What is your current professional role and how did you get here?
I’m an independent developer of Mac and web apps. I also write, blog, and podcast, almost well enough to make a living if I do them all at once.
I’m getting old, so how I got here might be a long story. I’ll try to summarize: I started programming in BASIC on a PC Jr my dad got in 1984, and I grew up coding and learning about tech. Then, for various and sundry reasons, I dropped a computer science program to go to art school. After graduating, I worked as an art director at a fashion company, which led me to working on their website, which reminded me how much I like coding, which put me on a winding path through running my own ad firm, working with AgileBits, working my way to a Senior Developer position at Engadget, and ultimately deciding to risk things on my own.
That was short, right? Trust me, I could have made it longer.
What was the first app you worked on and what did it do?
Like I said, I started in ’84 and I was 6, so my first program of note was a LOGO program for drawing daisies. A couple years later I wrote a text-based adventure game in BASIC. Fast forward through a thousand scripts and you get to my first Mac app, MoodBlast.
I didn’t start coding on Mac until ~2000, and at the time I got into it, there were a dozen “microblogging” services (now known as “social media”), and I wanted to be able to update multiple services at once. It started out as an AppleScript (called MoodSwing) and developed into a Cocoa app that popped up a HUD on a hotkey to let you type something once and send it to up to 12 different services. It got complex, allowing you to send something a little different to each service without having to type an update more than once.
That app got noticed by TUAW (RIP), and its development was greatly led by commenters I met through that blog. I eventually wrote for TUAW, which was part of my path to becoming a dev at Aol, so MoodBlast is a somewhat crucial part of my career history.
What went well? What could have gone better?
I think the learning experience was great. I tackled a new language or two, learned the perils of putting apps out there for everyone to judge, and the aforementioned ladder rung in my career was a positive note.
What could have gone better… I suppose I could have learned how to write a Mac app before I wrote a Mac app. I learn a lot from pushing my mistakes to their limit and then restarting because I made a mess of it. This is an unfortunate characteristic for a coder, and I still haven’t become developer that carefully looks at options and plans out structures before diving in. I just dive in, and it rarely pans out well on the first go-round.
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 like hiking and walking with my dogs, cooking, and yoga. I do a lot of yoga. It turns out that yoga’s pretty great for my ADHD, and I might be in better shape at 39 than I’ve ever been before, so I don’t really see a downside to it.
Why do you support what App Camp does?
Because I believe that supporting girls who have an interest in coding and nurturing their desire to learn is the first step to changing the gender imbalance in the tech world. If someone really, truly loves barbie dolls, great, but I’ve seen too many potential STEMers “eased away” from developing the skills that would make them viable candidates for a technology career until it’s (for many) too late.
What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?
Support App Camp for Girls, and all programs that help young people in new communities get into tech early.
Within tech, the culture and mentality has to change before the diversity really can. That’s something we all have to do, and we have to force the change around us until it gets enough momentum, as uncomfortable as rocking that boat might be. Providing a safe work environment for people who, I don’t know, aren’t male and white needs to be a priority step. We should all be working toward that, and fast.
How can technology be a force for good?
The rapid advance of technology has led to uncountable numbers of advances in fields like medicine and disease prevention. Space exploration. Political revolutions. The ability to educate ourselves and share our voices has never been this available to this many people at any point in history. This can lead to even greater things, but we all know there’s a dark side to it. Learning to be a responsible advocate of technology is paramount.
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.