Epic Web Conf '24 Speakers

Michelle Bakels

Program Director, G2i

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  • Thursday, 10:00 AM10:20 AM
    Tech Broke My Heart


Michelle is a software developer, community builder, and conference organizer. She works at G2i as Program Director of Developer Health where she focuses on creating initiatives to support the mental and physical health of software developers. She is the co-organizer of React Miami, Chair of the South Florida Tech Hub Foundation, and Vice Chair of 1909.


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Hello, everybody. I'm super excited to be joined by Michelle, one of my good friends. Michelle, I'd like you to introduce yourself to folks. So, they're super excited to meet you at Epic Web Conf. Hi, everyone. My name is Michelle Bagels. I'm a Program Director for Developer Health at G2I,

and I'm super excited to speak at the conference about our work on Developer Health for the last two and a half years. That is awesome. So, I would like to dive in deeper into that. So, and actually, before we dive into specifically what you're talking about and stuff, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

And you can talk about React Miami and the work that you're doing with that as well. Yes, I'm a software developer in South Florida. I do a lot of volunteering and community work in the tech scene locally down here and with entrepreneurs, startups.

And I organize React Miami conference, which is a React conference in Miami, of course, where we bring together people from all over the world to talk about React and have a great time in the Szechuan city.

Awesome. Yeah, I am amazed at all of the things that you do for your community in Florida. I just think it's awesome. And it just occurred to me, actually, I had another one of these conversations with Mandy Hartman, who's going to be speaking as well. And she is a second career dev.

Her first career was in, like, the art industry, which I think would be fun for you to talk with her about that. So, for the folks listening, Michelle used to be in the art industry also. So, pretty cool, small world, fun stuff to talk with people about. Definitely. We can do it.

Awesome. Good, good. So, yeah, let's talk a little bit about what you're doing at G2I and how that relates, of course, to your talk. So, developer health, is that, like, did you first get hired on at G2I to focus on that?

Or were you working at G2I and you said, hey, there's a need that we have here, can I kind of make a role for myself there? It was a very serendipitous moment. So, I met the founder of G2I, Gabe Greenberg, at a local tech meetup.

He's had a lot of his own, he's had a very extensive health journey himself, where his ability to work and focus on his family and create a healthy life for himself felt very, like, at conflict and at odds with each other for a while.

And so, he worked through a lot personally. Someplace else in South Florida, I was struggling with some kind of, like, unhealthy work environments or expectations or workloads as a software developer,

ultimately leading to developing a heart condition that there's not really a cure for, you just kind of have to manage it. And it was kind of like a wake-up call having a stress-related injury or health issue, basically.

So, you know, Gabe and I, we meet at this happy hour, we're talking about ourselves, sharing our stories, and we actually started working on React Miami together first. And I was after one of our meetings for React Miami that he was like,

I really want G2I to become the first, like, developer marketplace platform that prioritizes the health of our developers. And then I was hearing that as a burnt-out developer, and I was like, do it, please, do it!

And so, I wasn't even planning to do it, like work on this at all. But then a few months later, I reached out to Gabe and I was like, hey, are you still planning to do this? Like, you know, we had talked about me working on this, and he was just really enthusiastic about it.

And for the next few weeks, we shaped the role, created the role, and integrated it into G2I. Wow, that is, that's deep, a deep story. And pretty personal, so thank you for sharing that with us.

I think that this is unfortunately something that a lot of developers experience, being overburdened or overstressed. I, myself, just last week, when I announced this conference, I had a little mini panic attack. Like, nobody's going to come, we're not going to get any sponsorships,

and this is just going to be awful, and reputation is going to go down the drain, like all of the things, even outside the conference, too, there are other things going on. And just because I did it to myself, because I work for myself, so it wasn't my employer that was putting this pressure on me.

But as developers, I think we just get ourselves into these situations sometimes as well, that just overburden us and overtax us. It's cool that G2I is investing in solving that problem. Yeah, definitely. No, I know.

