Under the Radar

Under the Radar 60: Transferable Skills


  welcome to under the radar a show about

  independent iOS app development I'm

  Marco Arment and I'm David Smith under

  the radar is never longer than 30

  minutes so let's get started so today

  what we wanted to talk about I'm not

  really sure what the right word term for

  it is the one that comes into my mind

  when I was thinking about this topic is

  transferable skills or generally it's

  this feeling that I've been having

  recently about and I look at the various

  parts of making apps that aren't the

  actual sitting in Xcode Londa like

  writing code part there's a lot of

  different skills and techniques and

  abilities that go into the actual like

  production of software and a lot of them

  I was noticing that the place that I

  learned that skill it was very distinct

  from actual development so as an example

  the recently when I launched workouts

  plus plus I launched with a walkthrough

  video well which is sort of this long

  sort of like eight to ten minute you

  know screen by screen walkthrough of the

  app then I also have made a little like

  shorter like 30-second commercial and

  put these up on YouTube with the hope of

  trying to just kind of it's this you

  know if someone's on the fence about the

  app especially because it's paid upfront

  that maybe they'd watch the video get a

  sense of the app and then decide you

  know make an informed decision and I

  realized that I was able to make these

  videos with fairly low effort and time

  mostly because in the past I've messed

  around with making videos of other kinds

  whether they're sort of like for

  personal projects and that kind of thing

  or even if there was a period of time

  when I was doing like code tutorials on

  YouTube I tried that there was a couple

  few episodes of my old podcast

  developing perspective where I did them

  kind of like vlogs where I'd like sat

  and looked into the camera and recorded

  it that way and those project never went

  anywhere like they're not part of my

  business they're not big and significant

  in that way but by sitting down and like

  doing these things that are on the side

  or sort of these orthogonal separate

  projects but I keep finding time and

  time again is that I am building these

  skills that down the road I find huh

  interesting this is actually so

  thing that I need for my main job you

  know so for making these videos or

  making you have previews now like I'm

  comfortable in a Final Cut Pro but not

  you know which is useful to me now but I

  did not just sit down and try and learn

  it for the actual job I do and I find

  that this sort of pattern of having a

  rich set of side projects and little

  hobbies and things to try from time to

  time keeps coming back to inform my own

  work like my primary job again and again

  and so it seemed like something that was

  worth discussing as a important skill

  for kind of developing yourself and I

  think especially it's applicable as an

  independent developer where I have to do

  so much of this myself like I'm the one

  who is writing the code as well as the

  person who is making the promotional

  materials and making the marketing

  videos and doing all these different

  things that maybe if I was at a big a

  big startup there would be a marketing

  division that may have like a creative

  audio-visual person who really knows

  what they're doing and could probably

  make a better product than I could but

  like that's someone else's job whereas

  for me like that's my job yeah and you

  know it also as as indie developers like

  we we need a lot of stuff to be done

  ourselves because we often either don't

  have the the contacts on hand to call to

  do things like this for us and or we

  can't afford to have other people do it

  because like when you're an indie any

  expense that you spend on other people's

  labor is a lot of money usually like

  relative to what you're bringing in like

  hiring contract workers hiring services

  to make you things like videos and and

  designers this can be a substantial

  expense for Indies and often it is just

  completely not within the budget or at

  least it would be it would be way too

  big of a portion of the budget to make

  it probably on a good idea so a lot of

  times you you as an Indian have to do a

  lot of this crazy stuff yourself you

  have to be able to make you know whip up

  a little like logo for things sometimes

  you have to like like if the App Store

  asks you for promotional artwork for

  your app for possible featuring in the

  store you have to you have to design

  something that fits their requirements

  which change over time and are always

  slightly different

  it's like you can't just have a designer

  make something once and and be done

  forever like you have to be able to whip

  stuff together in that in that way for

  like for something that that you might

  have to get done by like tomorrow at

  noon or you kind of need to do this

  right now to have this opportunity or

  something like that and you know things

  like as you see the videos are another

  excellent example of like you know if if

  you have an app and Apple announces hey

  now you can do app previews in the app

  store if you already know the basics of

  how to cut together a video that's that

  looks halfway decent that puts you way

  ahead of so many other people who will

  never do that can't do that very well or

  just would never even try because they

  would think it's impossible and so to

  have that kind of transferable skill

  just from side projects it's incredibly

  valuable I mean and and as you as you

  get older I think it serves you well to

  to add to that repertoire as much as you

  possibly can when you have the chance so

  to do crazy side projects it's to try

