you click off. Like that's, that's what we didn't want to have happen. So, um, everything revolved around that. So even we're talking about the iconography on the site, everything seeming very happy and smiley and, um, approachable, colorful. Um, it was, it was all just saying, come in, get involved and, you know, do your best. And, um, it's also one of the things that informed like how we did the whole, uh, peak end stuff. So peak end is this idea that, um, it's kind of like the emotions or the impact you want somebody to feel when they are, when they've gone through a journey and they're hitting like the, the success part of it or the, the end goal of it. Um, and so even as we kind of designed what the end of an exercise looked like or what the completion of a track looked like or whatever, we always wanted to keep in mind this idea that we wanted to kind of, um, catapult people into learning and overcome a lot of those barriers that they would have. Right. And also one of the goals that I had was to make learning, uh, habitual as well, so that it would overcome a lot of the barriers that you have in terms of just having to get up and practice every day or something. The slogging it out type thing. The slogging it out and that's what it is really. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And that's what it really all is, right? Is it with any skill, it's deliberate practice. It's waking up every morning and thinking, oh, I should learn this thing. I should spend a couple hours deliberate practice on this thing. And that's how we all get better. So essentially building in a lot of those, um, you know, you know how, like how we get addicted to social media and the bill to be addicted, uh, addictive. Um, I know it's hard to do that with things that are difficult, but I wanted to try and create as much of that as possible with this too. So to make something hard, like learning addictive too, which is a much harder goal for sure.
Jonathan: Yeah. The slogging it out type thing. The slogging it out. And that's what it is really. Yeah. Exactly. And so how did the, so clearly in the site, there's an element of, I mean, that we throw the term around gamification all over the shop and it's kind of like a bit of a buzzword, right? In tech, like let's gamify everything. But how did you approach that in a way that was meaningful and kind of appropriate? Because it's, it is a term that is thrown around, but clearly it fits done right. It's really positive. How did you?
Taiyab: So, so gamification is all about effort and reward, right? And in reality, all it really is, is elevating or making clearly defined what the rewards are for the effort that's made. Right. So, so what I so I think I feel with things like badges and things like that, and reputation, even to a large extent, it's all it's all just geared around making sure that the things you're awarding are things that are worth rewarding. And that's it really. So, for example, let's say somebody completed the elixir track, for argument's sake, creating a badge for that and rewarding that is a very sensible thing to do in terms of elevating and clarifying to that person that while you did something great here, right, so it's not just about adding numbers and scores and badges and things to random things, it's about associating it to the actual learning and behavior patterns that people experience when they use a certain platform, right. So, to me, it's all about things being meaningful. If a gamification element is either rewarding me for a behavior that I did correctly or well, or a desired behavior, then it's amazing. But if you're just introducing points for like some, you know, a relatively, relatively meaningless or arbitrary reason, that's when you're going to get the confusion and you're going to get the problems right. Even when it came to us designing reputation, for example, it needs to be that you had some meaningful contribution to the platform in order to gain reputation. And then that reputation would truly serve as a way of showing your contribution to the community and hence your sort of, I guess, your status in things as well. Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Jonathan: Okay. And so now then coming back, what was, so if we rewind a little bit back to when you started out coding and designing and all of that, how did you from a coding perspective now, what was your journey, your process then? And how did you motivate yourself to learn that?
