"I like my quiet, peaceful life." - Todd Motto
Hey Todd, you’re quite a superstar in the front-end world!
Haha. People say this, but I just say no.
Smart. How did it all start? How did you become the programmer you are today?
Completely by accident. I got qualifications in design and started off as a freelance designer. I started with logos, then moved to website. I would always have somebody code it for me, which I’d lose money from my clients due to the expense of a web developer to make my designs come to life.
I decided to see what all the fuss was about and downloaded some HTML and CSS templates to attempt learning how to do it myself. Once I started playing with it, I thought to myself: “well, this is really cool, actually”. And then I just completely stopped doing design and focused on coding, because it was thousand times more interesting.
I took a few new jobs over the course of a few years and stayed up really late most evenings, sometimes not sleeping, just to learn more and write about things I’ve learned and built.
So you work with designers now?
I still do design to some extent. I designed all of my company business cards and some other graphics as thankfully I’ve still got some skills there! I don’t typically attempt logos anymore, so our Ultimate Angular logo was commissioned by a designer I stumbled upon after loving his work. He ended up building the entire website with us after! It’s hard to design for yourself, so having someone impartial makes a lot of difference.
Credit: Ultimate Angular
How long did you spend on Ultimate Angular? I read somewhere that it was around 400 hours.
Yeah, that’s usually the amount of time per course and we’ve got 7 courses at the moment - 5 of which are mine. 4 of them are fully complete and I’m currently working on the final advanced Angular Pro course. We put them up for preorder to give people an opportunity to reserve a copy at a lower price before we’ve made them. Once they’re up, they get a notification - though we typically send 3-4 emails with updates as we publish new content.
How is it going?
We launched in early September and we had a really good month, and it’s kind of gone completely opposite of how I planned it (in a good way, people are really enjoying our content), to which I left my amazing full-time job to pursue the dream full-time. I don’t know whether we’re just having a New Year luck at the moment, but I’ve got some really big hopes for this year and onwards!
What’s your New Year resolution? Everyone wants to be a coder now.
Train everyone in the world! I really love helping people, and the success stories I hear daily just drive my passion to teach.
So what’s the future like for Angular?
It’s kind of a strange idea to think about. From the top - Angular 1 came out in 2009, so it’s really old but likely the biggest framework out there. It’s still absolutely incredible and is still actively worked on. A few years ago, Angular 2 (now just “Angular”) was introduced as something Google were beginning to build - and they finally released it end of last year. I was a bit unsure as to what they were doing at first, but now I am just in awe at the engineering and concepts put forward.
What Google is doing with Angular is going to be crazy big, and that’s already started. So they basically generate code that is as fast as possible in a browser for you based off of the code that you’ve written. I’m really excited at the direction of the project and the reactive side of things - the future is certainly bright here.
As a Google Developer Expert, do you have some insights you can share?
No, it’s classified. (laughter)
Where do you live now?
I live in the middle of nowhere in the South West of England. It’s a beautiful little village called Potterne. I thought about moving to London, but the prices aren’t really justifiable when compared to what you can get for your money in the countryside. A small flat/house in London would get you one (or even two!) amazing houses in the countryside, with the added beauty of peace and quiet. So I chose to stay for the time being and live in a nice cottage with a super driveway! I’d miss that in the cities - so don’t want to move. You live in the city, right?
I’ll show you quickly how beautiful it is behind the window. It’s quiet. Nobody bothers me out here (apart from the Amazon delivery guys!). It’s the best way to keep focused and do some work, whilst having easy access to amazing places nearby to visit and relax.
Credit: @toddmotto View from our bedroom window. I love living in the countryside it's underrated and peaceful.
What’s your typical day like?
It always starts with a coffee. Depending till what time I work the day before. Sometimes I work until around midnight, sometimes all night. It used to be worse when I had a typical job as well. There was 8 hours and then another 8 hours and then I’d wake up 4 hours later. So typically I start at 9 o’clock, get a coffee, shower, come back, check Trello, see what the company needs to do this week and what I need to work on and then I just get going! It’s a huge amount of fun coupled with the right amount of pressure.
Aside from creating the courses, there are also so many behind-the-scenes tasks I need to manage. I have a website to maintain, update, publish new content as well as all our support emails. Support ranges from setting up new team accounts for companies, people who want to upgrade their accounts, buy new bundles and so on. At the moment I typically spend around 8-10 hours working on courses (some days less) and every few hours have a small break.
Not all of the time spent on the “courses” is building and recording as I have to ensure the ideas we convey will scale and fit into the thinking of developers using the tools - which is the part I really love. I try breaking things up into an adhoc schedule - for instance I might be in the middle of building 25 video examples but take a break and write a new blog post to relax the “courses” part of my mind. Sometimes it gets a little too much doing the same thing all day everyday so I try manage that.