  out some new tool or some new medium or

  something else you know try out new

  stuff have little side projects even if

  they don't go anywhere themselves they

  will build up those skills in you and

  you will probably need them at some

  point down the road yeah and I feel like

  - there's this interesting thing with

  these types of skills is that in some

  ways like the older I get the more I

  understand that like there is certainly

  something to be said for being like

  super super expert at something like

  somebody who can do one thing

  extraordinarily well sound like there's

  a value of it to that both you know in

  it professionally as a society like this

  is important for some people to go down

  that road but I know for myself what I

  found is that it's like it's more jet

  it's probably more applicable and

  flexible to try to consciously develop a

  broad range of skills to apply to you

  know to apply to different areas of your

  work and so to be able to do lots of

  different things

  I mean it's helpful both obviously in

  terms of like if you're trying to get a

  job you know if you're trying to market

  yourself as something like it's great if

  you can do this one thing and that's the

  exactly what someone's looking for but

  if you're looking for a job and like you

  can do lots of things pretty well and be

  a good quick learner of the other stuff

  like that's probably more attractive to

  you know to a person but it's also just

  honestly I find that it's more fun for

  me to have this kind of a perspective a

  skillset and an ability to be able to

  try so many different things and be able

  to do like a lot of things basically

  competently not like well like I can't

  you know the things I can do in

  Photoshop or in Final Cut are not fancy

  they're not like I'm not a graphic


  I'm not a videographer or whatever but I

  can do these things too enough of a

  level that it's fun and it's interesting

  and it's clean its competent like

  there's not just glaring mistakes and

  huge problems and it's kind of a nice

  thing to be able to do that and honestly

  I think if it's part of what it's

  allowed me to stay interested and

  excited and the kind of work that I do

  you know like I've been making iOS apps

  now for a very long time and in many

  ways I'm kind of like bored with making

  iOS apps but the the core mechanics of

  making iOS apps is not the thing that is

  as nearly as exciting as all the various

  other things that go into being you know

  being self-employed especially and like

  it's fun to find these new these new

  things that to try and pull into your

  work to you know just to try something

  new and keep it fresh and interesting

  that if you don't I feel like I just get

  bored and then I don't know what I do I

  don't know what else I'd do like this is

  certainly the skill that I have the most

  and would make sense for me to continue

  to pursue but it's definitely something

  that I'm glad that I can add this

  diversity and sort of vibrancy into my

  work by looking for those side projects

  by looking for the hobbies and then in

  my own work looking for huh what can I

  learn take from this experience and put

  into you know my into my own work it

  also just it gives your brain different

  outlets so for different different types

  of work and satisfaction and challenge

  and creativity you know all these

  different types of work that we do serve

  those needs and provide different levels

  of fulfillment all differently and so

  like like for me I

  I make apps and that satisfies like my

  programmer brain I also do podcasts and

  I added them fairly creatively and and

  and like that and sometimes I even write

  blog posts and and these are all

  completely different types of creative

  or intellectual outlets and they and

  like if I don't do any one of them for a

  long time like I'm not as satisfied I'm

  not as intellectually satisfied and

  happy as if I'm do if I'm satisfying all

  these different things you know often

  and then you know I'll go in - I'll go

  in phases where I will get more or less

  into photography and I recently even

  started doing video attempts and these

  are you know it's it's all this all

  serves multiple purposes you know as you

  mentioned like it is nice to have just

  the break it in but to me it's also nice

  to be able to develop different parts of

  your creative and intellectual mind and

  and then 2sat it to exercise and satisfy

  those in different ways yeah and you are

  so it's it's also probably just it's a

  weird thing to say but I feel like it's

  it's a development look it's also a

  discipline to think of for yourself of

  looking at our our past experiences and

  trying to see if there are any things in

  there that like make us you better at

  like the job at hand you know so we're

  like if I look at my job it's like I'm

  trying to make apps but I can look at my

  past experience like what do i what

  experiences do I have that mode make me

  distinctly good at this and where can I

  draw that from and like it may come from

  things that aren't as obvious or aren't

  as like straightforward like you know in

  some ways I recently have been doing a

  lot of health and fitness apps and it's

  like some of that I'm drawing from

  obviously my own experience I wouldn't

  say like I'm a huge person who like me

  I'm like I'm like a gym rat who works

  out all the time but I've had a fairly

  active lifestyle for quite a while and

  it's like I can draw from those

  experiences to be doing to an inform and

  make my products better whereas someone

  who didn't have that experience who'd

  never you know gone to a gym in their

  life couldn't really do the kind of apps

  that I do and that's just an example of

