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Aug 26, 2019

In this week's podcast episode of the freeCodeCamp podcast, Abbey chats with Harry Wolff, an engineering manager at MongoDB in New York City.

Harry has been in the world of tech for over a decade, holding jobs in various startups before ending up at Mongo. They discuss his journey to his current managerial role, what it's like to work at Mongo, how to start a meetup, and dos and don't for migrating from legacy codebases.

Harry started his tech career working for startups. He liked the excitement, he liked learning new things, and he liked showing off his skills. After working for a few startups, he stumbled upon a position at MongoDB. One short week after beginning the interview process, he was in.

The decision to leave his previous job was easier than he expected, and he reflected on the reasons he made the change:

"For me, it was a matter of taking what I could from my job at the time, but knowing when it was time to move on. One of the ways you know it's time to leave is when the company's getting more out of you than you're getting out of the company."

Once Harry was settled in at Mongo, he got right to work. After a couple years as an engineer working on various projects, he achieved one of his major goals and became a manager.

Harry and I discussed his relatively new position in detail, and while he's still figuring things out, he has some valuable insights into his transition.

"One of the most difficult things about being a manager is that there's no easy way to evaluate the success of your day. There are no milestones to say you've accomplished a lot. You might have a eureka! moment where you figure something out, but you're definitely living in the grey a lot more. Because it's people - they change by the day and hour and minute."

But one of the best things for Harry is how much he gets to learn - constantly, from many different people, and about many different things. In addition to reading about new programming languages, discussing what's new in the JavaScript ecosystem in his podcast, and making every effort to stay on top of new tech, Harry has learned more nuanced skills as well.

"One hard skill I needed to learn was being assertive and truthful when I needed to be. Most humans prefer that uncomfortable situations just resolve themselves...but if you wait six months [to deal with something], it becomes a dealbreaker."

In addition to managing his team, working on his podcast, YouTube channel, and blog, and reading programming handbooks for fun, Harry has been working to update MongoDB's tech stack and move away from their legacy codebase. In the process, he's developed some insights into such migrations.

"You have to have a good reason for doing it. And part of this is scolding my former self who would say 'yeah, just do it!' But having learned more, you need to have a good reason. For us, it's more maintainable, less error-prone, and better for recruiting."
"But don't rewrite everything - that's seldom the right answer. Occasionally there are exceptions, but they're exceptions."

When Harry isn't working or creating content, he hangs out with his wife and new son in New York. He encourages people getting into tech to keep at it and not get discouraged.

       "Never give up. Just keep hustling. Take with a grain of salt the            feedback you get from companies and have confidence in what            you do and don't know. And stay humble. It's hard but you have          to just want it and keep hustling and stay curious."

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