What is your current professional role and how did you get here?

Titles can be tricky, but if I was to label myself I would say I am a “Native Mobile Applications Developer” – I focus primarily on creating native apps for Android and iOS.

 

Although I became interested in computers in elementary school while playing video games on a friend’s brother’s computer, I always wanted to be an architect. I really wanted to build houses with bridges and slides – how fun would those be? I took drafting, graphic design, math and computer programming courses in high school. At the time admission into an architectural program required an undergraduate degree; I had become interested in software development during my computer courses in high school, and decided to pursue a Computer Sciences undergraduate degree. After completing my degree, I had decided that I needed a break from school and instead of continuing on with architecture, I took a job with a company I had done some co-op work with doing software development. I started my career doing web application development – so a lot of HTML, Javascript and CSS at the time. After a number of years of web development, I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to spin up a mobile team to make apps that accompanied the web application that we had been working on. At the time the team was really just myself and a quality assurance specialist, but it gave me an excellent opportunity to learn and grow as a mobile developer. Since then I have focused on primarily Android development, although I know enough iOS to be dangerous. My husband and I started up our own consulting company a few years back and I now take on numerous client projects ranging in size.

What was the first app you worked on and what did it do?

My first app was a “Hello World” app, printing out text to the screen – much like our first App Camp app! After that, the first major project I worked on was a “Virtual Thermostat”, that would let you see and control the temperature in a given room.

What went well? What could have gone better?

I was the only developer on the mobile team at the time and I was learning by myself from scratch.  As awesome as that was from a “I learned a lot SUPER quick” standpoint, it was pretty tough and fairly stressful. Having a bigger support circle would have made the process much easier. The Android community has come a long way and I am active in a few Slack channels now that would have been a life saver back then.

At App Camp, we emphasize that it’s important to have interests outside of tech and to take breaks from looking at screens. What are some of your interests outside of tech? What do you do when you need to take a break from work?

I have always been an avid video gamer, so I do spend some of my downtime playing games. Away from the computer I have an interest in photography; a number of years ago I bought a decent digital camera and I like to get creative with photos. I enjoy night and star trail photography, although the weather plays such a large roll there it can be hard to get good shots. I was particularly interested in light painting, which is where you have a long exposure of an image and move lights around the scene to actually “paint” a shape or highlight an object. I also make photo year books each year – like a digital scrap book, but I print them out since it’s so much easier to casually flip through a book then lookup photos on a computer.

Why do you volunteer with App Camp?

I feel it’s important to encourage diversity in technology. Having people from different backgrounds, with different experiences, each with their own set of problems they would like to solve can help everyone learn new things, think and grow personally. I want to be an example to younger people, to give them different ideas of what a developer looks like, and really drive home the idea that software development isn’t all just “coding”. I want them to get excited about that – excitement breeds creativity.

What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?

Reach out to organizations and groups that are promoting and supporting diversity, see what you can do and how you can help. If you have children in school, check with staff to see if there are programs available that can engage with entire classes that allow all children a chance to learn. Tech camps and after school programs are great, but they often self select children that may already have an interest, or have parents that are interested in technology. Exposing all kids at a younger age to the range of tech possibilities may lead a child to pursue a career they didn’t previously know existed.

How can technology be a force for good?

It can enable us to be creative in so many ways, and can be such a powerful learning tool. Having a wealth of knowledge, experience and experts to ask questions to right at our finger tips enables so many people to learn so many things they may not have had access to in the past. Want to learn how to code, diagnose issues with your car, speak a new language or make a Sailor Pluto cosplay staff? (ps. I am excited about Halloween) Technology can connect you with people and tools that can help you accomplish these easily.

Help more girls learn software development. Contribute to the App Camp For Girls Indiegogo fundraiser, get a cool perk, and enjoy the feeling of having helped the next generation of software developers.

Yasmine Evjen, Google
Christa Mrgan, Civil