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In the Spotlight 2: Laura Gaetano

It’s Spotlight Friday! I’m very happy to publish the second interview in this series, this time with Laura Gaetano. Laura is a web developer. She is one of the organisers of PyLadies Vienna, Vienna.rb and is well-known in the Rails Girls Community. She is also part of  the awesome team behind Rails Girls Summer of Code. Want to know about Laura and Rails Girls Summer of Code? Look no further!

Name: Laura Gaetano
Job: Web developer
Favorite website, app or gadget: There are too many to choose from! I’m addicted to GitHub and Twitter, and I really enjoy using RescueTime to track my time (and Self-Control when I need discipline).
Twitter: @alicetragedy
Site: www.alicetragedy.org

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
My first encounter with “building stuff on the internet” was creating a personal site when I was 11 or 12; I’d spend a lot of time making layouts for my website, and writing all the html and css from scratch. For me it was just something “normal” and more a hobby than anything else. Then, over a decade later, I attended a RailsGirls workshop and decided to learn more beyond html and css.

What does your working day look like?
I start the day by walking to work! Even in rain, hail or snow – it feels really good to get some “exercise” knowing I’ll be sitting all day. The first thing I do is usually to check mail and see if there’s anything important. I lately got into the habit of turning off my mail client and turning on the music, to try and get in the “zone” right away when programming. Everything else that doesn’t need my full energy and attention, like support tickets and answering non-important emails, gets moved to the early or mid-afternoon. I try to work in blocks of at least 45 min to an hour, grabbing some tea and a five-minute break when I feel I have to.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I’ve only been at my company for two years, and part-time, but the coolest project I’ve worked on so far, I think, was one of my first projects. I was working on the project mostly alone, and it was a new project (so no weird crazy legacy code!), a dashboard / backend system for a music label/booking agency. I loved working on it simply because there were so many requirements that involved me getting acquainted with a lot of new concepts, like pdf generation, invoice templates, and state machines. It really taught me a lot.

Do you have a hero, or someone who inspires you?
I have a few, actually. All the women in tech I follow on twitter! Each and every one is inspiring in her own way; they write blog posts about a cat DNS, build tools for git visualizations, give talks about D3.js, and how design and programming are really not that different, and about bringing more women into open source.. well, there’s just too many to name, but they’re all mind-blowing.

Why do you love working in  IT/Tech?
I love learning new things and building stuff! (especially when it works)

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
No, I don’t have a degree in IT. And I think I’ve missed out on a few things which I should probably catch up on.

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
There are a lot of great tools (especially interactive ones) that make it easy and fun to learn, but once you’ve those basics down, the best way to learn is to build something. It will teach you so much more that you can’t learn in a lecture or an online tutorial.

You’re also involved in Rails Girls Summer of Code, can you tell us more about RGSoC?
Rails Girls Summer of Code is a program with the goal to get more women into the world of Open Source by having them work full-time for three months on a project; during that period, they get a stipend and work in teams of two on a chosen Open Source project, helped by volunteer coaches and by a mentor (a maintainer of the Open Source project). I joined the core team last year in Spring, and it’s been an amazing ride so far; most of the people in the team are volunteers, and it’s so great to see that this cause is so important to them that they are willing to give up so much of their time to make a difference.

What do you look for in applicants, and how many can participate every year?
We look for both “beginners” and advanced students; by beginners, we mean people who have come into contact with learning to code – at a Rails Girls workshop, RailsBridge, or something similar – and have continued to learn after that, on their own or with a study group. The main thing is that they should be motivated to learn. It’s a tough program.

The amount of participants we accept always depends on the money we get, both from sponsors and from individuals. We’ve just opened up our crowd funding campaign, so there’s a chance to help us out!

Thank you Laura!