We have all sorts of plans with current courses, and future courses. We’re going to start doing workshops, so if your team decided to learn Angular, we can help you or you can come to one of our workshops. I used to do that a lot for companies and conference events. It turned into actual business now. The plan is to grow and see where the path leads us.
I saw you own two rabbits. What are their names? Angular 1 and 2?
We have 5 rabbits now! My fiancé loves them, and I do too! They’re low maintenance and actually really funny animals.
I also used to have a dog. I moved out when I was 19, I’m 26 now, but since I was 8, we’ve had like 3 or 4 dogs throughout the years. I’ll be definitely getting a dog for myself one day. Hopefully one that doesn’t eat the furniture as I work ;)
How do you feel about working from home?
I’ve been working from home for over 2 years. It was hard at first, you get bored a lot and sometimes wonder if you are “doing it right”. Having started working for myself full-time, I’ve got to keep doing things to keep the cogs turning - no excuses for sleeping in now!
The company has been growing and we’ve got thousands of people waiting for our new Angular and TypeScript courses, so I can’t procrastinate as much as I’d like ;)
That’s the upside of allowing preorders for our courses, we have the estimated release date for each one and it keeps the pressure on me to deliver. I try to stick to it and that’s why I have a daily routine.
If I’m done for the day I’ll just pass out on the sofa for a bit, watch some Black Mirror or something else on Amazon/Netflix - it really depends on my mood!
One thing I’ve noticed is how much faster the days go by when working for yourself. I’ve got so many things to do, and keeping focused, ticking off todo items and all of a sudden it’s Friday night relax time. Then it’s suddenly Monday and here we go again!
Do you take vacation sometimes?
I never really used to take much vacation time due to always working/travelling to conferences and other things I really love. My new goal is to go away somewhere nice each time I release a new course or we hit a new milestone for something we are working on. For example, I launched the Angular Fundamentals course in January and 2 days after I went to Thailand for 10 days. It gives your brain some much needed rest after many months working on a single deliverable.
In Thailand we went to an incredible place called the Jurassic Mountain Resort (a luxury fishing resort). My step dad (Martin Bowler) is a professional fisherman and he’s super famous in the fishing world - he has many books and DVDs published. Him and my Mum own a villa out there on the resort and he does hosted trips out there for fishing fanatics. It’s the coolest place that I’ve ever been to!
Similar to people buying my courses, if you were in love with fishing you could go with him for a 10 days and catch the biggest fish you’ve ever caught (sadly I must’ve been in the swimming pool those days…)
They have a lake there and they have fish in there that are native to the Amazon in South America (as well as thousands of other species). They really look after them there, and there are fish over 300lbs which is amazing!
They import fish from Amazon and put it in a lake in Thailand?
Yeah I think so! They do breed them there though so I don’t think they’re all imported.
I don’t know how to respond to that.
Well, if you have a fishtank at home they are not going to be from your country, are they!
Yes. You’re most definitely right. It’s just...the world keeps on surprising. How do you relax during weekdays?
Usually with a takeaway. Takeout? I don’t know which version of English you folks learn! I order food to my house! (laughing) We do that once or twice a week and then just watch movies in the evening with some good old Netflix.
Some weekends… Have you heard of the National Trust? We’re members, it costs like £30 a year to be one. There’s so many beautiful places in England that you never really hear of or see until you’re a member. Ancient castles, places like Stonehenge, old forts, victorian buildings and much more - being a member you get free entry instead of “pay on the day” which works out nicer. We’re trying to visit more places like this.
It’s good fun but I wish I could do more, I love history. But, I like doing what I’m doing with my company - which I actually set up during my college years studying design to bring in some beer tokens! I’ve always enjoyed helping clients/people build things, and now it’s turned into a full-time job and I couldn’t be happier.
The short side of the story is I don’t really relax too much during the weekdays - reserved strictly for the weekend!
Do you do any sports?
I need to start running again. I’m getting rather unfit again... I’ve vowed to, once I finish the next course I’m going to get fit again! We could pretend that I am an amazing skydiver though after my epic tumble out a plane at 15,000ft...
Credit: @toddmotto We all did it. 60 seconds of free fall from 15,000ft in the air. Was the best feeling in the world!!
How do you feel about public speaking? Do you get stressed sometimes?
Yeah, I get more stressed nowadays than I did at the beginning. But that’s mainly because I didn’t know how to really construct a talk/slide deck back then - whereas now I know exactly how to produce one… I hope!
There’s more pressure, because you know the depth that you need to go into in each talk, and once you’ve done a variety of talks at different lengths, about different topics, you realise what needs to go into making a “good talk”.
I got really nervous at my first talk, which was a meet up for around 100 attendees - that was the most terrifying experience, only halfway through I finally calmed down a bit.
