Stop dreaming. Start doing :-) And remember to enjoy your journey. Sometimes we focus on the goal too much, and life just goes by.
I interview leading women developers every week and showcase their history, opinions, and advice on the tech. In case you missed our previous interviews, check out the series on Hashnode.
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Today, we will be interviewing Julia 👩💻.
Julia is a full-stack developer currently working on building the free and open source tech video hub – dev.tube. Also known as Coding Unicorn, she writes about coding and career and shares tips and tricks with developers on her Instagram.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How and when did you venture into tech?
Julia Hi, I am Julia.
I am a full-stack software developer, working remotely. I help developers grow professionally by posting practical programming and career advice on Instagram. No fluff, just stuff.
How did I get into tech?
Nine years ago my parents forced me to go to college and get a Computer Science degree. They wanted me to find a quiet office job because I was a problem kid, a school rebel. I didn’t fulfil my parents’ dreams – I am still a rebel, but with a CS degree!
Can you briefly tell us about your job title?
Julia I am a freelance developer and being a freelancer is very, very hard. It's hard because you're responsible for not only getting things done but also for sales, marketing, branding. And because of the internet and globalization, competition is also very dense. But you get all benefits of solepreneurship – you don't have a boss and you can travel the world.
What difficulties have you faced on your way in tech? Have you ever felt like you were not treated as equal?
Julia You will regularly meet people who'll want to make you feel bad. Not only in IT. Some people will try to make their problems your problems. Sometimes they are in a bad mood. Sometimes they just don't like you. That's fine. Keep doing what you're doing. Focus on the positive, ignore the negative.
If there’s a bias women face, why do you think it is still there, in the 21st century? What are some things people and organizations could do to change this?
Julia I don't like seeing women as victims because such a mindset turns men into suspects. Men suffer from biases equally to women. Think of job interviews.
We give too much attention to gender bias and depreciate other cognition biases, such as doubt avoidance, where we make an ill decision just to avoid uncertainty; or reject a person that doesn't look nice enough (disliking bias).
Putting into practice:
- Every leader and hiring manager must read Thinking Fast and Slow
- People must interview in pairs to reduce bias. Pairs must change regularly.
- Stop blaming others for being biased. Improve yourself!
You currently work as Full-stack Engineer at DevTube, how long did it take you to arrive here and what significant difficulties did you face along the way?
Julia DevTube is a YouTube for developers, but without the cat videos and annoying Google algorithms. Since I am watching dev.tube regularly, I noticed several shortcomings in the project. Because the project is open-source, I forked the code, fixed the shortcomings, and contributed the changes back to the project. Very soon, I was asked to join the project as a full-stack developer.
This is fast-track to many companies such as Elastic, Hazelcast, or VMWare. Just start contributing to their codebase.
What advice do you have for a newbie or intermediate who dreams to work as a Full-stack Engineer?
Julia Stop dreaming. Start doing :-) And remember to enjoy your journey. Sometimes we focus on the goal too much, and life just goes by.
How long have you been in tech and what word will describe your experience so far?
Julia I've been in tech for about ten years. There are days when I love it. Other days I hate it. Life of a programmer is a daily swaying between love and hate.
You created dev.events, what inspired this?
Julia I just fix things I am not happy with. If you look around, there are plenty of small and big things that need to be fixed. If you have a real problem and know to solve it, then it will be useful for other people, too.
This time it was hard for me to find the next conference to attend. So I put all developer conferences, workshops, and meetups in one place. It took me about 2 months to build dev.events, with 60% time spent on nice UX, 20% on front-end, and 20% on the backend.
You are a "writing machine" Julia, what's your super power?
Julia By expressing my thoughts in writing and by answering questions, I become a better programmer. Because if you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it. Also, when I was studying, I lacked a coding and career mentor. So I decided to become a mentor for others.
I write when I have something to say. I stop writing when I don't feel like it. Listening to your inner voice is a superpower.
What advice do you have for beginners or intermediates who look forward to technical writing?
Julia Writing is a skill and you learn it by practicing. To my surprise, writing makes you a better programmer. The code obeys the same set of rules. Good code, like text, is straight to the point. Good code, like text, is easy to read. Good code, like text, has a consistent style.
There are two books on writing I recommend:
And if, by the will of fate, you understand Russian, please read "Пиши, сокращай." :)
What do you think needs to be done to encourage beginner developers to learn programming languages and continue learning?
