What is your current professional role and how did you get here?
I’m a self-employed videogame programmer, currently focusing on iOS porting. I studied programming by way of vocational degrees, known as DUT and Licence Pro in French terminology. It was basically 2+1 year equally split between theoretical classes and practical programming labs, with a strong side of basic business knowledge from accounting to communication and economics and law. I started my career as a UI programmer in a big game studio, eventually working my way to a mix of UI and graphics programming on various platforms. My goal was always to work for myself, and I’m lucky to be able to do that now. The latest project I worked on is the iOS port of the game The Witness.
What was the first app you worked on and what did it do?
The very first “proper” app I worked on was during my degree: it was an interactive book for iPad in collaboration with an artist. The goal was to take a “standard” picture book and add animations and interactive elements to it. Back then it was still a bit magical to have this large slab of glass you could poke at: it gave me technical basics for Apple platforms, and a deep curiosity into what could be achieved on this magic slate.
What went well? What could have gone better?
That was six years ago now, and the tools and hardware have definitely improved since! We were dealing with very large images, and that was difficult on early iPads that didn’t have much memory. Probably our best choice was making everything controlled by data, so you could change animations without changing code. That lets people who don’t know how to program change your app, which is super important when working on applications like games. Not everyone working with technology is a programmer, and everyone has a role to play.
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?
My interests are quite varied: I’ve studied weaving for a year, I knit, I spin yarn, I go to a ceramics evening class. After a day of smoke coming out of my brain, I need to make things with my hands to unwind. I don’t know if there’s a proper theory for this, but it feels like different activities take energy from different sources: I know many people who go home and work with the same skills they use during the day, but I need to do something different. It also means you get to learn about a whole bunch of other things, which is always fun. In my case it mostly means being insufferably enthusiastic about sheep. Occasionally your spare-time activities will feed back into your technical work, but don’t make that the main goal. Focus on living a full life that makes you as happy as possible! We are more than our jobs, and it’s okay to like more than one thing.
Why do you support what App Camp does?
I support the goals of App Camp for Girls because everyone should be able to make software if they want to, and anyone who’s not a cisgender, able-bodied, heterosexual white male will be passively or actively discouraged from participating in the field during their entire life. I am where I am because my parents never pushed me away from science, because I shared construction toys with my younger brother, because we played games together and started analyzing them, wondering how they were made. Children are curious, and it’s a great time to make them see that software is a thing they can make, just as it is urgent to fix the industry enough that it’s ready to welcome them in the future. Humans are diverse, all different, and our field needs to reflect that. Not because it helps the bottom line, or just because it makes for better products, but because it’s the right thing to do.
What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?
I’d recommend that those who want more diversity in tech first look inwards: we all tend to be exclusionary in some way. Once you do the work to admit you’re fallible, to admit you’ve internalized so much of what makes tech oppressive, you’ll be more ready to reflect, learn and do good work. I’ve been the person who dismisses a technology because it’s “too easy”… and then I learned better. It’s easy to get comfortable in elitism. To those who are doing diversity work while marginalized on some axis: take care of yourselves, too. You’re still human, and you have limits. Learn about symptoms of burnout so you can spot them early and get some rest, learn what brings you energy and what costs you energy. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
How can technology be a force for good?
I believe that technology can only be a force for good if we pay attention. It means talking to users, it means learning ethics, it means thinking about complex chains of cause and effect. It’s a powerful tool: just look at how we live, how we move, how we talk to each other compared to a decade ago. And like any tool, we need to wield it carefully or someone’s fingers will get crushed.
You can find Amandine on Twitter.