Things in our world are very exciting, and they feel limitless and open, and sometimes we can get ahead of ourselves, I think. Yeah, it's one of those things where, like, if we were all building houses, we would be limited by our resources to build the houses, like lumber and all that stuff.

But as software developers, we are literally just limited by how much we can physically make ourselves do. Because you can build up the house and destroy it and build it up again, like, every day, if you want to. Yeah, you can build it in 16 different ways on 16 different days. Yes, yes, exactly.

So, yeah, it's challenging. So, you tweeted out, or posted out, however we want to say that these days, to the world that you had this talk idea. I saw that you had shared that, and so I reached out to you, because we're good friends.

I know that you would commit yourself to making this a really good talk, and it is on a subject that I think is really important. So, can you give us an idea of what you're planning on talking about at the conference? Yeah, so it's going to definitely focus around a lot of the research and work that we've done at G2I for developer health.

I think our main, the center of our work in this area is this piece that we wrote called the Developer Health Operating System,

which may change names soon, but it's an 80-page guide to a restful work style, something that you're happy, you work at a healthy pace, you have work-life balance,

you have healthy boundaries. So, there's a lot that this discusses that we want to have published shortly after the conference talk. And this talk that I'm going to give is going to review a lot of our theories or ideas.

One of the major focuses is this idea of engineers as athletes. So, we look at the highest-performing people in the world. Like, you think, what is the limit of human possibility? And a lot of times, athletes come to mind.

And then you look at their regimens and you break down what their daily activities are. And yes, they work out really hard. Yes, they're exceptional at what they do when they perform, but they also take a considerable amount of time to rest effectively and to rest well.

And they also take a lot of consideration in their diet. So, there's a lot of work that they do to be the best in the world that doesn't have anything to do with their work. So, it's kind of applying the same concept to us, like, are we sleeping well?

Those are two different things. Are we making sure we go through all the sleep cycles for a good amount of time? And then, like, are we setting boundaries? So, like, if we're working when we're out of work, then when we go back to work, we're tired. We're actually less productive and effective.

And so, are we making time to recover, recuperate? There's just a lot to it. There's also really cool things like time budgeting and coming up with essentialism plans for being productive and helping to be focused. Because I know focus and attention can be a struggle as well.

So, these are some tools that we've used ourselves that we found very effective that we're going to share. So, there's a lot, and I can't wait to share it. Wow, yeah. I'm super stoked to see some of the research that you've done and the examples from outside of our industry.

I think it is very informative or instructive for people to look outside the industry and relate that to what we're doing. So, I'm really looking forward to some of those examples, too. So, Michelle, this has been awesome to chat with you and get to know you a little bit. I have one last main question here for you.

And that is, when we're at the conference, I'm assuming that you would welcome people to come in and talk with you and ask you questions and stuff, right? Yeah. So, what are the types of things that you're excited to talk with people about? What are you hoping that you can do or chat with people about during the conference?

You know what I'm really excited about is communication. So, I'm a React developer, and if you're on Twitter at all, then you'll know that there's a lot of discourse around new concepts or things that feel new or confusing or whatever.

My hot take is that the problem isn't with a lot of these developments or the iterations that React is making so much as how there's communication gaps. And different words mean different things to different people.

And software development is notorious for not naming things well. And so, I have my own personal opinions about this kind of strife that we're in right now. But it's all based around communication, not really around technical concepts.

So, if anybody wants to geek out with me on that, I would love to dig into it. Awesome. Yeah. Sweet. I have some thoughts on it as well. So, maybe I'll find a way to chat about it for sure. Yes. Very good. So, Michelle, thank you again so much for giving us some of your time.

And thank you so much for coming to the conference and sharing what you know with everybody. And, yeah, looking forward to seeing you in Park City. Yeah, I can't wait. Thanks.