Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

About the show

A podcast about the design, development, and business of great software. Each week thoughtbot's Chad Pytel is joined by the people who build and nurture the products we love.


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    505: Commsor with Mac Reddin

    December 21st, 2023  |  Season 11  |  40 mins 48 secs

    Mac Reddin is the CEO of Commsor. He discusses Commsor's evolution from community-led growth software to a go-to-network model, emphasizing the importance of various overlapping networks in a company's ecosystem. He shares his journey from running a Minecraft-based company as a teenager to founding Commsor, which initially began as a newsletter and evolved into a community and then a product.

    Mac stresses the effectiveness of authentic community building and relationship-based growth over traditional sales and marketing strategies. He criticizes cold calling and email tactics, advocating for genuine interactions and relationship-building. Commsor’s approach, including personal onboarding of every user and fostering a company culture where employees are encouraged to express their individuality and interests, has shown success and satisfaction internally and in the market.

    Chad reflects on his experiences at thoughtbot, aligning with Reddin's perspective on community and user-centric approaches. He emphasizes trust and freedom within his team, allowing for authentic individual contributions to the company's growth and reputation. Together, they discuss the importance of personal connections in business and how modern sales tactics might need reevaluation in favor of more genuine, relationship-based approaches.

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    504: Spare with D'ontra Hughes

    December 14th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  32 mins 57 secs

    D'ontra Hughes is the Founder and CEO of Spare, which uses tech to solve cash management problems for unbanked small businesses and enterprises. D'ontra shares his entrepreneurship journey, driven by realizing the financial industry's impact on less privileged individuals.

    D'ontra highlights a significant issue in the banking sector where the poorest people are often charged the most in fees, perpetuating poverty. Spare addresses the high fees unbanked individuals face when accessing their money. D'ontra's entrepreneurial journey involved various challenges, including learning from customer feedback, understanding the importance of data-driven decisions, and navigating the competitive startup environment.

    The conversation also covers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Spare, leading to a strategic shift and a focus on regions with high cash circulation. D'ontra emphasizes the importance of strategic planning, data analysis, and a systematic approach to business growth. He also discusses the personal aspects of being a CEO, stressing the importance of maintaining personal relationships and self-care.

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    503: Epic Web and Remix with Kent C. Dodds

    December 7th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  1 hr 7 mins

    Kent C. Dodds, a JavaScript engineer and teacher known for Epic Web Dev and the Remix web framework, reflects on his journey in tech, including his tenure at PayPal and his transition to full-time teaching.

    Kent's passion for teaching is a constant theme throughout. He transitioned from corporate roles to full-time education, capitalizing on his ability to explain complex concepts in an accessible manner. This transition was marked by the creation of successful online courses like "Testing JavaScript and Epic React," which have significantly influenced the web development community.

    An interesting aspect of Kent's career is his involvement with Remix, including his decision to leave Shopify (which acquired Remix) to return to teaching, which led to the development of his latest project, Epic Web Dev, an extensive and innovative web development course.

    This interview provides a comprehensive view of Kent C. Dodds's life and career, showcasing his professional achievements in web development and teaching, his personal life as a family man, and his unique upbringing in a large family.

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    502: OKRs and Business Coaching with Evan Hammer

    November 30th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  36 mins 53 secs

    Today's conversation revolves around the importance and challenges of goal setting within organizations. It highlights how identifying and articulating real problems can be transformative, turning abstract desires for growth into concrete plans for improvement. Host Victoria Guido and special guest Evan Hammer discuss the nuances of leadership and organizational self-awareness, emphasizing the need for honesty and a growth mindset when addressing weaknesses. They touch on Evan's role as an OKR Coach in fostering alignment, focus, and excitement around goals, particularly in small to mid-sized companies.

