• Natalie Wild

Women of Tech Meets: Kara, a Front-End Developer

Updated: Apr 19, 2019

Kara's journey so far has taken her from being a Ballet Dancer, to a Music Publicist before falling in love with Front-End Development.

Today I met with Kara, who had so much positive energy about her, it was so nice to have the opportunity to speak with her.

Kara has a very interesting story, and one like no other that I have heard before. Kara is currently working as a Front-End Developer, and at the point of speaking with her she was just about to have her last day with her current employer as she is excitedly starting a new job with a security company as part of their UX/UI Team where she also has the opportunity to work remotely.

Until the age of 18, Kara was working hard towards a career as a professional Ballet Dancer. She would train with dedication for at least 20 hours a week hoping to fulfil the dream of dancing on stage. At the age of 17 she moved to New York City to enrol in a specialist Ballet school and opted to complete her High School studies online instead of going to classes.

Being in New York however made Kara realise that as much as she loved Ballet, she did not love it enough to continue pursuing it. After completing her studies at the Ballet school she went on to College and started majoring in PR Studies.

Fresh out of college with her Degree in hand, Kara landed a job as a Music Publicist. Kara described her work there in a high-pressure environment, “part of my job was to get journalists and publications to write about acts that I was representing, but these journalists are sometimes getting hundreds of emails a day, so having them even open your email was one thing, getting someone to actually write about what I was representing was another thing entirely. It was entirely pot luck, and I hated that that’s what we were being measured on. I really wanted something that I could actually own, not a networking game.”

Kara hasn’t looked back since getting into tech, drawn to the Front End of development for the visual creativity aspect, Kara described how she enjoys being able to see in real time what she is doing, and visually see projects coming to life. Her love for the Front End has led her to begin to delve into the world of Back End Development, describing how “I’m wanting to learn so much more, and I am having a greater understanding of how they work together developing. I really like being able to enhance the user experience.”

What was it that you studied at College?

“I finished College with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and a minor in Music Business. I loved what I studied in college and it gave me a great foundation for working in music publicity. Even though I don’t work in PR or the music business anymore, I still use so many things I learned from school and those careers in my job now.”

Why did you decide to embark on a career in tech?

“I was really drawn to the tech world after teaching myself HTML and CSS on Codecademy. There are so many opportunities in tech and different paths you could take. It was something I could really see myself pursuing as a career and not just a job.”

Are there any particular moments in relation to your career in Tech that you’re proud of?

“I think just being able to break into this world. I had never had an idea what coding even was before any of this. I used to do things to my Myspace page back when I was younger, but I didn’t realise that that was coding.

I’m really proud to be in the tech community actively and I try to be a leader for other people who also never used to know what coding was and help them to get more into it.

I’m City Organiser for my local ‘Tech Ladies’ Chapter, it’s so great. I really want to help expose more women to the industry because firstly we need more women and secondly, I think we need that opinion that no one else has.”

What do you think employers could be doing more of to encourage women to want to work in the Tech industry?

“I definitely think that getting people to start coding younger is really important in a wider picture, they’re starting to now, to teach children, but I didn’t discover coding until I was 25. Part of it is a generational thing I guess, but I do wish that I had discovered it earlier.

In terms of what I think employers could be doing, I have companies ask me this at Tech Ladies events, and I say to them, ‘go to more women’s tech events, reach out them and show them you’re an ally and women will start applying to more of your jobs, but don’t just hire a woman because you need a woman on your team’.

Sometimes when I go into interviews I feel like they’re just looking for a female, I want to be hired because of my skills and not just because I’m a girl.”

What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their career in the Tech industry?

“Just go for it! There will be ups and downs, especially if you’re working on the development side of things, but you’ll be having the opportunity to learn so much along the way, there is always going to be something new to learn.

Your career can be constantly changing but in a positive way, and you can know that you’ll be doing it because you really enjoy what you’re doing, and that you can go at it full force. You can do this.

