Sometimes Dragons

Salve Munde!

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It’s been a busy and wonderful first few weeks for me at RedMonk. I’ve spoken at Monktoberfest, experienced my first briefings as a monk, and, after a day of teaching (Computer Science majors, no less), I found myself drafting this in the remnants of a hurricane as a break from writing a book chapter that’s sometimes about dragons. If this sounds like chaos, that’s because it is: the controlled chaos of a career track that’s reached out in several different directions at once, but has converged ultimately at RedMonk.

About Me

As Steve puts it, I have a certain (and perhaps eclectic) set of skills. While I have always been aware of and fascinated with tech, my formal schooling is in the humanities (PhD in English, University at Albany; BA in English and Medieval Studies, University of Notre Dame). My research focuses on both the Middle Ages and medievalism (the ways that post-medieval societies reimagine or appropriate the Middle Ages), and I have had the opportunity to speak and publish on everything from Beowulf to World of Warcraft. I have also taught my own university-level courses, worked as a writing tutor and assistant director at UAlbany’s Writing Center, and even managed to perfect my barista and bartending skills along the way.

For better or for worse, I also turned my interest in tech into tech writing gigs and then a proper job at Apprenda where I worked as a QA Analyst, Test & Release Manager, and Tech Writer on both the engineering and client services teams. These experiences added to my skillset, but they also made me see developers in a new light. Popular culture had led me to think of developers in stereotypes: smart but also arrogant and/or anti-social. Our devs were brilliant, but also patient, funny, and willing to let me learn a lot from them (including how to resolve merge conflicts). Most importantly, I learned that devs are people, just like the rest of us, and becoming self-critical of my own assumptions about how software gets written has been indispensable to me.

My RedMonk Past

My tech colleagues were also interested in my work on medievalism, and when the excellent Dan Turkenkopf suggested I submit a talk for the 2015 Monktoberfest I was both intrigued and wary. Craft beer and smart tech talks were a draw for me, but I did not know if I was “techie” enough to speak at such an event, or if my work on medievalism (dragons included) would suit. Luckily I stumbled on the videos of past Montkoberfest talks (among them an excellent talk by Kate Lynch O’Grady). The range of topics and speaker backgrounds sold me on Monktoberfest. I proposed a talk to Steve, and before I knew it I was on my way to Portland, ME.

It was this, my first Monktoberfest, that sold me on RedMonk. There is something magical about speaking at a conference where nobody (even the speakers) knows who else is speaking, yet where everyone is both welcomed and welcoming. The talks and beer were, in fact, excellent, but the people were even better. I got to meet Steve and Kate and Rachel (before she was even a monk!). In what must be the best post-talk question ever, the first words James ever spoke to me were an invitation to speak about J. R. R. Tolkien at Monki Gras. And the conversations I had with speakers and attendees alike were proof positive that the humanities and tech—two worlds that I had experienced as mostly separate—could overlap in ways that I had not imagined.

A RedMonk Present

My experiences at RedMonk events and with the people attached to them were such that when an analyst position opened up a few months ago, I jumped at the chance to apply. Two years into a three-year post-doctoral fellowship at Georgia Tech (and with a talk already accepted for Monktoberfest 2018) I had been contemplating whether to stay in academia or return to the tech industry. When I got the job offer, though, it was a no-brainer.

The one downside was the timing, as I was just about to start teaching my fall classes at Georgia Tech. As I had hoped (and probably should have expected), RedMonk came through on this and gave me the OK to finish the semester while also beginning my new job as an analyst. I appreciate this gift of time more than I can say, as it has let me follow through on commitments to my students and my colleagues. Yes, RedMonk is a developer-focused analyst firm, but it also values people more broadly, and this is the version of tech that I want to work in and for.

What’s Next

My tech background includes experience with PaaS, containers, CI/CD, testing frameworks, documentation, and training. The beauty of the tech industry, though, is that it is always changing, so I expect to cover a much broader range of topics here, especially as new technologies emerge.

I also expect medievalism (and some Latin) to sneak in on occasion—and rightly so for a monk. Ergo, you can expect to catch me at the usual industry events, but you are just as likely to hear about my adventures at the International Congress on Medieval Studies or at talks sponsored by the William Morris Society in the United States (of which I am currently the Vice President of Programming).

I am, above all things, a writer, so please feel free to reach out (@drkellyannfitz) and tell me about your projects or yourself. There is always new code—or a new story—to be written, and I would love to learn about yours.

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