Think you’re too busy, too technical, or too unknown to be a successful Gumroad creator? Meet Randall Kanna.
In the past year, she’s written and published two books while working full-time as a Senior Software Engineer at BaseHQ. Last year she had 300 Twitter followers; today she has 27,000 — and she’s gained 8,000 every month for the past three months. In the past three weeks, she’s made $12,500 from her second book and first Gumroad product, The Standout Developer.
We asked her to reflect on her creative journey. Here’s what we learned.
Successfully Coding While Decoding the Developer Hiring Process
Randall has worked as a front-end engineer, full-stack engineer, blockchain engineer, and iOS engineer — all without a CS degree.
She taught herself to code and build apps from a young age, but in college she majored in Communications, not Computer Science. Soon after graduation, though, she reverted back to coding and attended the original Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco. She had a job offer two weeks after completing bootcamp, and 18 months after that, she was a senior software engineer.
In addition to her engineering responsibilities at companies like Eventbrite and Pandora, Randall got involved in recruiting and retaining talent. “Every company I’ve been at I’ve helped with the hiring process,” she said, “whether it’s reworking it, getting candidates in, doing interviews, or writing hiring documentation.” Along the way, Randall was amassing technical and non-technical abilities for which she’s now known and relied upon for advice.
Today, in addition to her full-time position, Randall writes about creating your own CS degree online, crushing interviews, landing a dream dev job, and succeeding as an engineer.
From Zero to Two Books — in One Year
Randall’s journey as a product creator started in June 2019, when she received multiple offers from tech publishers to write a book. “I never thought I’d write a book, ever,” Randall told us. “It was kind of a lifelong dream of mine, but obviously it’s a pipe dream, like going to moon or something: it was just never going to happen. But I started writing a little bit every day. I picked up the habit and I got better and better.”
Every day for seven months Randall wrote at least half a page, sometimes more. “I was largely unknown at the time,” she said. “I didn’t have an audience or anyone who wanted to buy anything from me, but you can do a lot if you work every day toward your goal.” In December 2019, she and her co-author published Hands-On Smart Contract Development with Solidity and Ethereum: From Fundamentals to Deployment.
“The experience was great,” Randall said. “And one unexpected part about the launch: a lot of people started reaching out to me for advice on getting a job.” Randall engaged with her growing audience (2000 Twitter followers by January 2020) and she began offering to review resumes for free. Within a month, 500 people per week were reaching out to her for help with their resumes, and she reviewed hundreds of them over the next few months.
“I was getting bombarded with emails, Twitter messages, and LinkedIn requests. So in February, I decided to put effort into writing a book instead.” She realized she could apply her coding, hiring, and writing skills to help developers land their dream jobs. “For engineers, it’s profoundly hard to even make it past the resume stage,” she said.
“I was writing on weekends, nights, mornings, and lunch breaks — a page day, sometimes a page and a half, sometimes three, but every day at least I would do one page, and I’d end up deleting half that page…but the process of writing every day helped me become a better writer.”
After writing 50 pages of the book, Randall brought on a professional editing team. “A great decision,” she said. “The team helped me all the way through the drafting process, structuring the book, polishing the central theme, and cutting text, which made the book much more powerful and valuable.”
A month before she published the book, Randall took the Gumroad course Everyone Can Build a Twitter Audience by Daniel Vassallo, whose Gumroad journey we profiled last month. Immediately Randall's follower count began to grow and she used that increased presence to drive pre-sales for her product (her first day pre-sales for the book totaled $1,500).
On June 30th, she released The Standout Developer on Gumroad and has earned all organic sales since then. “The great part is people are getting so much value of out it that they are copying and pasting stuff from the book. I’m seeing it all the time on Twitter.”
The Builder’s Journey
In rapid succession, Randall had followed the classic builder’s journey: acquiring skill and credibility, repeatedly using that skill to help others, engaging and growing an audience, and then packaging her expertise into products she could sell at scale.
“My next product will be a Gumroad book again,” Randall said. "I will be co-writing with my sister, Madison Kanna, who’s also a self-taught engineer. We will be writing about the engineering journey: where to start and how to stay motivated." We will be reading!