You can be part of leading the change in this community. It’s going to be so amazing in the future when there are all female teams of developers, to remember back when I was the only female developer on my team and know that I was part of that change.

We in a time now where do can go out and so something for all of the women behind you to help them make that positive career change for them into tech.”

Are you someone who is always taking the opportunity to learn?

“Absolutely - I am always trying to learn new things outside of work, and I write lots of blog posts in addition to being active on Twitter. I’m trying to learn more at the moment about Accessibility. When I started out in Tech I went to a Boot Camp and Accessibility wasn’t included in what we learnt about so its enhancing my skillset.

I really enjoy helping others to learn, and teaching others as I am learning. The blog posts that I write I try and make as simple to understand as possible, often so much jargon creates a barrier to understanding, and I’ve had some really good feedback.”

What would you say is your long-term career goal?

“I’d love to eventually be in management or work as a Developer Advocate. I feel that my background in public relations really lends itself to those positions and it’d be a perfect blend of what I used to do in PR and what I do now in tech.”

Is there anything you’re not a fan of in the Tech sector?

“I have more of a following now on Twitter than I used to, and there can be some negative comments thrown around about certain things - by men and women. For example, if someone asks a coding question, someone might comment saying ‘here’s a way you could do it’ and someone else will jump in saying ‘no do it this way, this is the only way’ - there are a million ways to do one thing with development, just because you do it one way, it doesn’t mean another way is wrong and it’s not right to say that to people, especially when they’re just starting out.

As supportive a community as we are, we lack there sometimes.”

Do you have any career tips for other women out there who might be thinking about seeking out a new opportunity?

I think I have a slightly different perspective here as I worked in PR, for me it’s all about creating a brand for yourself, and having a portfolio, try networking, get yourself out there!

Your portfolio can be the most basic one-page thing with just a couple of examples of your work and how to get in contact with you, and then go out there into the world networking, even if it’s just on twitter, reaching out to people and talking to them - you never know when an opportunity is going to come along.

Believe it or not my new job is a job I got through Twitter, which is mad to me.

When a job advert goes up there are so many applicants so you’ve got to stand out. Even though there is a skills shortage across the industry, you’ve still got to make yourself stand out.

When I’d finished my Boot Camp, I used to make custom HTML emails with the hiring company’s brand colours, personalise it and tweak around the info in it each time id send anything out and I had some great feedback. One company said that they weren’t sure if I had enough experience but they wanted to interview me because my email stood out.

Putting in a little bit of effort can go a long way with these companies.”

What was it that drew you to your current employer?

“Prior to this new job I had only worked for an agency, in PR I worked for an agency, and the job I’m just leaving was at an agency, so I wanted to try something different, product shops was something that appealed to me but my main draw to this new employer was how welcoming everybody was and so supportive and seemed so nice. In addition to that their products are inventive and they’re helping others to make their lives more secure.

I will be working remotely most of the time, which is new to me. We have support by means of weekly one on ones with managers, and they’re always saying ‘contact me anytime’. And anytime they start a new project they fly out the entire team so they all meet face to face - even though they’re a remote company they’re making the efforts to make sure that communication is still there in the team.”

What do you think is the biggest deterrent in your opinion to women succeeding in the workplace?

“I think the biggest deterrent to women succeeding in the workplace is not being given the same opportunities. It’s extremely intimidating to walk into an interview and be talking to all men, or walk into a conference and be only one of a few women. I really applaud the women that are out there and paving the way for other women in tech.”

And finally, what do you love the most about working in tech?

“I love the community that tech has. Everything was a competition when I worked in PR. No one wanted to share any information to each other since you were all competing to get a story with the same journalist. It really amazed me when I joined the tech world and there were so many meetups and people talking on Twitter sharing information. It’s truly amazing.”

It was so interesting speaking with Kara about her incredible journey from Ballet, to PR to Tech. Best of luck to Kara in her new job - It sounds awesome! If she continues to be so passionate about tech, I have no doubt that should she reach her goal of perhaps working as a Developer Advocate, that she would make a very talented one!

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