I am Brian Holt. Ask me anything.

Brian is currently working as a senior cloud developer advocate at Microsoft and he's all about developers, developers, developers. Previously he was a JavaScript engineer at Netflix, LinkedIn and Reddit. When not working, Brian finds time to teach on Frontend Masters, run his mouth on Front End Happy Hour, travel all over the world, and play with his adorable dog. Brian is currently a resident of Seattle, WA.

Ask Brian Holt about:

  • Cloud Infrastructure
  • Cloud Computing
  • JavaScript advice
  • Working at Microsoft
  • Getting started with programming
  • Open Source Ecosystem

This was super fun!! Thanks for all the great questions, hopefully I was able to answer the questions burning your mind! Feel free as always to reach out to me on Twitter!

Comments (69)

Ajit Yadav's photo

How to get a job in a big tech company like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook? And what should I do for it?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

Hey Ajit!

Great question. My first "big tech job" was Reddit. I got that job by posting in the JavaScript subreddit and they messaged me so not super reproducible.

My best advice see if you can make friends with people that work at those companies. They'll be able to give you advice on how to pass the interviews, what they ask, and if you want to work there. Sarah Drasner helped me get my job at Microsoft and Derrick Showers helped me get my job at LinkedIn. Knowing someone always helps.

Beyond that, brushing up on your interview skills is essential. Being a good engineer and a good interviewee are (unfortunately) orthogonal skill sets. Cracking the Coding Interview, Code Katas, and all those things that help you reason through abstract problems quickly will help with Big Tech's silly interview process.

Hope that helps!

Jill Castro's photo

Hi Brian! Thanks for doing this AMA. I am a huge fan of your work.

This question might be a bit out of context, but I want to hear your opinion as a developer and not as a Microsoft employee.

Q: What's your thoughts on Microsoft acquiring Github?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

Hey Jill! I'm a huge fan of your avatar.

Real talk: with the landscape as it is today, I think it was the best landing place for GitHub. Satya Nadella's Microsoft is pretty heavily committed to not losing your trust and we all know if that we mess this up that we lose everyone's trust forever. From my perspective (I don't know anything more about it than you do) this acquisition was about acquiring more good will from developers, really cementing our new stance of being a developer-first company.

What you could be worried about is what happens post-Satya Nadella (again, I don't know anything more than you do, just speculating.) Companies change and maybe some future CEO wants to monetize the hell out of it and ruin it in the process. But for now, for today, I think Satya Nadella and Nat Friedman are going to GitHub in a great direction.

Sky's photo

Here are some of my questions.

  1. What are some of your suggestions for new developers for learning streaming based cloud apps? (like netflix)

  2. What's your opinion on future of cloud ? (As in where it is going with changes in AI and ML and cloud along with privacy aspect)

  3. How do you learn any cloud specific skills quickly? What are your go to resources for learning server side or front end etc?

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Sky's photo

Thanks Brian much appreciated :)

Saurabh Rayakwar's photo

How was your experience working at Netflix on JavaScript stack?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

Good and bad, like any tech stack. It has its tech debt which was painful to work with at times but the advantage is having a lot of smart people always striving for great code together. It's a complicated beast so that did make working on parts of it tough but on the whole I enjoyed writing code there.

Ruth Alec's photo

What's in your dev toolkit? (editors prefs, SaaS software​, etc).

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

  1. Visual Studio Code. I used it before I was at MSFT but I just love it. Amazing for writing code, managing Azure stuff, and staying organized.

  2. I love Kaleidoscope for doing git diffs and merge conflicts.

  3. Firefox Stable for browsing the Interwebs.

  4. I write my articles in MacDown for a simple markdown based editor

  5. Spotify 24/7

  6. I have a little Microsoft Surface Go that I travel with now. Great for watching videos, writing a little Node.js and playing old games like Dungeon Keeper II.

  7. iTerm2 w/ fish. I usually work with bash since I teach a lot but man I love fish shell.

  8. Dank Mono font and @Sarah Drasner's Night Owl theme for VSCode.

Sarah Drasner's photo

Hey Brian!