Taiyab: Yeah, so I'd say, yeah, it was all just about trying to launch certain products and services. So being the entrepreneurial kid or whatever it was, oh, I have this idea for a business, right? Okay. Let me see if I can build a product to then sell to people and then sell and then even sell the business. Right. So, um, back, back in that time, there was also like, um, a website called site point that a lot of people used. Um, this was like a reference for developers, web developers specifically, um, to use and it would talk about all the new cool ways you could use CSS and do this and do that. Um, but it also had a marketplace on there, right? So people would actually come and sell their businesses on there and buy businesses on there or sell domains. Yeah. Yeah. And so I got really involved in this. So once I saw like all the businesses being sold for like, you know, there was like a website that was, um, I think selling like golf clubs or something. I can't remember something random. And it was like, it sold for like $10,000. And I was like, and this is when I was like 15, 16 years old. Right. So I looked at it. A lot of money. Like 10 grand, I could do with 10 grand right now. So, um, so, um, so what I ended up doing is just basically trying to launch products and services and then having to learn how to code on the back of them. Okay. So, um, so one day I would have an idea for a product or service. Let's say, I don't know, I want to create, um, in fact, one of the websites I did create very, very early on. Uh, and forgive me for, for this, this was, this was when it was acceptable, but I created this like sort of like a basis, a link page, I guess you could call it. So, so back in the day you had this, um, this idea called, I think the million dollar webpage or something, right. Where somebody would sell advertising on every like pixel of their thousand by thousand. I remember those ones. Yeah. Yeah. So I did something similar to that, which was like, um, essentially just a list, like a huge page, which is like a list of links essentially. And this is, I was 12 years old. So guys forgive me for this, but, uh, you know, like, um, I would basically sell links on that website and then, and then people would like, like the next link that got purchased for, let's say $5 would go at the top of the list and then the list would just keep growing and the next link would go up and up and up. And then basically I would wake up like every day and check my phone. And this was back when smartphones were.
Jonathan: Really? Okay. That's a lot of money. Remember those. The Nokia 3310.
Jonathan: And how did you find then the commercial business piece and then obviously the nuts and bolts of learning computer science which is probably on a bit of a lower level than the business side of things. But how did you then weave those two things together because those are two very different perspectives but they're very linked.
Taiyab: But how did you? Yeah, they're very, it's like approaching the same problem from two perspectives, right? One is I have a problem first, how do I solve it? And one is, well, I'm building, um, you know, relatively generic skills and then they're going to apply to some sort of problem later on. Right. So I always find that it was difficult to motivate myself when I wasn't working from the problem first. Okay. Um, and when I was just generically learning something, it didn't, because it didn't directly lead to something. I found a very difficult motivational path to take, like a very difficult executional path to take. Um, so while I was at university, I was doing both. So, um, what ended up happening is the thing that really sparked my kind of love of programming to a large extent was when we had a, um, like a first year project to do of, uh, developing a game. So rather than just learning things in theory and saying, okay, theoretically, here's how you do this and that and go and practice it, it was no, here's the end goal. You're going to make a game and let's work backwards from there and here's how you're going to do it. So like I mentioned before, we, you know, my family and I, all my siblings, we come from a gaming background. So making a game was like, yeah, let's do that. Yeah, I can do that. Um, I'm going to do that one. Um, and so, yeah. And so when it came to like doing it that way around, yeah, here's what we want to do and then let's work backwards on that. Then I was highly motivated to do all of it and any of it, but I always struggle with just learning in isolation with no end real, like distinct end goal. That was tough.
Jonathan: Making a game was like. Okay. And so, so now gaming and you're building this game. And so you've, let's just go through. So you've, you get to the end of university. You now have like a formal computer science degree. You've still got these businesses ticking over on the side and you're now, you're now in, involved in two businesses, which are very much education, culture and learning. I mean, Kaido is probably like people education, you could say on one level. Um, was, was there ever a kind of like, this is the trajectory that I want to move in from an industry perspective? I know tech is a generic sort of umbrella you could say, but the education piece or the people development space or, you know, one, someone might be like fintech or whatever. Is there any specific industry that you're like, I'm really interested in this and would love to see.
Taiyab: So I would say right now, um, I would say I'm at where I'm at because I, I essentially followed my nose, right? So what I think what tends to happen is people kind of follow their nose a little bit first. So they kind of go down a path that seems interesting to them. Um, and then they go down it, they go down it, they go down it. And then, um, after a certain level of time has lapsed on either that thing or they've explored a bunch of things, then they kind of thought kind of maybe making specific judgments about which industries or what problems they want to tackle specifically, right? So I'd say I'd gotten involved with, uh, Kaido and Exercism, um, in large part being connected with Jeremy and getting to know him and I didn't even tell you the story about how I got to know him and where I met him.
Jonathan: Oh, we could do that in a second, but just finish this one and then we'll go.
Taiyab: this one in the middle. Yeah, yeah, sure. But yeah, so sorry, I lost my train of thought.