  the things that we do in our lives that

  we couldn't use as a like an unfair

  advantage because most of like being

  able to be successful like it's always

  so often it is predicated on finding

  this little bit of leverage that is

  somewhat unique to us that we can apply

  in a way that it gives us an unfair

  advantage over our competitors because

  if we're just all the same then I guess

  it's just completely random who's gonna

  win but if you can find a reason that's

  just like here's this thing that I can

  do like I'm the person who had you know

  has an active lifestyle who's been

  making mobile apps for a while

  Apple introduces this new API I jump in

  and dive in I dive into it and start

  using it like that narrows down the

  world of people who can do that thing

  and so looking back at our lives and

  being like what if what do we do what

  are we interested in like what hobbies

  do we have you know what what does that

  look like is it really I think good is a

  good bit of like a mental discipline of

  like that introspection is probably a

  helpful thing to make sure that we're

  not like missing some skill or ability

  that we have that we could be leveraging

  somehow in our work oh yeah because like

  the the business implication you know

  like so there was like the you know the

  intellectual and creative satisfaction

  implications of having all these

  different skills that's one thing but as

  you mentioned like the business side of

  this is also incredibly important you

  know because it goes beyond just like

  you know what do I know that other

  people don't know about making a new

  type of app X into like if you have a

  bit more broad or varied or specialized

  perspective into the world you will not

  only have skills that not every other

  iOS programmer has but you will also be

  able to identify opportunities and

  identify new markets new kinds of apps

  that can be made or markets that are

  incredibly underserved or badly served

  by what's out there now you will see

  those before the whole rest of the world

  will ever see them because you'll you

  already be in that world like you know

  like every time I go to the dentist I

  always laugh at like how incredibly bad

  their software looks on the screen

  that's and that's in the the cleaning

  rooms and it's it's like not Windows 95

  software I'm just like you know not a

  lot of iOS developer

  our dental hygienists and so they they

  don't see this this isn't a totally

  underserved market and if you happen to

  be an iOS developer who's also a dental

  hygienist you could you would see this

  and you might be able to make better

  software that would help this market and

  that's it's an area where almost no

  one's competing right and so like this

  is like there's so many different things

  like almost everybody has some some need

  or or hobby or skill in their life that

  is fairly unusual among other developers

  and you know use that like one of the

  reasons I was able to to develop all the

  overcast audio filtering stuff a couple

  years ago is that I've been playing with

  audio my entire life like I've always

  been obsessed with audio I was doing

  compression analysis and and weird like

  attempts at horrible hacks and audio

  processing since long before I was an

  iOS developer I've just always loved it

  I've always measured that I've always

  you know done a lot of research about it

  and and and known and known a lot about

  it and you know it's just one of these

  things like that helped me out

  tremendously I could also take a decent

  picture sometimes and so when I made

  Instapaper and I needed an icon and I

  had no money to give anybody else to

  make me an icon I just took a pretty

  good picture of the pages of a book and

  I put like a little stupid Photoshop

  border around it and in retrospect it

  looked terrible but it was good enough

  for the time like it was totally fine

  and and I didn't I didn't have any

  choice I couldn't afford a designer at

  that time so I just did what I could

  with my existing skills put it out there

  and it worked fine it was good enough

  and you know same thing like with with

  screenshots with a lot of icon design

  that I do inside the app like you know

  now like I still have my my app icon

  that was designed by a real designer

  Louise Mantia but my all the all the

  icons that are in the app I've designed

  myself because that's good enough for

  you know for my purposes like I've I

  developed a skill to be good enough and

  it works and then I'm able to make new

  icons to make adjustments to change

  things like colors and thickness and and

  and alignment and everything else to

  make little tweaks without having to go

  back and forth to designer and pay a

  bunch of money because I have the skill

  now like the basically the smartest

  thing you can do with these skills is

  like find ways to rope them into your

  business wherever possible so that's not

  to say that every that you shouldn't

  have anything that's just that's just

  randomly fun but if you have other

  skills that could be useful in your

  isn't it like if you're looking to

  develop some kind of visual artistry

  skill and you happen to make iOS apps

  well you know what you have a really

  great opportunity right there to tie

  those things together and to to design

  the stuff in your app using your

  newfound visual artistry skills like

  there are there are lots of

  opportunities that you will have as a

  developer to integrate multiple skills

  in and I think what we're saying this

  episode is you really should and you

  should consider learning different types

  of skills or experimenting with

  different types of things that could

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  support of this show so given the