Long time listener, first time caller. Big fan. Hey so something I always wanted to know: when Luna licks you all over your face when you come home, and Niki makes you wash it, are you sad? Do you wish you could keep the Luna slobber around as a token of affection? You can tell us the truth.

Keep up the great work! -Drazzo

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Syed Fazle Rahman's photo

Co-founder & CEO, Hashnode

Sarah Drasner, there was a UI rendering bug, it's fixed now. :)

jalpesh vadgama's photo

Hello Brian,

I love your work related to front end part. So what your daily day like as Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. How much coding you do everyday?

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jalpesh vadgama's photo

Co-Founder, FutureStack Solution, Full Stack developer having more than 13+ years of experience in web technologies.

Thanks for your time. You inspired me to do a lot. But I can't manage sometimes I do procrastinate so what is your advice to be productive?

Marco Alka's photo

Hi Brian,

great to have you here! Thanks for doing this AMA! As a cloud advocate at Microsoft, one of the top cloud providers, how do you actually see the current situation

  1. at Microsoft - do new projects try to get into the cloud, or value a more traditional approach?
  2. at other companies - in what direction do you think the server landscape will develop? Will everyone create their own cloud? Will a few cloud-providers become the center of the internet? Might everything develop in a whole different direction?
  3. in the world of free developers - I, for one, quit my server contracts last month in favor of using Zeit for free as my testing ground, but I also know that some of my personal customers want to use Azure instead of other hosting providers (which is welcome by me, because I prefer my NodeJS server)

The Cloud is very amazing for us developers, we can deploy a server without thinking about the infrastructure at all. What, in your experience, is the type of application which has benefitted the most from the Cloud, yet, and which other applications will probably benefit a whole lot if they transition to the Cloud?

Just today, I read about Microsoft's Project Mu, the latest OpenSource contribution by Microsoft. What do you think about Microsoft going OpenSource in a such an aggressive manner? Do you see any problems, especially for other companies who don't follow this trend? Will people in the future pay for services instead of software? What's your personal opinion: would a world, in which closed source software is prohibited globally, be ideal?

And for the most important questions: Is it already snowing in Seattle? What will you do over New Year's?

Again thank you for taking time for an AMA!

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Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

  1. At Microsoft we're all in on Azure. We dogfood constantly so if something is painful for you it's painful for us too. So everything we're doing is going into the cloud. We think it's a good approach because individual teams at Microsoft don't have to worry about data centers and just to focus on product.

  2. I think most companies will host most of the infra in the cloud. I think we'll see the three top players continue to grow (Amazon, Microsoft, Google) because all three are doing a good job of focusing on innovative ways to serve their clients. I don't imagine many companies will create their own cloud but will continue to use public clouds like Azure. I imagine hybrid clouds where things like HIPAA-sensitive data (or any data that must be hosted on-premise) are hosted on-premise and app code is run in the public cloud will continue to thrive too.

  3. Any team that doesn't want to worry about power, outages, physical access, temperature, hardware upgrades, etc. stands to gain a lot from hosting in the cloud. Managing your own metal is expensive and hard. Some companies have the human capital to manage it but most of us just want to write our code and focus on that. Anyone like that is going to benefit from hosting in the cloud.

  4. I love open source. I'm stoked Microsoft is leaning into that. We all get to learn and improve together. I hope to see companies like MongoDB continue to thrive where their product is open source but they're a commercial entity backing it up. I think those that don't open source their products are missing out on the power of people who want to solve their own problems. What if I need a feature in your product that you don't have yet? I can build it for you, I get what I want and you get free features.

  5. I don't think we should prohibit closed source software. I don't see a compelling reason to do that.

  6. It's raining a lot! But no snow. I'm heading to Salt Lake City on Sunday though and I'll be snowboarding up at Snowbird! For NYE we'll find some fun bar in Capitol Hill in Seattle to ring in the new year.

