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Eva’s Exit Interview: Take a walk on the private side

One of our beloved developers and OG team member Eva Demers-Brett is leaving us this month to embark on an exciting opportunity in the private sector 😢. It’ll be her first time working outside the public service during her career as a developer, so we wanted to capture her insights and find out what lessons she’ll bring with her as she takes a walk on the private side.

Yael: So let’s start back at the beginning. Why did you want to work at CDS?

Eva: When I started at CDS I had just spent a year and a bit at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and while I enjoyed my work there, I didn’t have a lot of creative freedom to really sink my teeth into things and really solve issues. Then my friend, who I graduated from school with, said to me, “Hey, come meet this team and see what they’re doing.” In June of 2017 when I walked in — this was prior to CDS getting its actual computer labs — there were whiteboard rooms full of planning, and all this focus on the user and Dave Samojlenko was demoing this cool new thing he had built, and you could just tell it was a room full of passionate people doing really cool stuff. I was like, “Hey, I really want to work here. I want to do this too”.

Yael: Newbies like me have heard so many stories about what CDS was like when it first started. As an OG developer here, what was it like for you in those early days?

Eva: How do I describe it? It was a lot of momentum, and a lot of movement, and a lot of big changes. It was pretty intense. We were trying to find projects that we could tackle. We were trying to find partnerships when we hadn’t built a name for ourselves yet. We were trying to get our website up and running. These were really quick, core things. I was one of four developers. Now there are 16. It’s been crazy watching us go from this tiny little team to this bigger team where I don’t know what everyone is doing at all times. It was a lot of craziness, it was a lot of stress, but it was a lot of passion.

Yael: What code were you working on back then?

Eva: In the early days of CDS I was working on the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) project mostly, basically building an API of their EnerGuide data. CDS really took a risk on me and they hired me based on passion alone without all of the skills that they were hiring for. CDS taught me that I can jump in and learn skills really, really, really quickly. So getting myself up to speed on modern JavaScript and GraphQL to work on this project was scary, but it was also a lot of fun to be able to have that freedom.

Yael: What’s been your greatest accomplishment during your time here?

Eva: If I look back on my time at CDS, I see it as a collection of so many smaller wins that for me have added up to such a great experience. I’ve grown as a person on the team.

Sound of dog barking and doorbell ringing

Yael: Do you have to get that?

Eva: Sorry, someone is leaving an Amazon package and my dog is barking.

(The realities of working distributed, folks!)

Yael: Tell me about one of those small wins.

Eva: For the NRCan project, I got the opportunity to jump from one side of the stack to the other and bootcamp myself a program and a language in a week. What was great about that was that everyone on the team was super supportive.

Honestly, just being able to stand up and Show The Thing is something that I would not have been able to do prior to coming here, so getting that encouragement and building those skills was really cool.

Yael: What has been your proudest moment here?

Eva: I’d have to say it’s the change in me, as a person, that I’ve seen, and gaining that confidence and knowledge to be able to jump around to different things. I used to be terrified about the idea of having to write my code in the open, but now it’s nothing to me. I feel like, “I can learn that,” or “I can do this.” CDS is an organization that built that confidence and skill in me. So maybe that’s what CDS should be proudest of!

Yael: This job can also be tough at times. What was your biggest challenge?

Eva: I went out for coffee with our former colleague Annie Leblond before she left CDS and she said that your dream job is never easy. I think that really resonates with me. Part of what’s difficult at CDS is that we all have so much passion for what we’re working on and we all really care so much that if things go wrong or don’t really pan out it can be really difficult.

Yael: How did you get through some of those challenges?

Eva: Something that especially helps is CDS’s mantra of blameless post-mortems and blameless retros, and discussing what went right and what went wrong, and not treating failures as something that’s ultimately to be avoided, but treating failure as a learning experience that we’re all going to go through, and figuring out what we can learn from it to move forward.

Yael: Do you have any fears about the transition from public to private?

Eva: Change is scary. It’s nothing that I’ve ever done before and any change is scary. I was terrified when I joined CDS, I’m terrified of leaving, but I have been told by multiple sources that I trust and I admire that if you’re scared of a change it means you’re going in the right direction. If you’re not scared, it’s not a big enough change.

Yael: What lessons will you take with you when you go?

Eva: CDS has taught me to always be passionate about what you do. Always, always, always. To always be learning new things. And don’t be afraid of failure. Sometimes failure happens, it’s natural, and just learn from it and deal with it.

I’ve had a change in perspective that I’ll bring with me. Before coming to CDS, in the government environments I was in before, failure was a really big deal and failure was going to get you locked behind a closed door and chastised and beaten down. Then you don’t want to talk about failure and people don’t want to analyze why something went wrong, but failure is going to happen to everybody. Learning how to deal with it, and learning how to be productive about it, learn from those mistakes and move forward is a really big deal.

Yael: What will you miss most?

Eva: The people! I’m going to miss the people. I love CDS. I love everyone that I’ve worked with. It’s going to be different. The work was lovely. It was great to be able to write real code in the government, but at the end of the day, it was the people that kept me here for two years. Keep being awesome. I think this is the right time for CDS to exist. I’m going to miss you guys. Thankfully, CDS works in the open, so I can keep up!