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Spotlight 36: Amy Whitney

A couple of months ago I published a wonderful interview with Mazz. She told me that she knew a ‘fantastic woman’ I should ask for my Spotlight series: Amy Whitney. Amy is a product designer at GitHub and she is the winner of design of the year, team of the year and a D&AD black pencil! I’m *super* honoured that Amy is in this weeks Spotlight! Thank you Amy!

Name: Amy Whitney
Job: Product designer at GitHub
Favorite website, app or gadget: I really like IA writer. It’s a writing app which just lets you write, with no distracting UI.
Twitter: @amosie
Site: www.amywhitney.co.uk

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
I studied industrial design at university but hated that I could be designing something that people didn’t want and that thing could become obsolete as soon as it had been manufactured. I was way more interested in the way that people interacted with things and how and why they did it – so I moved in to designing services. Although a large part of my job at GitHub is working online, the most important bit is the people. Why does a person need to use a service like GitHub and how they need to use it.

What does your working day look like?
I work remotely so I try to keep away from having a routine – I have an office space I go to a couple of times of week but like to work from cafés, home and other cities when I can. Although I am a designer, I still spend my day working in GitHub issues and pull requests the closer I am to the code the better my design will be. I spend my day between writing code in atom and sketching with pens and paper.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Both GOV.UK and GitHub have been amazing places to work at. GOV.UK will always hold a special place in my heart, the team managed to do something no other government had done before. Making government services and information easy to use! GitHub helps millions of developers work together, it’s only just started scratching the surface of what it could be. I can’t wait to be part of that journey.

Do you have a hero, or someone who inspires you?
It sounds corny, but just watching people use the product I’m working on is my biggest inspiration. Helping solve people’s problems and watching them do something they couldn’t do before (often after tons of research and iteration) is so rewarding.

Helping solve people’s problems and watching them do something they couldn’t do before is so rewarding.

Why do you love working in IT/Tech?
I wouldn’t say I love working in tech, I’d say I love working with smart people solving problems that help people.

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
I have a design related degree, but not a tech related one. There are so many learning opportunities these days that degrees are totally irrelevant, they are just a piece of paper. If you’re good you’re good, it doesn’t matter how you learnt to do it.

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
Do it, don’t wait to do it. Jump in as fast as you can, meet as many people as you can and make stuff. People are really open to helping others, you just need to take that first step and ask. Tech can be a difficult place as times, but it can be really supportive too – you just need to find the right people. I’ve found my support network and I couldn’t be happier.

Extra question from Sophie: If you could share a piece of code or a plugin you’re really proud of, what would it be?
The piece of code I am most proud of is the first piece of code I ever wrote. A male colleague really doubted my ability as a designer because I couldn’t code, so I made him an app. The app was very basic, but it worked and I proved him wrong – I haven’t looked back since.