Mahaveer's photo

Hi Brian, I'm a huge fan of your Comp Science in 4 hours book! It was the truly amazing with no BS. :D

> My Background:

I'm mainly a JS dev, been a Junior dev for an year now, I've completed YDKJS Series, JS Allonge, Will Senatnce and your JS Courses (all of them) on FrontEnd Masters.

> My Goal:

I wanna be an OS Contributor but am having a really really hard time making sense of code that i havent written

> My Question:

How can someone get familiar with new/complex codebase like that of React, Webpack? Or more like, how can someone get advanced Javascript knowledge to able to understand complex code?

I've heard people saying i lack practice but how do i even practice something like that? i just cant find anything anymore that can help me.

Thanks a lot for reading, have a great day :)

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Mahaveer's photo

Web dev wannabe :D

I did try to read tests but, still couldn't make sense of the code :sweat_smile: , but ill try again, one piece at a time :) Thank you so much, always wanted to have an AMA with you :D

Shreyansh Pandey's photo

Hey, Brian; another Seattleite here! Cheers from U-District and thanks a lot for the AMA!

I am going to digress here from the core topics and ask something about Microsoft's recent involvement in the Linux Foundation and the patent infringement claims made by Microsoft against TomTom for using GNU and Linux. While I am aware that this happened a while back, I want to know why did this happen in the first place. Linux is something for the community and by the community so what's the need to file for IPR violations in lieu of just supporting the development (which is happening right now, after oh-so-many lawsuits.)

And do you think that the announcement of the Sphere OS means anything to the Linux community? The reason why I am asking this is because unlike other Linux-based operating systems, Sphere OS requires Visual Studio for development; this tightly-coupled architecture is one, I would say, bad in taste.

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Shreyansh Pandey's photo

node, coffee and everything in between

Oh, alright! I can understand!

Yeah, we have seen some improvements when it comes to Satya Nadella; Microsoft has really started taking the Open Source community seriously and that is a step in the right direction.

One thing for which I really respect Microsoft is this: their development tools are available for everyone to use and contain all the features you might require (VS Community is honestly more than enough for most, if not all, developers). So, with the recent GitHub acquisition, let's hope we see free private repositories and a bunch of other cool stuff!

Cheers!

Milica Maksimović's photo

Hey Brian,

Thanks for the AMA!

What is your favorite open source project and which one do you think deserves more attention?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

My two favorite projects are Node.js and Babel. I love what they do and the humans that work on them.

The one that deserves more attention is YOUR favorite project that you use a lot. You should open issues, help them triage their own issues, respond to Stack Overflow questions, and maybe write some code for it too.

I include myself in that. I'm guilt tripping myself.

Ruth Alec's photo

What productivity tools do you use in your daily routine?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

  1. Google Calendar / Outlook. I use the former for personal stuff and the latter for work stuff. If it's not on my calendar I won't get it done. I have no memory anymore.

  2. Focus (focusapp,io) If I need to be super-heads-down to get something out the door right now, I'll use Focus. I work for 50 minutes and then pause for 8 minutes. I've also found recently that if I listen to music via records that by the time one side has finished I'm ready for a break.

  3. Visual Studio Code. Spending time getting familiar with your editor just helps you fly when you're working instead of hunting for shortcuts. Invest time in your tools.

  4. Way too much paper. I write a lot of sticky notes. I tried to keep it in Google Keep but I just need to write stuff down.

Ruth Alec's photo

How did you get into Microsoft? I am sure it must be a long journey, but can share it in brief? :)

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

It is a long journey! The shortened version is that I started working at LinkedIn post-Netflix and didn't really enjoy the work I was doing. I was going to move to another team internally but then I saw @Sarah Drasner at a conference in Tel Aviv and she convinced me to transfer to Microsoft proper to be a cloud advocate with her. Best decision ever. I love this job.