  benefits that we're kind of extolling

  about having side projects and having

  these things that you do to kind of

  build a breadth of skills and

  experiences it doesn't mean that it does

  come to mind to me though is the the

  difficulty often in starting a new

  project and so one I think it made sense

  to wrap this up by kind of talking about

  that process of having an idea for a

  project a side thing and then actually

  making it happen and like what comes to

  mind to me is like for a long time I've

  always been a longtime lover of podcast

  and I would listen to podcasts all the

  time and it was just like a big part of

  my day and I was head in the back of my

  mind like oh man I should get into that

  I should you know I should make a

  podcast I should do something for myself

  and for a long time I didn't and the

  advice that I actually ended up getting

  I think that's pretty sure this was from

  back to work for Maryland man is he was

  like if you if you have something in

  your mind that is that you keep saying

  to yourself like oh one day I'll do this

  one day I'll learn how to do that one

  day I'll kind of go through and build

  that discipline it's like what you

  really need to do is just look at this

  it's like make it very a time-bound

  goal and do that thing on a regular

  basis for that time and at the end you

  can decide is this actually something I

  like do I enjoy it is this or am I just

  kind of having this dream that I'm gonna

  love it and I'll actually try it and

  I'll hate it and so for me like I

  started the podcast I did before under

  the radar developing perspective I

  started it with a like this terrible

  Logitech USB headset microphone like I

  didn't don't body like don't like buy

  into the lie that you need all this

  equipment or you need all these fancy

  things before you can start like you can

  almost certainly start with just like

  what you have like your smartphone can


  most everything you could ever possibly

  need for creative project and so just

  like go with that and he said what I

  just said is like okay I'm gonna do an

  episode every day for I think I said

  about three weeks in so I did which was

  over 15 episodes 30 minutes her that was

  15 minutes or less and so like I'm just

  gonna do 15 15 minute episodes and if I

  can do that and then it get to the end

  of it like hey I can buy myself a good

  mic and so on like at that point if I

  decide that I want to do it but I found

  it was really helpful to look at a

  project like that and say it's like I

  just need to commit to it try it and

  then if I like it great if not you know

  I can move on it for me it turned that

  podcasting was great I enjoyed it and

  you know I did

  developing perspective for three or four

  years and we've been doing under the

  radar for over a year now

  like podcasting is something that is

  useful has been useful for my career in

  terms of building a bit of a brand and a

  personality online as well as it's like

  useful in other weird ways like like I

  said I did a walkthrough video for

  workouts plus plus and it involved a

  like a voiceover you know Mikey doing

  this voice-over work as I show how to

  use the app I did all the voice of work

  in one take mostly because I have done

  podcast for so long that speaking in an

  uninterrupted kind of hopefully vaguely

  coherent way is fairly natural now and

  similarly like doing having started

  podcasting the prospect of doing public

  speaking was a lot less scary like I

  used to think that was just like

  absolutely terrifying that I'd be

  standing up on stage and I just would

  have no words and I would just be

  standing there you know sort of

  dumbstruck with nothing to say I'm less

  worried about that now because I'm I

  have the I've built the muscle and the

  skill of sitting down in front of a

  microphone and just talking for a while

  and I got all that out of starting

  actually just deciding that yes I'm

  gonna try this I'm gonna try it and I'm

  gonna start it and then I do said did

  start it and then you know it worked out

  and if I've gotten to the end of that 15

  episodes and said you know what

  podcasting soft for me it's like okay

  that's great now I know that for sure

  rather than kind of like kidding myself

  about one day maybe sometime if I'm

  lucky if I have time

  you know when I'm less busy I'll be able

  to do it like though that day is never

  going to come and so if you it actually

  isn't important to you you just need to

  in one day decide yes I'm gonna do this

  make it time down in short so you're not

  actually kidding yourself and saying I'm

  gonna do this for a year it's like no

  like maybe you'll do it for a couple of

  weeks and if you can do it at the end

  for do it for that amount of time maybe

  you'll want to do it for longer yeah

  I'd also say that it helps a lot to you

  know not only to to develop these skills

  and and to be creatively satisfied and

  to divide and to to find new markets for

  apps and everything it also helps to use

  what you have when choosing what to

  build in your apps use the skills that

  you have used the experience the wisdom

  the equipment if that if that's

  important to use what you have and to

  choose what to work on based on that so

  for instance I have now a lot of

  knowledge about mp3s

  audio podcasting how to process audio

  how'd it how do you edit and create

  podcasts how to play podcasts so I am in

  a unique position here that most iOS

  developers are not in to do additional

  projects such as the mp3 encoder I'm

  working on the chapter tool that I'm

  working on and also possibly down the

  road a podcast editor app like those are

  all projects that I that should be on my

  roadmap and and might and some of them

  are you know those are all things that

  like it would be an interesting idea and

  probably a good idea for me to leverage

  what I have he said you're wonderful

  leverage were familiar leverage the

