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Spotlight 49: meet Sales Engineer Lee Boonstra

Friday Spotlight Time! This week we’re going to meet Lee Boonstra. She is a sales engineer from Amsterdam. Yes, that’s right, a Dutch woman in tech, from Amsterdam…and this is actually some sort of miracle. It wouldn’t hurt to have more (female) Dutchies working in Tech! Curious about Lee and why a birthday card inspired her to pursue a career in tech? Wait no longer!

About Lee
Lee Boonstra is sales engineer at Sencha Inc. Sencha equips developers with frameworks, tools and services to help them build awesome (mobile) web applications using HTML5 and JavaScript. As a sales engineer, she assist the sales team with technical knowledge. She visits (potential and existing) customers to demonstrate the technology and to give technical consultancy /trainings. Furthermore, she speaks regularly at seminars and conferences and writes blog posts and articles for various magazines and websites. Also, she wrote a book for O’Reilly: Hands-on Sencha Touch 2.

Lee lives in Amsterdam and has experience in both front-end and back-end development. She spends her spare time developing web and mobile apps.

Tech is today’s world and it’s the future. It’s not only for boys.

Name: Lee Boonstra
Job: Sales Engineer at Sencha Inc
Favorite website, app or gadget: BB8 by Sphero
Twitter: @ladysign
Sitehttp://www.ladysign-apps.com

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
We had our first computer when I was four years old, (it was a 386), so I learned reading and writing on it. On my 7th birthday, I received a birthday card from one of my neighbors. It had an cartoony image of a computer on it, and on its display it showed a piece of code. I wondered if it could actually do something, so I tried to type it over in QBasic. I knew you could use that for code, since I played the game “snake” on it. (that was before, it became popular by Nokia). My first program ever, that I wrote, didn’t do anything other than printing the sentence: “Happy Birthday”, but since then I was amazed, with how easy it was to produce digital content, whether it was my homework, paintings, games, movies or websites.

What does your working day look like?
Every week is different. I travel a lot, to visit customers for training/consultancy and to speak at seminars & conferences. Sometimes I go to really cool places, like Silicon Valley, London and Milan but there are also days that I wake up and don’t know where I am, only to realize I’m at a boring highway hotel in the middle of nowhere.

The days that I don’t have to travel, are usually quite relaxed. I start around 9am, answer emails or calls from customers, and around noon I start diving in a cool technology that I would like to learn and create a prototype or demo building it with a combination of Sencha frameworks. My company is based in the US (west coast). Around 4pm many of my co-workers are awake, that’s usually the time when many meetings start. I take those till dinner time, and then I log off.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Since I work for Sencha, I don’t really do project work anymore. I do coding, just not on daily basis and without a tech spec & design.

Working for Sencha is actually the coolest I’ve done. I’ve used their technology (Sencha Touch and Ext JS) already way before I started working for them. I’ve used many JavaScript frameworks in the past, none of these come even close to what Ext JS can do. I’m a real fan.

Do you have a hero, or someone who inspires you?
I don’t have a real hero. Of course, like every other developer, I look up to Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft & Google. People & companies that changed the world. But I can also be very impressed by that random guy who created that specific NPM package…

Why do you love working in IT/Tech?
I love to be creative, and being a creator of technology, instead of just consuming technology.

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
I’ve a bachelor degree in Art & Multimedia. This study focusses on arts, movie making and computer science. What I liked the most, is that it really stimulated and inspired me to be creative. I’ve created the most awesome things on my computer, without any cost, and what’s crazy is that it’s all digital stuff, and not a physical thing that you can hold in your hand. It still amazes me.

Though, I have to say that I didn’t learn from the programming subjects at school. The problem with schools, at least when I started, in the Netherlands, is that many schools are behind with the technologies. Or they are using technologies which are not being used by the enterprise. I remember that when I started my study, I had to learn Turbo Pascal. Now I’m old, but not that old. At that time, Borland had already dropped the technology for 4 or 5 years…

I hope schools will look more into the workforce, and see which technologies are being used today. Apart from that, JavaScript, HTML and CSS, should be taught to kids in elementary schools. It’s really easy learn, and will help you with computational thinking. It will also teach kids how to express themselves creatively, with coding projects or games.

I like projects like Kano, where kids learn how to build their own computer, with Raspberry Pi’s. Nowadays, jobs require computers and technology. It really prepares you for the future, for modern jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago, like developers, designers, IT experts, hackers, online marketers, digital strategist, social media experts, content writers… you name it. We’re not living in a time anymore, where all boys want to become car mechanic or carpenter and all girls want to become stay at home moms. Tech is today’s world and it’s the future. It’s not only for boys.

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
When I review my own career, I can tell you, what I believe that made me successful:

● The first thing is to know your shit. (I learn daily by reading blogs, books or just by trying things out.)

● The second thing, is to give it your all. I believe, if you really want something, you can get it. (That also may mean, traveling on a Sunday, or to taking a work call in the middle of the evening).

● And last, and maybe the best advice: be yourself and always be nice. When you are nice and respectful to others, people will remember you and think of you when they have great opportunities. (Of course, you want people to say “that girl in tech, by the way she is really sweet, rather than remembering you as that girl in tech that’s always bitchy.)

Extra question from Ola: Which event is one you can recommend?
SenchaCon of course! It’s a 3 day event for Sencha/enterprise web developers, with great sessions and workshops. This year we will host it in Las Vegas. I can’t wait.