Aniketh Saha's photo

Hi brian, I have two question

  1. What do you think about the javascript future. Will it be able to persist or will be removed by GOlang or something else?
  2. What about the graphQL? Does microsoft uses it in any of there product or services.?
Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

  1. Always bet on JS. It's a super productive language that's just getting better. It has a lower barrier to entry which means it's welcoming to newbies and people from other languages while still having higher level constructs like closures, first class functions, and generators which allow for beautiful abstractions. I think JS will be here for decades to come.
  2. GraphQL is great. I think we'll see it continue to expand across companies and be more common going forward. Microsoft is indeed using it in production.
Dániel Gergely's photo

Hi Brian! Thank you for doing this AMA, hope you're doing good.

I want to start an open-source project related to public transport and e-ticket systems, but I don't know how to find developers that may be interested in the project, and what makes an open source project a good project that you can easily contribute into. (For example, we can't really use Trello to divide tasks, but GitHub Projects is messy too, or I don't know if I need to create a Code of Conduct, what to include in README, etc.). Is there any resource that helps developers create these assets for projects, and any platform where I can find some buddies to help on the project?

(Totally off but in case someone is interested, here's the project's GitHub page )

Bests, Dani

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

Hey Dani!

I think you're on the best track right now: just write code. As devs, we're bombarded all day with people that want us to write code for them. Jem Young put it best when he said it's like asking people to listen to your mix tape.

Instead, your best bet is just to get something working. People will see that and want to contribute to it. I'd say organize via GitHub, even if it's a bit annoying, because people can look at what you're doing, what you're planning on doing, and contribute directly to that.

Beyond that, you just have to be a @Sean Larkin: just talk about it all the time. Apply to conferences, meetups, and just talk about what you're learning by doing it. People will be drawn to that and want to contribute.

Good luck friend! Looks awesome!

Kayode Adeola's photo

Hi Brian. I'm also a big fan of your work and I've been inspired by some of your materials on programming (React to be more specific) What are your opinions on using GraphQL over REST for building API services?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

Big fan. I think GraphQL is going to continue to catch on. It yields control of data fetching from the back end team having to build new APIs for every new page to the front end team that they can request the bare minimum they need to get a page running. I find it to be more of an organizational and human win than a tech win.

Betty Chang's photo

When was the last time you coded? And what was it?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

This morning. Writing a plugin pack for Visual Studio Code! (as suggested to me by @Sarah Drasner)

Jennifer Lyn Parsons's photo

Hi Brian! Thanks for taking the time to do an AMA!

My question is coming from the perspective of an intermediate dev who'd like to be senior someday.

With the rapid growth and change across the stack, I find it hard to feel invested in learning one framework over another when in a few years time the landscape could look completely different. I'm concerned that large chunks of my hard-earned knowledge will become outdated.

The answer to that concern is often "focus on the foundations" (languages, stuff like APIs, and CompSci concepts) which is admirable, but not necessarily helpful when job searching, especially early in your career. Most of us are crunched for study time, as well, so it's good to be smart about where you put your focus.

What are your thoughts on frameworks vs foundations and how to balance staying current but also thinking long term in the current industry?

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Jennifer Lyn Parsons's photo

That's very reassuring that I'm on the right track.

I do generally choose projects and studying that interests me, or is at least a doorway to something that interests me.

You've also reminded me to shift my perspective a bit toward curiosity and away from obligation, which is often enough to get something kickstarted. There is indeed always something to learn on any project that's interesting and will build toward deeper knowledge.

Thanks for your insights!

Emmanuel Daniel's photo

Hey, Brian! How do you do? I have an issue, I'm always afraid of publishing my code or personal projects due to a fear of being judged. This makes me feel like a fraud because I literally have nothing to show for. How do I overcome this?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

We all release terrible code all the time! Check out this hot garbage:

Just release it. Most people would love to help you and understand that clean code takes time and multiple people to get right. And screw everyone else.

Mohammad Javad's photo

Hi Brain. Thanks for AMA.

My question is related to your employee.

Did you have a technical or skillful vacuum after hiring in the Microsoft? and how did you fix it?

Clayton Ray's photo

Not sure if I'm allowed two questions but I'm curious what your stance is on making F/OSS sustainable, if you have any thoughts/opinions on the subject!

