Leanpub Podcast Interview #31: Antonio Leiva
published Jun 08, 2016
Antonio Leiva is a Madrid-based Android engineer who has led projects at several big companies in Spain. He is the author of the Leanpub book, Kotlin for Android Developers and 10 consejos para convertirte en un desarrollador experto. In this interview, Leanpub co-founder Len Epp talks with Antonio about his career, about his book, and about self-publishing on Leanpub.
This interview was recorded on April 11, 2016.
This interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.
Len: Hi, I’m Len Epp from Leanpub, and in this Leanpub Podcast, I’ll be interviewing Antonio Leiva. Antonio is the author of two Leanpub books.
The first is Kotlin for Android Developers: Learn Kotlin the easy way while developing an Android app, which is about the language that was created specifically for Java developers.
The second is written in Spanish, and its title translates in English to, “10 Tips To Become An Expert Developer.” In this interview, we’re going to talk about Antonio’s professional interests, his books, his experience using Leanpub, and ways we can improve Leanpub for him and other authors.
So thank you Antonio for being on the Leanpub Podcast.
Antonio: Thank you for inviting me. I’m really glad to be here.
Len: Thanks. I should actually mention that we’re speaking across many time zones. Antonio is in Madrid, and as always I’m on the west coast of North America, so it’s quite some distance.
Antonio, I usually like to start these interviews by asking people for their origin story. I was wondering if you can tell me how you first became interested in being a developer, and what your first job was like?
Antonio: When I finished high school, I didn’t really know what to study. I felt slightly attracted by computer science. So I finally ended up studying the degree. At that moment, I really didn’t feel any passion about programming. So when I finished my degree, I started working in the first place with relatively good conditions I could find. I started working in CRM consulting. We customized and installed Microsoft Dynamic CRM for other companies, and I spent more or less four years there. So that’s the way I started, not very–
Len: Oh no, no that’s very interesting. It’s one of the things I like to track, if people studied programming formally and when they became developers in the end. I find it’s about half and half. 50% of people studied and 50% of people found a different way.
So you started in CRM, and how did you end up becoming interested in Android?
Antonio: That was quite related to finding my real passion. Because as I was telling, in my previous work, I felt a little bit frustrated, because I felt that this was not the type of job I wanted to do. At that point, I started trying other things. I can’t remember exactly why, but I decided to start learning about creating Android apps and writing a blog about it, to help others doing the same I was doing. This was like five years ago. I loved it since the first moment, because it was so easy to see a nice result from your work. It was totally the opposite to what I had been doing before.
So I decided I wanted to do things that final users could enjoy, and not stuff that would be hidden inside the company I was working for. That’s how my endless passion started.
Len: That’s really interesting, getting the reinforcement of doing something and seeing results.
Len: I was wondering, I haven’t interviewed anyone from Spain before. And so, I wanted to ask you, what is the tech scene like in Madrid and in Spain more generally?
Antonio: Some years ago when I started working, it was rather unpromising. Most developers had to work in consulting companies that only worried about sales and not code quality. So developers were not important in those companies. Developers couldn’t have a career and had to convert to salesmen at some point. If you just wanted to be a developer, salaries were rather bad. So lots of people moved to other countries. I know friends that moved to London, Berlin or San Francisco, for instance.
But nowadays, things are changing, are quite different. There are many small tech companies and startups that now understand the value of quality code. Nowadays it’s much easier to find a company where developers can grow, so salaries a little bit higher. A bit far from other close countries yet, but it keeps improving. In general, now developers can develop their passion in amazing companies, without having to emigrate to other countries. So it’s quite better than some years ago.
Len: That’s fantastic to hear.
Antonio: Yeah. It is.
Len: My next question is kind of long, but - we have quite a few authors on Leanpub who write tech books who are bilingual or multilingual. And a lot of our tech books are not written in English. You are, yourself, a great example of a Leanpub author who writes in more than one language - as you have written, as I said in the introduction, one book in English and another in Spanish. I assume there are a lot more resources for developers on the internet written in English than there are in Spanish - like Stack Overflow for example. Are there a lot of Spanish resources for developers online? And do you think learning to read English is something that all developers around the world have to do these days?
Antonio: Well there are some resources. Mainly blogs in Spanish. But the amount of content is not enough to develop your career properly. So I think that reading English is a need for a Spanish developer, and probably a developer from any country, because there is lot more of information, and more advanced information. So, reading English is a need, and probably writing in English is a need too if you want to improve your personal branding, to develop a good branding. Maybe it’s our fault, because we tend to think that articles in English have better quality than those written in Spanish. In fact, most Spanish developers just write blogs in English, and they don’t try to write in Spanish first.
Len: I was wondering, you’re currently an Android engineer at a company called Plex. Could you explain a little bit about what Plex does, and what your goals are and what you do there?
Antonio: Plex is a software company that gives you instant access to your media collections like home videos, photos, music, TV shows and movies, so you can quickly find and seeing what you want in any device, anytime. I’m part of the Android team, where we developed all related Android apps. We have a mobile app, tablet, Android TV, Pi TV, and any other crazy, brilliant ideas that we think will be useful for an Android device. We at least try it to see if it deserves an app.
