7 years being the API Handyman, the age of reason?
By Arnaud Lauret, February 2, 2022
This time, no “API blah blah blah”, this time, it’s personal. February 2022 marks a major landmark, I can’t believe I launched the API Handyman blog 7 years ago! Being 7 years old is supposed to mark the “age of reason”. Did I reached it? I think so, but it took me more than 7 years.
Failing and healing
The creation of the API Handyman blog was the starting point of a new path in my career after a few dark years.
Before the blog
I started my career as a developer in 2002, then I became a software analyst (people who write specs for developers), a project manager and finally an application manager. I followed what was quite a usual path in France at that time, but I did it without really thinking about it. And that was a huge mistake (don’t do that at home), I realized that being a manager was definitely not for me. But I realized it almost too late.
Indeed, after a few years, I was always exhausted, getting sick fairly often, not happy with most of what I had to do on my daily job. I was actually not happy at all; and this situation had a terrible impact on my family’s life. I didn’t realize all that consciously until that one day my body wouldn’t let me go to the office. Hopefully, I was in a situation where I could change that. I actually did go to the office that one day, but to request a position change. Hopefully my manager was also managing the architecture team and I could join it. And so I was back to what I really liked: coding, tinkering with proof of concepts, designing systems, … I never have been so happy for years (I was as happy when I was a developer). I was happy but not totally confident in my experience. I was wondering if what I’ve done in the past years was valuable if I want to work somewhere else.
Starting a blog
Before actually moving to the architecture team, I had to lead a major API project and became interested in the topic. Thanks to my manager, I discovered the API Evangelist (the guy who invented “APIs blah blah blah”) and also was able to attend my very first API conference in December 2014. At the API Days Paris conference, getting out of my cave, I saw all those stars on stage sharing their knowledge. Listening to them, I was thinking “that’s amazing stuff” but also “wait, I ran into that problem too, I solved it a bit differently”, “hey, I did that too!”… Suddenly I realized that many of those “stars” were normal people sharing their stories.
All that made me realized that I actually did not lost my time but learned valuable and interesting things in the past years (sometimes by trial and errors) . During all my career, I have been working on connecting pieces of software together. I worked on distributed (and heterogenous) systems, file transfers, SOA (Service Oriented Architecture), IVR (Interactive Voice Response), web, mobile and what we call now (web) APIs. I realized that sharing my stories could help others. And as a few months earlier, I had given a hand to my wife to migrate her blog from some platform to a self hosted Wordpress, it did not take me long to think about starting my own blog to talk about APIs.
But why did I created the “API Handyman Blog” and not “Arnaud Lauret’s Blog”? I was quite intimidated to publicly “speak” (actually write) about APIs, so hiding behind a nickname was convenient. I wanted a funny name that would make people know that this blog was about APIs. So I searched an “API whatever” name and came with “API Handyman” because it perfectly reflected my vision of what I do with software and APIs.
It took me weeks, especially to write my very first post, but at last on the 7th February 2015 the API Handyman blog was live with my very first post “Why you must design your private API in english”. The very first comment (yeah, there were comments at that time), came from the API Evangelist himself, I was totally crazy.
Writing about APIs hoping helping others, actually helped me more than I would have imagined. I met amazing people, make new friends, talked at conferences, live tweeted dozens of conference sessions, wrote a book, got two wonderful jobs. But more than that, I became API Handyman.
Becoming the API Handyman
Slowly, but surely, I became “API Handyman” (or he became me?) because the content I create and my work feed each other, but also because I finally chose to wear my API Handyman costume everyday to become a confident API expert.
Creating content is hard but worth the cost
Creating content was hard in the “beginning”, it actually took me years to become more comfortable doing it. In the beginning writing a post could take me weeks. I spent more than 2 years on my book The Design of Web APIs. Creating my conference session was also hard, I remember finishing my first keynote preparation at 3pm, a few hours before presenting. But session after session it became easier.
Was it worth the cost? Totally. All this hard work helped me getting better at explaining things, articulating ideas, and telling stories. It also helped me to learn more about many topics. Even when I want to talk about something I do everyday, I often realize that I need to think more about it or do researches in order to actually be able to explain it in an easy to understand way. That definitely help me getting better at doing my daily job “helping people to understand and to create APIs”.
I made all this work easier by doing it only when I wanted to and by trying to keep it as fun as possible. Working on the form, using pop-culture reference, and creating high quality visuals really helps me.
Becoming a confident API expert
Speaking of pop-culture reference, I created T-shirts (actually, I asked my wife to draw them) such as the “Masters of the APIverse”, “Respect my API Style Guide” or “API Titans Go!” to wear them when going at conferences, it’s my API Handyman costume (no, I don’t wear underwear over pants like Superman). When I became an API architect for Natixis, I decided to wear them everyday, whatever I was doing, whoever I was suppose to meet. I remember being lost in a building and encountering someone I’ve never met who told me “I think we have a meeting together”. Those t-shirts helped me breaking the ice in some meetings.
They helped me in being more confident, but didn’t do all the work. Working day after day with dozens of different teams, doing hundred of API design reviews/workshops/training while being more and more the API Handyman, I at last accepted myself as an expert (Oh, I still have the impostor syndrome, but I learned to live with it). I hope not to be an arrogant one. I’m not here to yell at people, but listen to them and help them (if they want to be helped) in their context, not providing out of the blue inapplicable solutions, always willing to learn new things. I’m capable to say “I don’t understand”, “I don’t know” and ask “silly” questions (there’s actually no silly questions).
Being the API Handyman was quite fun and exciting so far, especially, the last 4 years at Natixis which were totally amazing. But my Natixis adventure is over because I couldn’t refuse an even more amazing offer. I just joined Postman and will go on being the API Handyman there (you’ll be able to read more about this on Postman’s blog).
Since I started the API Handyman blog, I rationally analyzed and accepted 2 wonderful job offers, I became and accepted myself as an expert taking advantage of my past and willing to learn. So, yes, professionally speaking, I think I have reached the age of reason, both as API Handyman and Arnaud Lauret.