    Evan shares his enthusiasm for goal setting and believes his passion can inspire others. He points out the positive outcomes when employees engage with goals that address problems they care about. Victoria and Evan agree that success is not solely measured by hitting OKRs but also by engagement and alignment within the team. They discuss the ideal organizations for Evan's work, which include small to medium-sized companies seeking to improve focus and alignment, as well as start-up teams needing more straightforward goal statements and go-to-market strategies. Evan also recounts his experience as a Techstars mentor, noting that a common issue across companies is the lack of clear goals, and he emphasizes the power of focus as a lever for growth.

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    501: GNOME and OpenKids Africa with Regina Nkenchor

    November 22nd, 2023  |  Season 11  |  38 mins 35 secs

    Host Victoria Guido and special guest Regina Nkenchor discuss the evolution and impact of Regina's work with the GNOME Project and OpenKids Africa. Regina explains how the GNOME Project is advancing its Global Inclusive Initiative, aiming to amplify diverse voices within the community and contribute to GNOME's development. She expresses enthusiasm for OpenKids Africa's efforts to incorporate technology education in rural communities, primarily through engaging early childhood teachers in understanding and teaching tech like virtual reality and robotics.

    Victoria probes into strategies for sparking children's interest in technology, with Regina advocating for a co-creative, experience-based approach that includes real-life applications and interactive participation. They also touch on the challenges of balancing professional and personal commitments. Regina shares her ongoing journey to find balance by prioritizing and delegating while still maintaining her nonprofit work and her role at the GNOME Project.

    They also talk about personal growth and community engagement. Regina advises newcomers to leverage open-source tools and be open to change while encouraging fair treatment within the open-source community. Victoria reflects on her experiences with Women Who Code, highlighting the importance of community involvement and networking for career advancement. Both emphasize the significance of creating safe, welcoming spaces in tech communities to foster inclusion and support, especially for women in tech.

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    500: Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots 500th Episode!

    November 16th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  1 hr 12 mins

    We released episode one of this podcast on June 11, 2012. Now, more than a decade later, we're celebrating the 500th episode of our show. In honor of this milestone, Victoria, Will, and Chad caught up with each of the past hosts of the show: Ben Orenstein, Chris Toomey, and Lindsey Christensen.

    We chatted about what they’re up to now, what they liked and learned from hosting the show, their time at thoughtbot, and more!

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    499: Infinite Red with Jamon Holmgren

    November 9th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  47 mins 46 secs

    Jamon Holmgren is the founder of Infinite Red, a consultancy specializing in React Native. He discusses his journey and insights into technology and leadership and highlights how Infinite Red stands as a testament that businesses can be run ethically while still achieving success.

    The conversation then shifts to leadership styles and the principle of "one-minute praise" from the book "One Minute Manager." Both Jamon and Will agree that acknowledging others' efforts openly can make a significant difference, enhancing leadership skills and building stronger relationships. Will points out how this simple principle has been a game-changer for him in various aspects of life, including his personal relationships.

    Towards the end, the focus turns to motivation and long-term strategy. Jamon is driven by his enthusiasm for learning and the thrill of tackling diverse challenges in his consultancy work. He also shares his philosophy of keeping the company "10 degrees above the horizon," emphasizing steady, sustainable growth rather than erratic leaps and bounds.

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    498: RubyConf San Diego with Chelsea Kaufman and Allison McMillan

    November 2nd, 2023  |  Season 11  |  35 mins 7 secs

    In this episode, the focus is on RubyConf, the upcoming conference dedicated to the Ruby programming language. They start by talking about the origin and evolution of RubyConf, highlighting its growth in attendance and its impact on the Ruby community. Chelsea details how the conference has adapted to the digital format due to the COVID-19 pandemic but points out the value of in-person connections. They are looking forward to the Community Day event, which will feature various activities to encourage community interaction and an acknowledgment of scholarships that would help more people attend.

    The event will offer various programming options, workshops, and talks to cater to newcomers and seasoned professionals. There will also be some level of hands-on learning through hacking activities. The conference aims to be inclusive, offering opportunities for mentorship and growth, regardless of one's career stage.

