Developer Relations Meet the Practitioner: Mike “Make a Difference” Mackrory
October 16, 2018
Have you ever read a technical blog post and wondered how a developer made their way into writing? Are you curious about the backgrounds, inspiration and motivations of practitioners churning out blogs?
For us, it’s simple. We know by experience that our practitioners come from diverse backgrounds. Not every developer wants to write about their work (unless it is code in GitHub). There’s certainly a fear that comes with putting one’s voice out into the world. The ones who do, intrigue us. They define our concept of practitioner marketing. So we want to share our practitioners’ stories.
With that, I’d like to introduce you to Mike Mackrory—developer, technical writer, and a man with a mission.
Tell us about yourself. Your name, where you live, where you are from, your job/company, your area(s) of expertise.
I’m Mike Mackrory. I live in Portland, Oregon. I’m actually from South Africa and Zimbabwe. I’ve also lived in New Zealand. So, I’m a bit of a global citizen.
I work for Nike Digital. We’re responsible for the cloud payment train and the SNKRS app. Interestingly, even though I’m a backend developer, I am the tech lead for the frontend team. My areas of technical expertise are in Java development, AWS, and infrastructure monitoring. I’m part of a DevOps team, so we do the whole thing—writing and monitoring the code.
What motivated you to become a developer?
Funnily enough, my dad worked in IT. He was grumpy a lot, and I swore I would never be a developer as my profession. However, I always had a talent for coding, and enjoyed it. At the age of eight, I started entering coding competitions, which I won. I shied away from it as a field of study, however.
Later, I was working at a manufacturing plant, and I helped one of our guys with his homework, which was writing some code. Doing that reminded me of how much I loved it, so the next week I enrolled in a tech coding school. I have some formal training, but I am really self-taught. I’ve been a developer for about 12 years now.
What motivated you to start writing about developing?
I actually loved writing in high school. I did a blog for about 6 or 7 years, so I got in the habit of writing everyday. Then I met Brad Oliver from FounderTraction at a conference, and he mentioned Fixate IO to me. He told me that I could make money as a technical writer – writing about code. I thought I could use the extra money, and I’ve been writing for Fixate since 2016.
Why do you write for Fixate now?
Certainly, the money is part of it. But aside from that, I’ve found it’s hard to motivate myself to learn new things since I’ve left school. Writing forces me to research and learn new things, to get familiar with new technologies, and learn enough to confidently write about them.
Can you point to something meaningful that has happened for you personally or professionally as a result of writing for Fixate?
It’s hard to point to one thing. But, every so often someone on a different team at Nike will reach out because of something I wrote, and say, “Hey, I didn’t know you knew how to do this.” They’ll research something, and see my name on a blog post they read, and ask me to help them. It’s given me a bit of a reputation, which is nice. I think being a technical writer has helped my career; helped accelerate it a bit. It’s also helped me expand my repertoire of skills, as well as making others aware of those skills.
What makes you interested in a client project?
I like to write about something that I am familiar enough with to write intelligently about, but also something that pushes me to learn something new in order to write a useful piece.
I also like writing for specific clients. There are some clients that just like what I write, how I write, and I also enjoy writing for them. They also have to have an interesting product. And there’s a chemistry there.
How do you stay current yourself in terms of your profession?
Freelancing as a technical writer for Fixate.
What new technology are you most interested in/learning about?
I’m enjoying learning about machine learning and Blockchain. They interest me because they are different from my daily work.
What have you written that you are most proud of and why?
There are a couple [of pieces]. One I wrote, “Making the Jump to Go,” got syndicated and wound up with 10,000 views. That was exciting. I also wrote an article for Metricly that talked about how to automate a response to alerts. I like it because it illustrates a cool principle.
Anything else you’d like to share about yourself?
I have a side project that I’m excited about. I’ve had a few ideas—Things I could do to change the world, but I’ve always put them on the back burner. Thanks to some inspiration from the World Domination Summit, I’ve started working with a life coach who focuses on helping single African-American moms in Chicago. We are putting together a seminar that shows bits of IT. Our hope is to educate these women about the basics, but also to expose them to all the different topics that IT comprises. It takes a special person to be a developer, and my hope is that some of these women will feel a spark, and then we can help them pursue a career in development. But if not, they will have learned some things useful to their professional development.
What’s this organization called, or going to be called?
I think we’re going to go with Cod-E-Mpower as the name for the side project. But that could change :).
It was inspirational to talk to Mike and get to know more about him. It’s always good to meet a seemingly regular person who is willing to try and change the world for the better, to lend a helping hand.
My biggest takeaway from our talk, however, is that one can write to learn. Freelancing as a technical writer for Fixate has helped colleagues find Mike and discover him as a professional resource, setting up a virtuous cycle that enhances Mike’s professional reputation. Talking with Mike also reinforced one of my (and Fixate’s) core principles—that the coding bug can bite anyone, regardless of origin or education. Really, the same goes for writing. Mike is living proof, and he is passing it on.