Len: I was wondering if you could - I mean - obviously with the expertise you’ve gained doing sort of cross platform media stuff, I was wondering if you could explain who your intended audience is for your book, “Kotlin for Android Developers,” and why you chose to write that book.
Antonio: My audience is basically any Android developer who’s fed up with Java, and wants to try a new language. The reason I wrote it is basically the same reason I decided to start writing blogs: because I was learning the language myself. I thought it would be great if I could write a book to help others learn it too. And honestly, I didn’t think much about it. I just wrote a small introduction, and published the book at 5% more or less, and got like a hundred sales in a few days.
So at that point, there was no turning back. I had to write it, because I had a lot of people waiting for it.
Len: That’s a great story. It’s so exciting when someone publishes something, and immediately gets an audience that gives them a positive reason to sort of keep going.
I wanted to ask - your book has nearly 900 readers, and perhaps now even more, which is really good for a book on a subject like this. I was wondering if you did anything special to attract so many readers, or did the ball just get rolling?
Antonio: I should probably answer, it was all luck. But also trying to develop [the subject] a little more, to write on something that nobody wrote before. My book is the only finished book about Kotlin right now. So if you want to buy a book, a finished book at least, you need to buy mine. There’s no other one.
Len: That’s a really good idea. This is a very high level question, but what do you think the future of Android looks like in the next couple of years?
Antonio: I’m bad at predicting the future, but Android has been taking the lead in mobile operating systems for years now. It will just keep growing. I’m not so sure about the rest of the Android variations, such as Android Wear, Android TV, Android photo, which are having very slow progress. But as I said, Android’s very good, so it’s really the future. I thought that tablets would never succeed, and you can see here we are, so - in any case, technology evolves so fast that we developers must be ready to [adapt to] technology changes in our careers, but lets hope that Android [lasts] longer.
Len: That’s a great line. I was wondering, your second Leanpub book is about, “Tips To Become an Expert Developer”, and I just wanted to ask you, what are your top three tips for a developer?
Antonio: Firstly, I wrote this book to give it as a present to people who joined the mailing list of my new blog, which I am writing in Spanish. I decided to sell it to everyone else who wanted it. That is why I published in Leanpub.
My three tips would be, first, specialization. We need to know a little bit about everything, but a lot about something. Because otherwise, we’ll have to compete by price with the rest of people. We have to choose whether we want to be chosen because we know a lot about something, or because we are the cheapest. So I think that specialization is one key point.
Another tip is personal branding. It’s helped me a lot during these years, like blogs, talks and events, now the book, and these kind of things.
My third tip would be, taking your profession as a passion. A developer who just works eight hours in their work and does nothing in their free time probably won’t succeed. You have to enjoy what you do so much, that you want to spend part of your free time on it.
Len: That’s a really good answer. I’m sure a lot of people listening can really identify with that.
I have a couple of Leanpub questions. You could have chosen many platforms to publish with, what was it about Leanpub that drew you to us?
Antonio: I knew Leanpub because I had read some books before from the platform, and I like the idea of lean publishing. And then also I discovered that you could write a book just knowing Markdown. And that the royalties for publishers are much better than in other platforms. So it’s a platform that helps a lot with the publishing process. Leanpub takes care of all the hard work, and we writers just need to focus on writing the book and forgetting about all the things we really don’t care about, that don’t matter.
Len: When it comes to writing your book, one thing I noticed about your Kotlin book was that you have put your email address in a section near the front, asking readers to contact you if they find any typos or have any suggestions for improving your book. I wanted to ask if you’ve had readers email you with corrections or suggestions, and has the feedback had an impact on your book?
Antonio: Yeah, that was reason I liked the idea of publishing at Leanpub - because reader feedback can help you improve the quality of your book. In my case, I even had a reader who sent me typo reports, or [identified] things that were not so clear during the entire process of writing the book, every time I released new content. That was really helpful, to improve the quality of the book.
Len: Were there any big surprises that you had in the process of publishing the book?
Antonio: Well, I was surprised that I could sell so many books before it was finished, for instance. That’s very helpful, to get the strength you need to write a book, because it’s a hard task.
And that people really trust you, because you only have 5% of the book written, like it was my case. People are trusting you in the way that they think you are going to finish your job. So, you can’t betray them in that way; you create an obligation to write it, and that helps a lot in the writing process.
Len: That sounds like a really good surprise.
I was wondering, if you could ask us to create one feature that would help you as an author, or fix one problem, what would that feature or that problem be?
Antonio: Well in fact, it worked really well. I didn’t miss much of anything during my process. Maybe, support for the Kotlin language. That would be great, because I could then I could format the code. But I know that’s a very specific niche, so I understand that it won’t help many other writers. But apart from that, I think it truly is great for publishing books.
Len: Okay well thanks, thanks very much for that. I really appreciate that. And thanks a lot for your time. Thank you very much for being on the Leanpub Podcast, and for being a Leanpub author.
Antonio: Thank you for this interview, and keep up the great work.