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Spotlight 39: Tracy Hinds

Time for Spotlight number 39! Let’s meet Tracy Hinds. Tracy is a JavaScript-focused web engineer by day and an organizer of communities by most other hours—she loves people as much as code. ​When not baking, rock climbing, or wandering the city, ​you can find her​ at one of the thousand amazing programmer meetups being offered in NYC. When not out and about, ​she’s​ scheming about the next conference she’s​ organizing. If you’re interested in building tech communities that are supportive to all walks of life, she’​d love to speak with you! Thank you Tracy for your advice :)

Name:  Tracy Hinds
Job: Front End Developer​
Favorite website, app or gadget: codepen.io Probably still my favorite playground and place to get to see new awesome people and friends sharing really rad work. ​ Otherwise,giphy.com for the sheer amount of silliness I can provide in a day to friends and colleagues when we are taking ourselves far too seriously.
Favorite book: Island by Aldous Huxley
Twitter: @hackygolucky​
Site: tracyhinds.com

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
I’d had the privilege of being raised in a family that always had a computer to share–my dad had built the family computer before I had memories of anything but it being there. I was always curious and had destroyed the new upgrade we agreed to give up Christmas presents for, by trying to use an incompatible game I’d loved so much from our prior OS. In every office job I had after I stopped delivering pizza(which was a hilarious green screen system), I was tasked with being a superuser, making software and hardware decisions(because I was the one who understood them), and educating others on adoption. ​I worked in healthcare administration at an Addictions facility in NYC and continued my admin work in Seattle. In both cities, I had to choose the software we’d adopt when the deadline for tax incentives to adopting electronic medical records was drawing near. I was faced with systems that were impossible to use, barely relevant to the work we were doing, and so overpriced it was difficult to see how we’d be able to maintain them without an IT department. I grew so frustrated at the lack of empathy for the user and that those building the software were detached or uninformed from the software they had toiled to build. I knew I could help contribute to a sea change.

I’d had friends who were programmers and had insisted I’d make a great one time after time. So after many, a life choice that didn’t pan out, I quit my job. With the help of so many communities, friends, and mentors, I learned how to program in Python and some basic web engineering. I was unbelievably fortunate through my networking to find a job that was willing to hire me as a junior and asked that I deep-dive into JavaScript as a primary language. Many headaches and one month later(my mentor and me both), I had my first code running in production and never looked back.

What does your working day look like?
​My current job is a really unique opportunity! I’m currently working in the Health software vertical, so on any given day I come into work, check my email and sign in to Slack. I’m researching, discussing user experiences and interfaces, addressing accessibility and HIPAA compliancy, wireframing in Sketch, building out processes for the designer to developer workflow(we’re a new team forging a communication and collaboration path where design wasn’t a part of the day-to-day prior), and coding. I didn’t think I’d be so lucky to circle back and get to address the intersection of healthcare and software so soon after I started programming professionally.

 

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
​The current one I’m working on but I’m not allowed to share the work just yet. It combines many passions and priorities of mine and it feels like we’re building something really special and relevant. I couldn’t have done it without every project I’ve contributed to in and outside of my prior day jobs.​

Do you have a hero, or someone who inspires you?
My mom and dad without a doubt. She’s a public defender and raised some pretty stellar kiddos prior to her prioritizing herself and going to law school. She’s an incredible, quiet force. He’s a lifetime DOE manager working to clean up nuclear waste and posed awesomely deep questions such as whether his life work fulfills life priorities and seeked volunteer efforts outside of work to balance. Both parents taught me that you can have what you want in life and fight to do good things. Explore it!

There are my Lovelies in and out of tech that are as well but I could write a whole book on them so I’ll spare everyone for now. They are changing the world(even in the smallest, beautiful of ways) and I’m so lucky to know each and every one of them. They keep me going.

 

Why do you love working in  IT/Tech?
​I said it in the first tech talk I was ever blessed to give and I’ll say it again. I think the tech world can be like a private sector academia. Where else are you paid to learn things you don’t know how to do on the job every day? We are hired because we are willing to solve problems–not that we already necessarily know the answer. ​

I think the tech world can be like a private sector academia. Where else are you paid to learn things you don’t know how to do on the job every day? We are hired because we are willing to solve problems–not that we already necessarily know the answer. ​

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
​Nope! I have a BS in Experimental Psychology and ran a psych lab in undergrad.  I yearn to know some of the theoretical fundamentals of CS. I try to make time for filling in these gaps but I’m from the school of thought(and a stubborn frame of mind) that experience is often the best way to learn. I’m grateful for those who are patient to help me level up in these areas I lack in.

 

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
​Be patient.​ You’ll be exposed to so much information early on and you’ll be excited to be good. It’s so much information to take in and apply. Much of it takes time and experience to learn, not just theoretical readings. There will be times where you’re feeling like you’re up against a brick wall. That’s okay! As a programmer, you’ll be paid to solve problems you very likely don’t know the answer to yet. You’ve been hired because you know how to approach the journey of finding a solution. Find a community of people who encourage and support you, and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

 

Extra question from Allison: How is your perception of computer science (or tech in general) different now than it was for you as a kid?
​In school on career day, I recalled parents talking about computer science as work in a very boring way. The speakers seemed really uninspired. This wasn’t appealing to me.
If someone had told me as a kid that as a coder, you can make so many things possible–you have the opportunity to change the world; that it is what you make of it–I would have tried it far earlier in my life.​ It’s a really exciting time now. We’re able to affect the quality of life of millions of people by the work we do.