Jonathan: I know it's just about like specific industry specific following your nose
Taiyab: Yeah. So it was more like, I just loved, loved designing product. Um, and I just wanted to work on stuff that was interesting. So when, um, you know, I was proposed various things, um, especially when Jeremy and I chatted and we talked through stuff, it seemed like a really interesting problem to try and tackle. So it's always for me, it was just, what's the problem that I, that looks interesting for me to tackle. Let's go and tackle it. I am starting to get a flavor for the problems that I care about in the world and where I want to address. But that's like, I think, uh, more of a thing for the next, that's going to develop more over the next, I think three or four years or the coming years for sure.
Jonathan: Oh cool. And yeah, so now you met Jeremy post university, somewhere along the line. What was that all about?
Taiyab: What was that over? There's another story embedded in here. So I actually met Jeremy while I was at university. We didn't go to the same university. He's like 10 years older than me. But what ended up happening is I went to, so I told you I was into startups and business and entrepreneurship and all that. So there was a like a startup hack weekend that was being conducted at a local university, Aston University, shout outs to Aston. And so my friend and I decided to attend this hack weekend because why not? We're interested in tech. We're interested in designing and developing stuff. Why not? So yeah, I went to this event. And then there were various pitches to get put into groups and whatnot. And I remember Jeremy pitching for his idea. And the idea was a home automation thing basically. So he was years ahead.
Jonathan: Yeah. So he was years ahead of his time. Smart cities, smart homes, all of that kind of stuff.
Taiyab: Exactly, exactly. So it was like a smart, it was a home automation tool called Aya, which is like a Hindi word for, I think, like caretaker or something. And it was the whole home automation thing, you wake up in the morning, the blinds come up, the lights come on, the coffee's brewing, all of that jazz. So this was the idea that Jeremy pitched in, then I kind of got involved. Basically, I got I wanted to join his group, his idea sounded interesting. And that that's where I met Jeremy and a couple of the colleagues in mind too. And yeah, and that was 11 years ago, I think something like that. And then later on, what happened is I got involved in Jeremy's startup after that. So he was running a company in the medical education space, and he was hiring designers, and he was really keen to have me on. So from that, like initial startup hack weekend, then to meeting up afterwards in coffee shops and things. Yeah, we got to know each other. And then I sort of joined his journey for his top while whilst I was at university. So what I did is I had this problem, right? Of do I spend the next two years at university? Or do I join the startup and try and make it work like that and learn.
Jonathan: Come on. The coffee's brewing. It is that big and learn a lot more in a shorter space of time potentially.
Taiyab: potentially. So this was the dilemma I was having. I'm sure a lot of people have the same dilemma a lot of the time. So I thought, okay, I've got this problem here and this problem here. How can I get both? Right? How can I do both? Because I didn't want to just stick to one. So I thought, okay, what I can do is I can go to university and say, can I do a year in industry? And then go to Jeremy and be like, I'm doing a year in industry. You need to hire me.
Jonathan: You need to-
Taiyab: So that's kind of how I pitched it. So I went to the university and said, I want to do year in industry, even though I had no intentions to year in industry prior to that. And then I went to Jeremy and go, well, I'm doing a year in industry, I can I can work for you for a year like that. And that's kind of how it all started. So then I joined Medication, which was his previous startup. And then, and then yeah, and then we worked through that. And then I did end up leaving and going to university and kind of finishing my degree. But then fast forwarding to now, like we're talking almost 10 years later that we reconnect and then we get back into things and then and then I joined Exercism and we all go from there.
Jonathan: That's kind of how it... And then. Okay, cool. So thank you for going through the history of Taiyab in a very short space of time. You've covered a heck of a lot of ground, which is really cool. So now what would you recommend to anyone who's sort of signing up to Exercism or is wanting to start off that coding journey? Like what would you, you've hinted a few times like find a problem to solve potentially and all of that kind of stuff, but what would be your kind of key recommendations to someone who's wanting to step into the tech space and sort of get their feet under the table, you could say?
