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Spotlight 19: Ludwine Probst

Time to share another amazing story with you!  This week, we’re travelling to France and meet Ludwine.

About Ludwine
Ludwine was born in Belfort, East of France and she lived mostly in a small town. Her favorite subject Mathematics gave her the opportunity to discover computer science and to finally go to the big city she always dreamed of: Paris. After a Master’s degree in Mathematics (Probability and Statistics), she joined the IT world as a software engineer. Now she works as a Data Engineer on processing and analyzing large data sets. She also speaks at conferences, and usually uses a lot of her own drawings in her slides to join several of her passions.

In the same time, she is deeply involved in the community with the Duchess France: an association to promote women developers and women in IT, to inspire and make them more visible, and to encourage them to speak at conferences or technical events. Last but not least you can find her at the Ladies Who Code chapter in Paris, which she leads together with other women developers.

Name: Ludwine Probst
Job: Data Engineer / Software Developer  (backend, mainly Java)
Favorite website, app or gadget: I really enjoy trello to notice my new challenges and goals. And I am also a big user of slack, where I am connected everywhere.
Twitter: @nivdul
Site: nivdul.wordpress.com

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
After graduating from High School, I began an engineering preparatory school to become an Engineer. But, at this time, being an engineer was really not so clear to me. So I decided to go back to my first love: mathematics. I chose to study mathematics at the University and graduated with a master’s degree in 2010.

I started to code at 26 and I was a real newbie, not even very familiar with a computer. In fact I was looking for a job after I graduated, and I found a job posting from a company in Paris to become a developer. I thought that coding was about solving problems just like with maths and the position was in Paris, a dream place to live. So I thought “Why not? It seems to be challenging”, and I decided to try!

I started learning some basics thanks to the e-learning platform openclassrooms and coursera (Java, algorithmic, functional programming…). And I also attended plenty of tech meetups to give me a global view and better understanding of the IT world.

During my first event I met some awesome and inspiring people, in particular Mathilde Lemée, a woman developer. Quickly she became a role model and a friend. Thanks to her advice and encouragements I gave my first technical talks at meetups.

What does your working day look like?
My day starts with a coffee and breakfast in front of my laptop. I check my emails and slack notifications. Then I start working on my tasks after squashing them in order of priority. At this moment I code in Java and work on processing and analyzing data using the framework Apache Spark. All day I interact online on several projects, essentially with slack, and of course with my co-workers.
I like swimming during the lunch break. So having a swimming pool near the place I work is really important.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I was thinking about finding something fun to do with sport, data and sensors, so I looked for some datasets online and I found one very interesting study on predicting the physical activity of a person using a smart phone accelerometer.

One of the goals was to play with the Spark API and to build a Machine Learning model to perform these predictions. I worked on the prediction part, and after that Amira, a friend and a member of the Duchess France team, joined the project and coded an Android application to extract data from the accelerometer. We did a presentation together with a demo in Geneva and it was really fun! The project is not perfect, but I really enjoyed working on it.

Do you have a hero, or someone who inspires you?
My hero would be Sheryl Sandberg. She wrote the very inspiring book ”Lean In” and gave a TEDx on the topic “Why we have too few women leaders”.

In my everyday life, I meet a lot of women and men thanks the meetup, and they are real sources of inspiration and motivation. Many of them are very confident in themselves and dare to try new things despite the challenges. So it encourages me to keep learning, explore new things and seek new challenges.

Why do you love working in  IT/Tech?
One thing I really like is that technology changes all the time, so you need to learn and stay in touch with new things all the time. I also like the challenges behind it: things are in constant movement, so there are still a lot of things to imagine and create. This gives everyone a chance to contribute with his or her personal touch.

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 Computer Science degree, but I have a Master’s degree in Mathematics.

I missed the basics in computer sciences. That’s why it was pretty hard when I got started in software engineering, because I could not understand the conversations between the developers. I did not know the specific vocabulary. For a long time I felt intimidated because of my path in IT and I read a few tutorials and books to try to fill the gaps. But today I try to think differently: I know I miss some basics, but I know I can learn them if I have to. And I also know that learning mathematics gave me a different approach and point of view. For me the diversity brings skills and knowledge and is a strength for a team.

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
Do not hesitate to try! You might like it! Today there are so many ways to start coding (codecademy.com, coursera…). Start with simple ideas like creating a website, or a small game and use tutorials and online courses to get going. You might feel lonely in the beginning, but there are a lot of initiatives and communities where you can find good support. For example RailsGirls organize events for those who would like to learn Ruby and Rails, or djangogirls to learn python and Django. It can be great places to start.

Extra question from Maryse: What is the most important (career) advice you ever got?Don’t wait for things come to you, give yourself the means to do what you really want and need.

Merci Ludwine for your inspiring story and great advice!