    Towards the end, the discussion shifts to Ruby Central, the organizing body behind RubyConf and RailsConf. Chelsea and Allison describe multiple avenues for community engagement, ranging from board membership to open-source contributions. They also encourage donations and corporate sponsorships. Don't miss your chance to register for RubyConf and engage with the fantastic Ruby community!

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    497: Axiom with Seif Lotfy

    October 19th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  39 mins 13 secs

    Victoria is joined by guest co-host Joe Ferris, CTO at thoughtbot, and Seif Lotfy, the CTO and Co-Founder of Axiom. Seif discusses the journey, challenges, and strategies behind his data analytics and observability platform.

    Seif, who has a background in robotics and was a 2008 Sony AIBO robotic soccer world champion, shares that Axiom pivoted from being a Datadog competitor to focusing on logs and event data. The company even built its own logs database to provide a cost-effective solution for large-scale analytics. Seif is driven by his passion for his team and the invaluable feedback from the community, emphasizing that sales validate the effectiveness of a product. The conversation also delves into Axiom's shift in focus towards developers to address their need for better and more affordable observability tools.

    On the business front, Seif reveals the company's challenges in scaling across multiple domains without compromising its core offerings. He discusses the importance of internal values like moving with urgency and high velocity to guide the company's future. Furthermore, he touches on the challenges and strategies of open-sourcing projects and advises avoiding platforms like Reddit and Hacker News to maintain focus.

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    496: SmartCert with Lonni Kieffer

    October 12th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  43 mins 4 secs

    Hosts Will Larry and Victoria Guido talk with Lonni Kieffer, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at SmartCert. SmartCert's mission is to digitize and streamline the certificate transfer process in supply chains, mainly focusing on the aerospace industry. Lonni shares insights into the challenges of managing change within traditional industries, the importance of building a solid foundation of leadership and core values, and SmartCert's strategies for customer success and self-service.

    Lonni also shares the history of the company's growth and its focus on vendor accountability and internal processes to increase supply chain efficiency. SmartCert's platform offers features like document verification and digital signatures to facilitate accessible communication among teams. She discusses the role of their partner company, TechFabric, in building their MVP and how they've grown their internal team. She also highlights 2024 as a pivotal year for SmartCert, aiming for a global impact within the next five years.

    Regarding advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Lonni emphasizes the importance of grit, flexibility, and a strong belief in one's mission. She also talks about the value of relationships in business growth and the critical role of sleep for effective functioning and decision-making.

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    495: Free Code Camp with Quincy Larson

    October 5th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  56 mins 49 secs

    Quincy Larson is the founder of, which helps people learn to code for free by creating thousands of videos, articles, and interactive coding lessons–all freely available to the public. Quincy shares his journey from transitioning from teaching into software development, how freeCodeCamp was born out of his desire to make educational systems more efficient through coding, and discusses the early challenges of bootstrapping the platform, and how it has now grown into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

    Quincy and hosts Victoria and Will, discuss the platform's technical architecture, especially their global server distribution and decision to rely on volunteer-led translation efforts rather than machines to ensure both the quality and human touch of their educational content. He also talks about the state of free and low-cost degree programs, the student loan crisis, and the ongoing debate between traditional computer science degrees and coding bootcamps.

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    494: with Peter Voss

    September 28th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  33 mins 54 secs

    Peter Voss is the CEO and Chief Scientist of, a groundbreaking alternative to conventional chatbots and generative models like ChatGPT. Aigo's chatbot is powered by Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), enabling it to think, learn, and reason much like a human being. It boasts short-term and long-term memory, setting it apart in terms of personalized service and context-awareness.

    Along with host Chad Pytel, Peter talks about how most chatbots and AI systems today are basic. They can answer questions but can't understand or remember the context. is different because it's built to think and learn more like humans. It can adapt and get better the more you use it. He also highlights the challenges faces in securing venture capital, given that its innovative approach doesn't align with current investment models heavily focused on generative or deep learning AI. Peter and Chad agree that while generative AI serves certain functions well, the quest for a system that can think, learn, and reason like a human demands a fundamentally different approach.

