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Spotlight 40: Claudia Vicol

It’s time for Spotlight 40! Number forty already, I’m very happy that so many of you want to share your stories and inspire others. Thank you! This week you’re going to meet my wonderful friend Claudia Vicol.  We first met at a PyLadies Amsterdam meetup years ago and I’m very honoured to have her on the PyLadies Amsterdam organizing team.  Thank you Claudia for this opportunity!

Sidenote: If you’re around, next Thursday will be my last meetup as co-organizer of PyLadies Amsterdam. It would be great if you could join :-)

Name: Claudia Vicol
Job: Senior software engineer and People Manager
Favorite website, app or gadget: My favorite website is http://etsy.com and my favorite app is Pinterest.
Favorite book: I would say books, it is hard to choose just one. But the series The robots, the Empire and the Foundation from Isaac Asimov.  The combination of sci-fi and detective novel is awesome.
Twitter: @cvicol
Site: www.bubblespark.com this is my creative site, as I love to craft as well. Usually crafting and coding, being both super creative, go hand in hand.

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
My inspiration was my uncle. He is the one that taught me Basic when I was 11. It was fun to make really simple drawings and games. I wanted to make my own programs for the computer. And, most importantly, my own games. So with the dream of becoming a game designer I went to informatics high school and then studied Computer Science in university.

 

What does your working day look like?
My day starts with waking up and eating a good breakfast, you cannot code on an empty stomach. A work day is usually busy, because you get to do a lot of different tasks during the day. I get to code on the current task, and in the same time pair and coach a lot on best practices or how to solve problems. I would say that as a senior my biggest job is coaching. Then comes the discussions about what new products we will build, and working with other departments to identify problems to solve. And last but not least there are the architectural discussions where we investigate new technologies that we want to adopt, and improving performance of our apps.

 

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Building an orchestration system for recommenders. There was a lot of research and tryout until we found the best algorithm. It involved a lot of math and probabilities calculations  as well, which was fun to get into again.  Let say you have a bunch of recommender systems, like a feature that says “because you bought x have a look at y cause they are related”, or “because you likes this awesome page here is another page like it that you might find interesting”. The orchestration would give you the order in which these 2 features would be best for that particular user.

 

Do you have a hero, or someone who inspires you?
I am inspired by a range of tech companies, and how they approach development and innovation. To name a few tech blogs: I follow, Etsy , Twitter, Netflix and LinkedIn tech blogs. They are solving problems at a large-scale, and are not compromising on being best in class in tech.

 

Why do you love working in  IT/Tech?

Because there is always something happening. Something new, a new and cool way to solve problems. We constantly revisit old ideas and make better solutions. And we also invent new things. New programming languages coming in. It is a buzz, it is impossible to get bored or say you are not busy with something. The energy is always high. Also I can work on things that matter, things that impact a large amount of people, I can solve problems for them, and I find making an impact in people’s lives amazing.

I love working in tech because there’s always something happening. It’s a buzz, it’s impossible to get bored

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? 
And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
Yes, I have a computer science degree. I have to say that I gained most knowledge while working. I learned so much in my first job, that I got hired while on my third year of university that my last 2 years of school I felt like wasting time. I learned by reading manuals and by doing. It seemed to me that universities did not use the latest and greatest. They are always running years behind the mainstream. So what I missed the most is learning something that would help me land a job in the current economic climate, not something that no one uses nowadays.

 

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
Have a routine to learn every day, lets say at least 2 hours. Also make a goal each day, say after 2 hours I need to know how to do x. Goals always help otherwise the amount of information would crush you. Make it specific to an action you want to learn , and not ‘I just want to learn program x’. For example, I want to learn how to add monitoring to a service. it is specific enough to not get sidetracked in 2 hours by too much information.
Extra question from Sophie: What programming language do you prefer the most and why?
At the moment I prefer Scala, because I can get rid of boiler plate code and actually program just like I would give instructions by speaking. It is a more natural way of coding.