Jarvis Johnson, Software Engineer & Content Creator
I got a chance to sit down and speak to one my favorite comedy/tech YouTubers, Jarvis Johnson. When he's not making insightful and hilarious videos about the tech world, he's a Software Engineer at Patreon [who are currently hiring for a bunch of roles on pocitjobs.com].
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m Jarvis. I’m a software engineer at this company called Patreon. I have a YouTube channel where I talk about life and tech through the lens of comedy and a comedy podcast called Sad boyz where it’s just two guys talking about their feelings
What made you want to start creating content?
It goes back to when I was a kid. I used to draw every day, draw little cartoons. In middle school, I went to this program that introduced me to a lot of technology. I got obsessed with making Flash videos, and simultaneously I learned about websites.
I had a YouTube channel and a podcast when I was fourteen in high school. I stopped making stuff after I had a couple of popular YouTube videos, and I got nervous about topping myself. I think I was afraid of publicly failing on the Internet. And so, I took a break from that around the same time that I started to learn about tech and software stuff. I still was very ignorant about that entire world.
I found out about the major of computer science through a podcast that I listened to [and still listen to]. That podcast is on Patreon and so my entire life has come to full circle.
Last year I went to VidCon [which is this big video creator conference]. I went to work actually, and there I was able to meet some incredible creators. The reason that I started a YouTube channel way back in the day is that for the past like ten or eleven years I’ve been watching a couple of YouTubers and still watch them to this day. One of which was Hank & John Green, the Vlogbrothers. They were instrumental in crafting some of my world views and had a significant influence on me. At VidCon last year I was able to meet them, and it was wild. Also, I learned from VidCon how I might be able to get over some of my insecurities about creating things, it was instilled through a lot of the panels that your voice deserves to be heard on the Internet, and everybody has the opportunity to let their voice be heard, and that really resonated with me. And so, when I got back, me and a friend, decided to go for it.
So you do it together?
I think we both started our channels at the same time; it’s just like a support system.
A lot of your content is spoofing the tech industry, was that intentional?
So, I think it’s really about my own lived experience at this point. I think that we often don’t talk about the harmful aspects of the industry. I believe that tech can do so much good in the world, but we often brush under the table some of the negatives. Like how not inclusive tech has been historically, and how the cultures that come from otherwise “successful companies” can be super toxic. There’s a lot of just going with whatever successful companies did, like survivorship bias, where you say “Hey, Google was a successful company. So if we want to be successful as a startup, we should adopt everything Google did.” That assumes that every individual step that Google took was a factor in its success, or Facebook is like a more recent example of this, and that’s not always the case. And so, I like to poke fun at some of these things in hopes of having people question why these are the norms in the industry in the first place.
I also try to make videos about my journey with mental health and the way that I see my place in the world, and how millennial are obsessed with being successful by twenty-five or else. And so, really it’s just commenting on my own experience.
One of my favorite videos is the one that you did on the technical interview. Was there an actual interview to inspire that?
I’ve been on both sides of that technical interview. I’ve both given the interview and learned how to give the interview.
In that particular video, I wanted to pick every single bad interview thing that could have happened or has happened to me in the past, and just put all of them together. What’s funny about that video is, I sat down at work one morning and wrote the entire script on a notebook page and what it became was that exact script. So, I felt like I was very close to it.
I’m sure you’ve addressed this in one of your videos but what was the deciding factor for you to want to work in tech or as a software engineer?
I haven’t discussed this a whole lot. So, I guess going back to high school, me and my best friend who is still my best friend, we talk almost every day even though he lives in New York now and I’m in San Francisco. We used to make things. I used to go over to his place and make things, we would make YouTube videos together, and we would make our podcast together. We at some point were like, “Oh! I heard about programming and making websites; we can do this.” But we didn’t know how to let alone making websites but just like writing code in general. We tried to learn C++ at some point in high school by ourselves with just a book, and it was impossible. It was like “Why did we pick that language?” In retrospect, horrible idea.
That was about the extent of it but when I was deciding to go to college there was a podcast that I listened to called Geek Nights, there were these two tech professionals in New York. I don’t even know how I found the show and I’ve been listening to it for ten years at this point. Their show is on Patreon now. It’s still pretty small and modest community, but it had a significant impact on me. I listened to an episode that they did about computer majors, and I heard about computer science. I remember being in the forums on their podcast and saying I was interested in potentially going to Georgia Tech, where I ended up going to.
After I made that leap, I was swept away into this world of tech that I didn’t know existed because when I got to Georgia Tech, I was like hooked up with a mentor who would help me make sense of my college journey. In the first semester of my freshman year, there was a career fair, where I saw all the companies that were coming to the school, and I was like “What! You can work at Google. You can work at Microsoft.” These are companies that were just things on the Internet to me or on my computer. And slowly I dipped my toes and then jumped in. There were a lot of small things that had to go the right way for me even to realize that this world was for me.
What would you say to somebody that might be in your position maybe 7-8 years ago, who is maybe considering to getting into tech?
Well, one thing that I would say is that you can do it. We often make it seem like the only people who can do tech jobs is this particular type of person, because I didn’t feel like I fit that stereotype. It wasn’t until I when I was in college my mentor was a Jamaican guy, and I was connected with other people who looked like me, or I wasn’t even aware that there was a group of minorities in tech, and I was like, “Oh! These are people who have the similar lived experience to me who are also doing this.” So, it’s not just this stereotype that I’ve seen on television.
The other thing is that the decision that you’re making here is it a decision for the rest of your life. Like I don’t know if I’ll be a software engineer for the rest of my career, probably not, but I think that the experience that I’ve had thus far has opened up new opportunities for me, should I choose to take them. It’s all kind of like life is this very long thing, and you’re probably going to have a lot of different experiences, and so why not try out the things that interest you. If you have the slightest bit of interest, I encourage you to try those things out because it’s rare to be excited about things.
Anything that you want to plug?
For sure, if you want to find me on the internet I’m @Jarvis on Twitter just like my first name, I don’t know how that happened. Everything else you can find out through there. YouTube is Jarvis Johnson. I also do this podcast “Sad Boyz” with my friend Jordan, which is two guys talking about their feelings in a comedic fashion and we made that because there weren’t safe spaces for guys to talk about their feelings.