What is your current professional role and how did you get here?
I’m team lead for the Spotfire Analytics mobile apps at TIBCO Software in Seattle. This role means that in addition to writing app code I handle coordination and collaboration with designers, testers, documentation, product management and customer support across timezones and continents. I moved to Seattle five years ago from the office in Gothenburg in Sweden as the mobile team was forming here in the Pacific Northwest.
After getting a computer science degree in university I joined a tiny startup which eventually ran out of funding and was acqui-hired by a small consulting firm. The consulting firm assigned me to a project at Spotfire as a junior engineer. I enjoyed the team and challenges there so I eventually joined Spotfire as a full time employee, just after TIBCO Software acquired the company.
Prior to focusing on computer science and getting my degree I worked briefly as an automotive engineer for BMW, Porsche, and Volvo. I also did a one year stint as a jet fighter engineer in the Swedish Air force.
What was the first app you worked on and what did it do?
Strictly speaking I suppose it was some simple game in Basic, copied by hand from the pages of a computer magazine in the early 80’s. I moved on to making very simple text adventures of my own design in Basic.
The first proper app I remember working on was probably in 5th grade when two friends and I developed an educational app called Matte Master (that’s Maths Master in English) on the school Compis computer in an obscure programming language called Comal. The target audience were the other 20 or so kids in the class. Some of them even used it!
For iOS, the first app I coded and put on the App Store is a Japanese character flashcard app called Hiragana. I was studying Japanese at the time while also trying to learn Objective-C, and felt I could make use of an easy way to review my knowledge of the characters. I also wanted to see if I could get an app on the App Store. I could, and it’s still on the store today (App Store link).
What went well? What could have gone better?
Making Hiragana I picked a simple enough project that I could wrap my head around it and finish in a reasonable time while still learning a lot about iOS development and the App Store process along the way.
The most memorable failure was due to a cultural insensitivity on my part. I initially used the flag of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force as my icon because I thought it was beautiful and cool looking. I failed to consider that it might be considered offensive in parts of the world, something I soon learned via a number of one star ratings and reviews from the USA. After I shipped version 1.1 with a new icon the negative ratings stopped, and I’d learned to consider how the frames of reference can vary across different regions.
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?
When I’m stuck or feel I need a quick break I try to go for a walk. Either outdoors along the lake, or just around the office to find someone to chat to.
Outside tech I follow a number of soccer teams, and I love travel and exploring the world, hiking in nature, photography, and playing retro adventure games.
Whatever your interests, I agree that it’s important to get away from the screen and experience things IRL. I find my brain often keeps chugging on work challenges on its background thread while I’m away enjoying myself. When I get back to work after a break or vacation things tend to go easier than before.
Why do you support the goals of App Camp?
On one level I just want to help a few kids have a fun week with computers and cool handheld devices.
Beyond that, I think that exposing kids to coding and software development can be very beneficial to them even if they don’t end up going into a career in software development. Their understanding how apps come to exist, that they are driven by code and not by pixie dust magic, will help them make sense of our increasingly software driven world.
From an industry point of view I find empathy is a core trait in the best engineering teams, and more diverse environments foster empathy in everyone. Software is shipped across borders and is used by everyone so having more empathy for the diverse user base and their differing experiences will lead to better software for all. I hope App Camp will make a dent in the universe by leading to a larger percentage of non-male software engineers developing software for the world of the future.
What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?
Be considerate in your interactions with people, try to listen to a wide range of voices and opinions, try to truly understand different points of view. And before speaking up consider whether adding your opinion to a conversation really brings any value or if you’re just doing it to be heard or make a quick joke.
It’s great if you’re in a position to personally donate to organizations doing work you support. If you’re employed at a larger company you can also see if they do donation matching, or if there’s even a possibility of sponsoring your favorite organizations.
How can technology be a force for good?
The possibilities for technology to be used as a force for good are endless. It happens constantly and we tend to take it for given. Instant access to the world of knowledge for almost everyone, fostering collaboration across the world, low environmental impact energy generation and travel, not to mention all the life saving technologies deployed over the decades. These are just some examples of the good technology does in the world.
But for me, there’s one relatively old technology my thanksgiving celebration will always include a special mention of. Controlled heavier than air flight allows me to visit family and friends in Sweden every now and then. Because occasionally hanging out in the real world beats Skype any day of the week.
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.