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    493: Mobile Development at thoughtbot with Stephen Hanson

    September 21st, 2023  |  Season 11  |  34 mins 30 secs

    Co-host Will Larry interviews Stephen Hanson, the Director of Mobile Development at thoughtbot. The two explore the complexities of mobile app development, focusing on the advantages and disadvantages of React Native and Flutter.

    Stephen, who initially started as a full-stack web developer specializing in Enterprise Java, discusses React Native's cost-effectiveness and the convenience of having a unified codebase for iOS and Android platforms. However, he notes that Flutter might be a more suitable choice for high-performance needs. Both hosts emphasize the nuances of the mobile ecosystem, covering topics like in-app purchases, push notifications, and the strict guidelines set by app stores like Apple's. They agree that a comprehensive understanding of these aspects is crucial for an entire development team, including designers and project managers.

    Additionally, Stephen shares that the driving force behind his career is the opportunity to create apps that enhance people's lives. Stephen wraps up the discussion by detailing thoughtbot's goals of improving mobile development practices within the company and the broader developer community.

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    492: and Varo Bank with Rishi Malik

    September 14th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  40 mins 17 secs

    Victoria and Will interview Rishi Malik, the Founder of and VP of Engineering at Varo Bank. They talk about Rishi's recent adventure at DEF CON, the renowned annual security conference that he's attended for six years, and describes how it has transformed from a mere learning experience into a thrilling competition for him and his team. The conference = their playground for tackling an array of security challenges and brain-teasing puzzles, with a primary focus on cloud security competitions.

    The trio cover the significance of community in such events and how problem-solving through interaction adds value. Rishi shares his background, tracing his path from firmware development through various tech companies to his current roles in security and engineering management.

    The vital topic of security in the fintech and banking sector highlights the initial concerns people had when online banking emerged. Rishi navigates through the technical intricacies of security measures, liability protection, and the regulatory framework that safeguards online banking for consumers. He also highlights the evolving landscape, where technological advancements and convenience have bolstered consumer confidence in online banking.

    Rishi shares his unique approach to leadership and decision-making, and pearls of wisdom for budding engineers starting their careers. His advice revolves around nurturing curiosity and relentlessly seeking to understand the "why" behind systems and processes.

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    491: with Amy Spurling

    September 7th, 2023  |  Season 11  |  42 mins 46 secs

    Amy Spurling is the Founder and CEO of Compt, helping companies build and scale flexible perks, stipends that delight teams. She explains how Compt's approach to benefits aligns with an employee's life stages, and shares insights from data that revealed the vast diversity of vendors utilized by employees.

    Amy talks about fundraising for Compt, highlighting the gender investment gap and the difficulties faced by female founders. She also shares her personal experiences as a lesbian founder and emphasizes the importance of a diverse workforce. She outlines Compt's mission to provide equitable compensation and foster a broader perspective within companies, the economic miss of not investing in female-founded companies, and the complexities of transitioning into different roles within a startup.

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    490: Datadog with Sean O'Connor

    August 31st, 2023  |  Season 11  |  45 mins 55 secs

    Sean O'Connor is the Director of Engineering at Datadog. Datadog is the essential monitoring and security platform for cloud applications.

    Sean discusses his transition from an individual contributor to management and shares why he chose Datadog, emphasizing the appeal of high-scale problems and the real business nature of the company. They delve into the importance of performance management and observability and cover the cultural and technical challenges Sean faces in managing a diverse, geographically spread team, and discuss the transition at Datadog from a decentralized model to more centralized platforms, the corresponding changes in both technical strategies and people management, and what excites him about Datadog's future, including the integration of security offerings into developers' daily experiences, and the evolution of Kubernetes and internal build and release tooling.