Taiyab: Yeah. So I would recommend a few things. First is just get a lay of the land, right? Understand what you're getting into. Um, I have a strong reason as to why you're getting into it. Um, and also understand that it's going to be a difficult journey and just, just understand that and expect that, um, with anything that's worth it. It's it's, it's hard to do. Uh, things that are hard to do are awarding and programming is not different. Right. There's definitely a fun element to it as well. I mean, it's amazing to just go in and be able to build stuff and write stuff, but you know, you need to learn the foundational stuff to do that for initially and, and there's effort required there. So just understand that. Uh, I would say that secondly, um, like go for the very, um, novice focused, uh, platforms and tools that currently exist. So have a look around. There's plenty of them out there. Um, give them a try first, see if it's for you. Um, so just get your feet wet a little bit. Um, really, and then once, you know, if you love it and you start, you start getting, um, and love, love is a very, um, uh, strong word here, but if you're interested in it and you're getting a, you know, you're saying, okay, this is kind of kind of interesting. I want to do a bit more than just keep following your nose on it. Keep like, add it more and more every day. Um, I would say that finishing one of these novice platforms is a good idea too. Uh, like getting to a hundred percent complete completion on them is a good step. Um, and then if you've got an appetite for more, just keep going. Um, go and, you know, sign up to Exercism, go and sign up to all these other things that exist, uh, code Academy or, uh, or I, um, or a tree house or something like that. Um, and really get your, get your teeth stuck in, but you have to kind of keep dipping your feet in more and more and more and see, see if you like it.
Taiyab: So this wouldn't be maybe a specific technology opinion or thought. It's more a bit broader than that. But I think as just as a society or just as the world, we're experiencing a very unprecedented time where the people that control the computers and the robots have all the, have all the power basically. And what's not happening is there's not enough of a trickle down of value to the people who are not developing those technologies or own them to have the strengths or the, or the augmentations that they give you, right? Because by this, I mean, at this point we're all Androids, right? Pretty much. I mean, we have, we have these devices in our pockets, they empower our thought and they give us access to all this technology. They let us do crazy things that we weren't previously able to do. But the thing is like a lot of that power is still being owned and controlled and harvested by, you know, big companies, etc, etc. So what I would say is we still haven't learned as, as a society to kind of, give that value to everyone. Um, and I think that's something that I've been kind of thinking about more and more. Um, it's something that I am quite passionate about and I've been doing a lot of reading around, um, just trying to figure out, and this problem's being trying to be tackled on multiple levels. So of course, giving people just more, um, accessibility to program is a way of putting that power into the hands of everyday people. Um, but also politicians are trying to do it from their level and, you know, the other organizations on various levels are trying to do that too. So that's something that I care quite deeply about and it's something that I'm, I'm watching, um, with, uh, you know, with a vivid eye. Um, I can't tell you that I have a specific like part of that, that I'm going to either execute on or work on or whatever, but Exercism is a platform that kind of works towards a lot of that. So, um, from, from what we can do, um, and what's within my power to do, um, I think I'm at least making a small dent into that problem for sure.
Jonathan: So then really practically speaking, and maybe this is putting you on the spot here, what could you and I do today that would just make things a little bit more accessible? I know you spoke about Exercism trying to be as accessible as possible, but how would you position your mind and the actions that you enact today to kind of play that out a little bit?
Taiyab: Yeah, it would be, it's a very difficult question. I would say, I mean, I could I could tell you the typical thing of like, you know, introducing programming literacy to everyone, etc, etc. But even that doesn't do it justice. Like what we're seeing, for example, is a lot of innovation in AI, a lot of innovation in obviously, crypto stuff, too, and all that. And we're starting to see like a bit of that value coming down to us. So for example, if you look at a lot of these AI, kind of image generators, you can now just write a couple keywords into a into an AI tool, and it'll generate like a beautiful painting for you, basically. It's actually a tool made by Discord, I think. But yeah, what I would say specifically is that we could we should probably just do a better job of, I guess, immediate vicinity or immediate families. So we talk about this on a very like, you know, Exercism is a platform that's doing this and this, but maybe we should teach our own families to do the things that we talk about, right? Maybe our parents, especially, they might have been out of the fold quite a bit in terms of technology. Maybe they don't use their smartphone as much as they could, maybe they don't know how to do any of the basic things that we take for granted every day. So I think definitely teaching older generations how to adopt technology and use it, teaching younger generations to and just ensuring that our community in our immediate vicinity in our immediate area have have.
Taiyab: know about the tools, have access to them and then are trained to use them in a confident way as well. I think that would make a huge impact.