  knowledge and experience and code that I

  have to direct my future efforts right

  it wouldn't make as much sense for my

  next app to be like a calendar app

  because I like I would have no advantage

  over anybody else in making a calendar

  app I have none of my experience leads

  to that I have no existing code no

  existing domain knowledge they're like I

  would have to basically be relearning

  everything just like anybody else

  whereas if I made an audio editor that's

  like a really big complex thing that you

  could charge real money for probably and

  but most people couldn't just jump into

  them if anyone else wanted to make that

  they would have to first spend a while

  learning what I already know building

  code I've already written and getting

  experience I already have so like as I'm

  choosing what to work on next I have to

  think about like what is a good idea for

  me to work on next and and that that

  goes into other things like I know how

  to market things that are related to

  podcasts I like I know I have an

  audience that cares about such things I

  can there's there's some kind of

  opportunities for integrations between

  what I already have an app on cash

  related thing whereas if I'm a counter

  app next I have nothing I have I start

  from zero and so this it really helps to

  use what you have to help choose what

  goes into your portfolio at all I mean

  you're really good at this everything

  you do recently has had a substantial

  watch and fitness component because

  you're really good at watch stuff and

  Fitness stuff yeah and seeing that like

  has in a weird way if I have had to make

  peace with that like that you kind of

  have did there in my mind I kind of look

  at the world with like there's so many

  different types of development that I

  could want to get into that there's so

  many things that I could like ins was

  like a calendar app like I have ideas

  for a calendar app like I have an idea

  for almost every app of course like I

  have a massive list of things that are

  like one someday maybe maybe I'd love to

  build I had taken a little bit of kind

  of I never know like understanding to

  just look at myself and be like you know

  what I should do though I should make

  the things that I'm uniquely good at and

  the things that I have some more skills

  and experience at because while it could

  be interesting and fun to like make the

  other kind of crazy app and go in that

  direction like the reality is I'm

  probably wasting my time if I go in that

  way whereas if I do something that I you

  know I have this these abilities and

  skills and then I'm not and it's also in

  a weird way like I think when I think

  about transferable skills like I think

  about how in a weird way it's kind of a

  relief because it takes past failings or

  things that didn't really work out

  and lets you look at them in a more

  positive light that like so I think

  about like I did a serially this YouTube

  you know video serious teeth about like

  teaching it was like teaching people how

  to make watch apps it's like this idea

  that I had I put it on YouTube and a lot

  to go would watch it and it would be you

  know big exciting and it's this new line

  of sort of like business for me but a

  new big thing for me and I went nowhere

  like hardly anybody watch them it was

  ostensibly like a failure but if I can

  if I can look at it instead from a

  perspective of like take that experience

  break it down into the skills that I

  learned as a result from that like the

  learned skills are never a failure like

  the outcomes may have been failed like

  they didn't go anywhere and they were

  didn't really do anything but the things

  that I learned in the process of doing

  it is narrow that he's never wasted if I

  can find a place to then put that into

  my work and then now I can look at my

  work now and say yeah it's like here's

  the things that I can do I'm gonna make

  things that work in that that focus into

  that that used all these abilities that

  I've been building up over time often

  out of things that didn't work out in

  the past and then you know apply that

  into a new way and that just increases

  the odds because ultimately I'll be like

  we can own these are like guaranteed

  ways to be successful like it's like all

  we can do is just like turn the dial up

  slightly so that's like we have a

  slightly better chance of being

  successful we have a slightly better

  chance of making something like

  impressive and awesome and this also

  goes towards diversity of income and

  resilience of your you know financial

  independence to is like as you develop

  these other skills that that are

  separate from you know the raw iOS app

  development core skill that you're

  making your business you you then make

  it easier not only for you to have

  alternate income streams if you get good

  enough entities things you could

  actually make them side businesses but

  also when the next big thing comes along

  suppose the next big thing is some kind

  of combination of iOS apps video

  production and icon design like if you

  already have like the pieces necessary

  you can jump right into the next thing

  the next kind of thing that comes around

  faster and better than other people can

  who are starting from scratch or who

  have totally unrelated skills it really

  like all these things that we've been

  talking about about like

  how to basically be like us or at least

  how we how we'd like to be these all fit

  together the end this is all part of one

  big puzzle here that if you have diverse

  skills from different areas that you can

  bring together to make your iOS apps and

  possibly also have different audience

  growth from them or different revenue

  growth the revenue diversity from them

  that all fits together into making a

  successful in your developer all right

  and with all that said we are at a time

  this week thank you very much everybody

  for listening and we'll talk to you next

  week bye