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Clayton Ray's photo

Software Engineer

Out of curiosity, I saw a project that basically enables users to file issues and receive support if they pay for it. I don't remember all the ins-and-outs (don't even remember the name of the project) but do you think if we, as an industry, promoted this type of behavior across the board, would see OSS become more stabilized? For example, having to pay for support for 50 libs (even at $5 per month) will get out of hand but if we collectively donated like $5 per month and then a committee/org oversaw funds going to actively maintained projects, that would be more feasible for everyone. I don't know if you'd be willing to comment since this AMA is finished but would be interested in this type of discussion. Collectively, we could get a lot more done (I assert, at least) instead of donating to individual projects (but, not replacing those financial contributions/donations either).

Neil Chopra's photo

Hi Brian, what advice do you have for beginner developers trying to understand cloud infrastructure and setup? Do you have any best guide/tutorial?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

I haven't been through it yet but Microsoft Learn has a lot of great free resources! https://docs.microsoft.com/learn/

Vishwa Bhat's photo

Hi Brian,

Thanks for doing AMA. Two quick questions;

  1. Is there any major cultural shift that took place in Microsoft after Satya Nadela took over? I meant from an Employee perspective,

  2. How's the scene of Microsoft entering into Smartphone Market? I see they're planning to build their presence in the whole consumer products.

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

  1. I wasn't here when Satya Nadella took over so I can't tell you from my own experience but everyone tells me that it's a much nicer place to work now.
  2. I have no insight into what that side of the company does. Sorry. :( You know more than I do.
Clayton Ray's photo

Hey Brian! What's your stance on the current state of JS? Are we working too hard to make JS work to the capacity that we are? Should we consider offloading some of the burden to things like WASM and foster new growth from other communities, as opposed to being our own inclusive community? Hope this question makes sense!

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Clayton Ray's photo

Software Engineer

Haven't heard of Blazor! Glad I asked this question. Looks like a cool project. (Though, I don't write C# but maybe one day I'll have a use-case for it)

Thanks for taking the time to answer both of my questions!

Betty Chang's photo

What are the few things Microsoft Azure and the cloud team did recently that you are proud of?

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

  • Azure Static Sites just became generally available!
  • I think Azure Durable Functions are a wonderful new paradigm for writing Azure Functions.
  • Azure Front Door is going to make setting up complicated infrastructure super easy.
  • I'm stoked Azure Pipelines is now free to open source projects.

That's off the top of my head.

Mahaveer's photo

Quick questions:

are you going to release any advanced JS course in future :D ? Something that goes beyond YDKJS, JS Allonge and all those well known beginner books?

Can you recommend any books (advanced JS or w/e) please ? I just love reading book related to JS cuz they seem to be the one stop answer to most of my questions :D

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

No plans right now. I'm focused on v5 of my React course yet and more beginners' materials. I'd recommend anything from Brian Lonsdorf, Kyle Simpson's deeper JS topics, Bianca Gandolfo, Will Sentance's JS Hard Parts, and the rest of the course catalog on frontendmasters.com

Bhanu Bhandari's photo

Hi Brian! Big fan of your work. So for someone completely new to the field, could you help me understand the difference between traditional software development and developer advocate roles? What kind of skills set one apart from the other? It’s been a while since i’ve been seeing this terms and as a future developer (or developer advocate?) i wanted to get this difference cleared up. thanks!

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

Developer advocates draw on past experiences as engineers and the tools their companies offer to help people solve their own problems. I use my experience at Netflix and my knowledge of Azure to help people understand how Azure Functions can help them iterate faster.

Most good dev advcoates will have a lot of technical experience solving the same sorts of problem that much of the industry is also trying to solve. The dev advocate will do more technical writing, public speaking, and consulting as part of their role than a developer will do typically. So if your ambition to do speaking, writing, and consulting then a dev advocate role will be perfect for you.

Bruce LANE's photo

Do you use GraphQL? I enjoy https://github.com/graphql-dotnet/graphql-dotnet !

Brian Holt's photo

cloud advocate @ Microsoft

I do! I love it! I'm expecting in 2019 to use it more and hope to get it into Azure more.