Code reviews intimidated me. So I built a course to help developers master them.

Last month I launched my first ever video course. It’s done $17K in revenue, and it’s helped over 500 developers Master the Code Review.

But I didn’t build it for them — I built it for the me of the past. What follows is my story of how this idea came to fruition.

6 years ago, I began my career as a software development engineer at Amazon Web Services. My authored code reviews (a.k.a., Pull Requests), were a disaster.

I’d open a code review and receive 50+ comments on it. I’d correct it, and post another revision. Only to receive 30+ comments. I’d often go through 7+ reviews before approval.

The feedback was friendly and helpful. But I still remember the heat of embarrassment on my face as I shipped late, over and over again.

And as a code reviewer, I had paralysis analysis. I didn’t know what to look for, or how to give good feedback.

Over time, I improved. I leveled up. 📈

I authored and shipped over 550 code reviews at AWS. I reviewed over 850. During my last year there, 90% of my authored PRs were approved on the first review. Through code review feedback, I mentored other engineers to improve their skills, raise code quality and earn promotions.

But I learned my lessons the hard way — through experience, trial and error.

Photo by Philippe Siguret on Unsplash

I came to realize that code reviews are an absurdly underrated topic.

Software engineers engage in code reviews daily. We spend so much time reviewing code, writing code, and preparing code for review. Yet there isn’t a lot of information out there, giving developers actionable guidance on how to succeed in a code review environment.

And that’s because code reviews are hard, and doing them well is even harder.

A few aspects of code reviews are objective — finding flaws and defects. But most aspects are subjective — opinionated discussions around software quality and readability.

Succeeding in such an opinionated environment requires a variety of soft skills, social skills and technical skills. Few have mastered these skills, and even fewer take the time to teach them.

Given my experience, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to help thousands of developers.

So I started writing.

Late 2020, I started writing about code reviews online.

In particular, posting this Twitter thread gave me an indicator that I was filling a void:

I grew from 0 to almost 15K followers across Twitter, Hashnode, LinkedIn and Medium. The internet held me accountable for ambiguities and inaccuracies of my public writing. I learned a lot, and leveraged both positive and negative feedback to refine my ideas.

So I started building.

I’ve always had a passion for teaching and mentoring. I’ve since left AWS. But while I was there, I taught software engineer onboarding courses. I helped hundreds of developers ramp up on the internal tools.

My new goal: to scale my teaching to thousands.

So I decided to build a video course — Master the Code Review.

My vision was that it would focus on all three dimensions of code review: a good code review process, giving good reviews, and writing good code.

I built the course alone, from scratch.

Creative projects present a unique challenge. Nobody’s going to tell you how to structure the content. Nobody’s going to tell you how much detail to provide. Nobody’s going to tell you when you’re done.

Throughout the journey I was constantly questioning myself. I was underestimating the value of my own work.

Doubts crept into my mind:

  • “Is what I’m saying even valuable?”
  • “Will people actually want this?”
  • “Why would anybody listen to me?”

Before I launched, I decided that if the course helps at least 1 single developer out there, I’d be satisfied.

I opened up the course for pre-order on February 5, 2022. I launched on February 23, 2022.

These were the numbers, two weeks after launch:

  • ⭐️ 570 Students
  • ⭐️ 12 org-level (team license) purchases
  • ⭐️ 100% 5-star ratings (25 total)
  • ⭐️ Praise from CTOs, company founders, FAANG principal engineers, senior engineering managers across big tech
  • ⭐️ 1 company integrating it directly into their new hire training

I’m still shocked that all this has happened. This is my first creative project that I built with my bare hands, and my own ideas.

I created the slides, wrote the script, filmed the videos, edited the videos, built the website, formatted the cover images, organically marketed on social media, built my email list workflows, wrote the landing page copy.

It took skills that I, as a software engineer, had no experience with. All of it was done without hiring editors, marketers, designers, or copywriters.

Along the way, I’ve networked with some industry creators and authors. They’ve become my unofficial mentors, helping me with tips and getting the launch posts some reach. I’m incredibly grateful for them. 🙏

I know it won’t all be sunshine and roses from here.

Not everyone’s going to like my ideas, and that’s something I’m prepared for.

But at the end of the day, I’m at peace knowing that:

I. Built. The. Thing. 💥

The thing I couldn’t stop thinking about. The thing that helps developers with something I agonized over years ago. The thing built from knowledge I learned the hard way.

And it’ll help hundreds of developers, all over the world, Master the Code Review.

I hope this inspires some builders out there. ❤️

Thanks for reading!

🚨 To show my appreciation, here’s a link to get Master the Code Review at a discount. Available for a limited time. Enjoy!

Master the Code Review

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Software engineer; solopreneur. Writing to help developers level up. All stories free. Follow me on Twitter for more: https://twitter.com/curtiseinsmann

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Curtis Einsmann

Software engineer; solopreneur. Writing to help developers level up. All stories free. Follow me on Twitter for more: https://twitter.com/curtiseinsmann