Julia Learning must be purpose-driven. Before you open a book or pick up a new programming language, ask yourself what's the goal of all this. Learning is a time investment and your investments must pay off. Learning for the sake of learning is a hell of a demotivator.
Because learning is an investment, you want a high return on investment. Basically, you want to minimize the time invested or wasted on learning. If you want to become a hard-core programmer, you need to build REAL instead of being lectured for hours. If you want to learn to ride a bike – you don’t spend four years in college, reading books titled “Riding a Bike: The Definitive Guide” and “Intro into Advanced Bike Riding.” You don’t attend lectures by pro bikers. You jump on the bike and start f̶a̶i̶l̶i̶n̶g̶ riding. Because you don’t want a degree in bike riding. You want to ride a bike.
Remember that learning follows your goals. Don't waste your time learning something you can't benefit from.
Imposter syndrome is one problem developers face especially newbies, what is your experience with imposter syndrome, how did you manage yours and what advice do you have for anyone facing this currently?
Julia Imposter syndrome doesn't appear from anywhere. Usually, it's thanks to your parents, friends, and classmates. When you were a kid, your parents were responsible for your environment. Thankfully, now you can create a healthy environment that is good for your self-esteem.
I only surround myself with people who lift me up. Sometimes it means saying "goodbye" and that's OK. I pick books carefully and avoid mass media. I practice Yoga and Mindfulness meditation to keep my body and mind happy.
Rejection emails are another thing that motivates imposter syndrome and depression amongst developers especially intermediates. How did you manage this effectively during your "job-hunting" days?
Julia Rejection is your best friend. Rejection is a mechanism that prevents you from landing a job that would otherwise make you feel miserable.
The more you are being rejected for who you are, the closer you get to your dream job. Rejection helps you find a workplace you’ll genuinely enjoy. There is a company out there that needs you, because of your unique combination of personal traits, skills, and weaknesses. Rely on rejection to find that place.
What advice would you give to aspiring programmers who look forward to working for companies like Microsoft or Google?
Julia Apart from being competent for the job, here are five tricks that will set you apart from the competition:
Personalize. Make the company feel unique and special. You are not just looking for a job, but you want to work in this particular company. Nowhere else. You should know everything about the company – what they are doing, who works there, what tech the company is using. Play with their web product, install their mobile app. Recommend it to your friends. Report a bug.
Create a demo app. Look at the job requirements and start learning about the technology that the company uses. Ideally, create a small demo app that demonstrates your skills. The app should be related to the company’s business. That also demonstrates that you give a shit!
Prove that you can learn fast. If you don’t know some piece of tech, admit it and tell that you are ready to learn. If you can tell a real-world story where you learned something new quickly – good for you. Great companies don’t need all-knowers. They need fast-learners.
Establish a public presence. A tech blog, for example, gives you extra credibility. The blog shows that you enjoy sharing your knowledge and keeping up with trends. And you are also disciplined enough to keep it up to date!
Have an “insider”. If you have an insider who can introduce you to recruiters or interviewers – that’s great. People will be friendlier to you because they know you, or people in their circles know you. Attend tech meetups and conferences to meet people face-to-face, have a nice conversation and gain insiders.
Which of your projects are you most proud of? Can you briefly introduce us to it and why you built it?
Julia Because I wrote enough about dev.tube and dev.events already, the project I am most proud of is... My family.
In this never-ending race for success, we forget about things that really matter. Give your family a hug.
What is the best advice someone has given you that has helped you in your career?
Julia It's the advice to read three books:
- The Clean Coder
- The Software Craftsman
- Clean Code
What are your favorite programming tools?
Julia There are many things installed on my Mac, but here is what I use regularly to get things done:
- VS Code (with plugins)
- iTerm (with oh-my-zsh and plugins)
... and ChilledCow music on YouTube :-)
What does your development environment look like? Could you please share a photo? :)
Working from Koh Samui
Finally, what would be your message to women trying to get into technology?
Julia You are awesome. If you are still in doubt, watch this:
Thanks for taking out time to read this interview. 👋
This series is all about talking to the awesome women in tech, understanding the current health of the tech industry and inspiring other women to become better. If you want to share your story, please reach out to me on Hashnode.
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See you next time and keep trailblazing 💪💙