Thankfully, it’s really helped me become a more outgoing person - I could happily stand in front of a football stadium and be like “hey, what’s up!” and talk to everyone. It doesn’t bother me now when I get to the talk, it’s the moments leading up to a talk that’s scary still - no idea why but those nerves keep coming! I’ve just learned to live with it, I take being nervous as a good sign anyway - I don’t really want to become too comfortable.
So once you get the mic and start talking, it’s all good? But before you’re stressed? That’s cool, it gives hope to all those who do need to speak publicly sometimes and hate it.
Yeah, everyone is different. I’m going to Amsterdam for NG-NL in a few weeks, I did the closing keynote talk of the conference last year. I was nervous all day! When they start to put my microphone on that’s when the nerves decide to take it up a level. Thankfully we got to sit on stage for 10 minutes because it was between a scheduled break, so while I was sat there on the stage and talked to my friends I cooled off before my talk and had so much fun presenting. So yeah, it’s uncomfortable at times - but I love it! And conferences keep asking me to come back, so that’s a great sign - with the added bonus of travelling the world and meeting new amazing people. I’ve made a lot of great friends from speaking at conferences.
Do you have any places that you’d like to visit or any conferences on your radar?
I want to get to Australia one day. There’s most of America that I want to travel to. I’ve done Boston, New York, San Francisco a few times, Texas and Florida. Next up in April I’m headed to Salt Lake City for ngConf!
America is one of my favourite places. I always come back with a lesser refined figure though, I just eat so much fast food over there, but it’s so delicious!
Do you have some big dreams as to where career might take you?
At the moment I’m focusing on Ultimate Angular and the goal of the project. My vision is that there’s nowhere you can just “go to” and learn everything about Angular - which is where we come in. By the end of the year, we should hopefully have 4 more courses surrounding the ecosystem to compliment our other courses. Once that solidifies itself it will be the place to go if you’re really serious about getting started with AngularJS, Angular, TypeScript and other ecosystem tools/libraries.
My next plan is to setup the consultancy side of the business, introducing workshops and adhoc training for engineers or teams. At the moment we’re silently working with a few partners across the globe, so I’d love to take that further and expand to help more people by solidifying our offering.
I don’t really know past that - I guess it would depend on how well the workshops go! Either way I’m really excited about the journey.
I used to do a lot of marketing digital strategy works during my early career, so that kind of works nicely with what I’m trying to do with Ultimate Angular. We’ve got a free course coming out soon about state management in Angular apps - but that’s an untold secret ;)
The plan is to keep growing and hopefully retire on a beautiful beach somewhere!
So that’s your end goal! What about a proper sportscar?
Yeah. Buy my Ferrari ! (laughing)
Speaking of which, what about them shoes?
I don’t know. I guess that’s my thing now! I wear red shoes on stage after an obsession with them for a few months - I have 5 pairs now. People actually mention the red shoes now so I feel I must continue with this venture.
You can mix and match the shoes with so many pairs!
You’re right. They pretty much look the same, haha. I have two conferences coming up, so I’m going to have to bring those red shoes with me!
It actually started when I used to wear blue or black shoes, and they stopped making the ones I liked (I used to buy the same pair as they were so comfy), but they had the red version. And that was it. Never looked back...
Is there anything that you do before you go on stage?
No, but I did think it would be cool to have a random first slide. I’d be like “hey, I’m Todd” and then it goes to the picture of a cat, or something ridiculous, and just change the slide and carry on. Something like that. It needs guts though and I’d probably laugh. No funny slides for me for now...
Are you involved in any open source projects at the moment?
Yes, we’re working on a few, but some are literally just floating ideas at the moment and they are not finished - and also don’t have names! We’re working on a compiler for Angular and also on a boilerplate that I can use in our courses and also release to the public as our preferred setup. We’re trying to build some community tools to make people’s lives easier when it comes to development.
What’s the motivation behind all that you do? Except for the chilling on the beach thing...
Haha. This is what I’d like to do in 20 years time. I think the biggest thing and why people like learning from me is that I just really enjoy teaching people. If I could just get my whole life paid for, I’d just sit and helping people on Twitter all day. That’s the thing I needed to change recently. Until now if you just pinged me on Skype saying “hey, I think I have a bug here, could you take a look”, I would. Now I try to limit that, because there’s 30,000+ people, DMs, tweets, slack, skype messages and emails and texts it’s impossible to respond to everyone without affecting my work. Which makes me slightly sad as I really wish I could help everyone!
Most days I follow people in the industry, who inspire me daily and then I just create a mental todo list that I need to learn and then knock them all down and move on to the next list.
What I thankfully have is passion for Angular itself. My life is basically just building projects to demystify things for people. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. I love spending 400 hours on learning things, and being able to digest it all down into a 6 hour course (for example).
Todd, thank you so much and best of luck with the courses!