Jonathan: Yeah. And I think just to comment on that as well, maybe one thing is your entrepreneurial is also to be like, how can we bridge the gap between what is perceived as very complex and make it simpler? Not that that's always that easy to do, but maybe build that level of abstraction that just allows more people to sort of help.
Taiyab: I also feel it's just a it's more of just a like a like a cultural or just a general societal problem anyway. So I see us also aging out of younger technology, right? So we're not that young. Like, I don't know how you are Jonathan, but I'm in my early 30s, right? 35. 35. So we're in our 30s, right? And there are things that I've heard about, or don't even have a clue about that the 20s and the teens are doing that I don't have, I have no clue. Yeah. Right. So I think there's a natural also a natural like, I guess, kind of not calcification, but almost like you just don't know what's
Taiyab: on the younger side of things where you don't know what the young kids are doing or you don't know.
Jonathan: Your brain doesn't move as fast. That's the reality.
Taiyab: Yeah, not as neuro-plastic. And we're not. And also, we're kind of busy. We're kind of busy doing stuff. We're busy building something where we're doing our day to day jobs. And therefore, we're not able to have that exploratory phase anymore of going and discovering new technologies and discovering new things. Whereas younger people, obviously, they're not working a job typically. So they can go off and explore AI and explore this and explore that and learn so many cool new things that we get kind of aged out of a little bit. So I think there's just an issue of time too, and giving yourself the space and freedom to explore new stuff.
Jonathan: Yeah, cool. That's spot on. So one more question then before we kind of come into land, it's been an hour of goodness so far. What recommendation would you give to the Exercism community? And it can be anything it can be as lighthearted as you want, which is, you know, go and buy an ice cream or whatever, or it can be as like, you know, get into a hectic fitness regime. That's what you need to do. What recommendation would you make to our community this week and that they just absolutely have to try?
Taiyab: So two things, and these are two things that I'm working on and I'm not very good at. So I'm not preaching here. I'm just saying these are things that we should all focus on as a collective community. One is getting better at communication. So not necessarily written communication, but spoken communication. One problem that I find in a lot of developer communities is that we're good at, you know, problem solving from a very logical standpoint. We're not good at articulating that problem or articulating that solution very well. So being able to build a narrative, be able to tell a story, definitely are skills that a typical programmer should learn. You know, just how to communicate better. So that's one thing. And the second thing would be to just maybe develop a bit more grit, I would say. So just understanding that things are not going to always go your way. And, you know, life will just throw stuff at you and you're going to have to deal with it. So just I think those two things are definitely valuable skills that we should all develop more for sure.
Jonathan: Mm-hmm.That's awesome. I think just off the back of your great comment, which I really like. Facing things head-on is way more beneficial than running away from the problem. And I think that's just something that I found true in the last couple of years for me is, there's an issue. It's better to walk towards it and go through it than it is to kind of try and skirt around it and not engage with it.
Taiyab: And sometimes you'll need to like amp yourself up a little bit maybe, I mean that's where this is where the whole physical fitness comes into it. One of the reasons why people go to the gym is it gives them confidence, it gives them the kind of feeling of wanting to tackle the day. So I would say yeah like amp yourself up and go and tackle those things, go and tackle those demons that you know are there. Yeah, yeah run at them.
Jonathan: Well, Taiyab, thank you so much for your time today. It's always great hearing people's stories and getting those little nuggets and there's plenty of goodness in what we've just spoken about today. So I really appreciate the time. Thank you for all of the work you put into the amazing designs of Kaido and Exercism and for the ongoing work that you've done. And if you want to reach out to Taiyab and have a chat about design, I'm sure he's all ears within reason. You know, we don't want the world sort of bang down your door, but if that happens, we won't complain.
Taiyab: Yeah, we won't complain. Feel free to message me on Slack. I'm there in next to them Slack and you can you can tweet me at at Taiyab, T-A-I-Y-A-B and just hit me up on there so no issues.
Jonathan: So go check it out, go check out the designs that he's put up there and hopefully this has given you a little bit of an insight into the thought process, the way that Taiyab conceptualizes stuff. But again, thank you and we'll touch base in a second. But thanks again, Taiyab. Thank you for your time and check you soon.
Taiyab: Thank you, Jonathan.
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