Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Women who code: Lindsay Alford

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a web developer based in Bristol, UK. I’ve been a web developer for the past 14 years and over those years I’ve been setting up servers, networks and covering all aspects of web development, managing projects etc.  Now I specialise in C#.NET code and databases. Occasionally getting my hands dirty in front-end when needed.

My usual tasks comprise of creating tasks on Jira, working out requirements and refining them and then building the functionality. I’ve recently branched out and became a contractor in October 2017 after 13 years of being a permanent member of staff. It was a slight shock to the system but I love learning new things and it's been brilliant so far!

What’s your experience with Umbraco?

I started using Umbraco around 3 years ago when I had a website that needed a content management system that was really easy to use for our client.  After comparing a few we decided on Umbraco as it was the best fit for the user and also allowed us to easily extend the code base to cover our requirements.

Since then I’ve been on the Level 1 Umbraco course and the Application Integration course. I’m a regular attendee at the UmBristol meetups and UK festivals (although last year I didn’t attend as I went to Codegarden instead for the first time). I also attended CODECABIN last year which I hope to attend again this year as it was awesome 😊

When and how did you become interested in coding? 

Oh that’s a hard question.  Growing up my parents taught computing at college so I had exposure at an early age.  I had an email account years before my friends so the only person I could email was my dad until they caught up. I rebelled against my parents’ career at first and wanted to be an environmental scientist but I soon realised that I was rubbish at science and that computing was far easier for me to understand.

Therefore I went on to do a computing degree but still didn’t decide I wanted to be a web developer until about a month before I left.  I mostly decided on going down that path as there were more job adverts for web developers than anything else I fancied doing. It paid off as I still love my job now as it's so varied, no one day is the same.

When you decided to enter this industry, were you concerned about facing prejudice as a woman? If yes, what were your concerns?

Going into this industry I never felt any different at all to be honest.  I felt more that I had to prove myself due to lack of experience and actually saw the fact I was a minority in a man’s world more of an advantage than a disadvantage.  

I do find in the last few years it's become more highlighted in talks and media etc and this could be a disadvantage as a majority of developers are introvert (like me) and don’t want to be the token woman or marked out as being different.  A job is a job at the end of the day and as long as you have the skill set to do that job why should there be any difference?

Why do you think there still aren’t that many female coders?

To be honest I cannot answer for all the women in the world but I know there are more women developers in Romania then there are in the UK for instance so I think it's more of a society issue than a gender issue.  

I know there are a lot of changes being made in the UK and our industry has been seen as a guy’s job but from the code clubs’ I’ve been involved in and the front end bootcamps there is more of an equal percentage in those sessions now than what is portrayed in reports I think.  

I mentor women front-end developers and in each cohort there are more and more women joining up mostly having made a career change but are fascinated with technology. There is also a meetup I occasionally go to in Bristol which is aimed at women only to talk about technology and learn from other women in the industry.

And don’t forget the first computer programmer was a woman - Ada Lovelace!  So actually men are following us in this industry! 😛

In your opinion, what could help to increase gender diversity in tech community? 

I think it's already happening but we are not seeing it at conferences where census’ are taken.  This is probably due to knowing that you are going to be a minority at that conference and are too nervous to go or they have family commitments that they cannot go.  

I went to a Geek Girl conference in London a few years back and it was full of women in technology from developers to mobile to VR etc.  They also had a creche which helped. The only downside was the huge queue for the toilet! I’m so not used to queuing at a conference!

What advice would you give to someone looking to make a career move and learn to code? 

Just get stuck in!  Ask any developers you know we don’t bite. Go to meetups and absorb as much information as you can!  You won’t understand most of it but you will eventually! Get onto a bootcamp or online courses. There are loads of really good sites to get into coding.  Scratch from MIT is a great one to learn how it all works at a really simple level.

How do you imagine your future as a developer?

That’s also another difficult question. Web development moves on so fast.  5 years ago Alexa and Google Home were not a thing and now we are coding new skills to move the internet away from browsers and into our homes.  VR is becoming big so who knows what I will be up to in 5 years let alone 10 years. I just hope to learn as much as possible and enjoy what I do otherwise what’s the point?

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Women who code: Lotte Pitcher

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