your daily code for breakfast

Spotlight 77: Meet Alexandra Leisse!

Happy Friday everyone! I’m currently working from Vermont and it’s really beautiful!  So…I’ll never do this, but I feel like sharing a picture :-) I love autmn!  Anyway, time for Spotlight number 77! This week we’re going to meet Alexandra. Alexandra is head of User Experience and Design and she organizes Rails Girls Oslo. I think she has some GREAT advice on learning to code and I love her story, so don’t let me keep you from reading :) Enjoy and thank you so much Alexandra!


Name: Alexandra Leisse
Job: Head of User Experience and Design at Ardoq
Favorite website, app or gadget: That’s a tricky one, I’m such a gadget freak. I love my Pebble Time because it helps me keeping my phone out of my hands.
Favorite book: Not sure I have a favorite book, really. I read all sorts of different things. But I’m currently reading Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery, and it’s fantastic.
Twitter: @troubalex
Site: (the least outdated in my collection of sites)


What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
I had always been fascinated by computers. When I came out of school, I considered studying computer sciences. I wasn’t particularly good at anything that had to do with math, though, so I didn’t dare.

Instead, I put my efforts into coloratura. But I kept tinkering, and at some point, it was the most logical step to take. I love to make things, and I can spend countless hours on the general topic technology: reading, sketching, tinkering.

What does your working day look like?
First things first: coffee. Then I make my way through emails, Github issues, and the chat backlog. After that, it depends on the day.

Currently, I am working a lot in Sketch to mockup our new interface. Other days, I write sticky notes, sketch on paper, do customer support and user research, or I jump into my editor and code until I’m happy with how the app looks and feels.

We have a lot of discussions around features, existing and new, and how to solve problems we encountered when talking to customers and in product demos.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Hands down, Ardoq, the application I am currently employed to work on, is the coolest as far as projects go. We’re so few colleagues, and we all have to wear multiple hats, all the time. I am constantly pushed outside my comfort zone, have to get up to speed on new topics quickly, and have a lot of personal freedom. At the same time, we’re solving real problems for real people. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also very satisfying.

Enterprise software may not be the coolest thing ever but it’s challenging, and there is an opportunity to make a real impact on a lot of people’s workday.

Why do you love working in IT/Tech?
There is so much to learn! It’s exciting. I never feel like I can get to the bottom of things, that there is so much more to explore. I love to learn, and I love that there are so many different aspects I can explore. It never gets boring.

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
I got my master’s degree in opera and stage performance, so everything I know about technology, I had to learn myself. I worked hard to close as many knowledge gaps as possible, but I still sometimes feel inferior to people who have degrees in more relevant fields. Designers seem so obsessed with their “official” process, which often makes me feel like I’m making stuff up as I go along.

Of course, this isn’t true. I try not to beat myself up about it anymore.

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
I have a little story for you.
I did a research study on mobile developers, in which I charted out what their workflow and environment looked like. I did a number of observations where I sat in a corner and just watched what people did.

The first one was at an iOS developer’s office. I sat and took notes as he switched back and forth between XCode, the online documentation, and StackOverflow. When I asked him about it, why he would spend so much time googling and looking up solutions, didn’t he know this stuff?, he just laughed, and said: of course not, it’s different every time, and why would I remember all the API calls anyway if I can simply look them up? I was baffled. I thought developers came up with everything by themselves.

I have been much less intimidated ever since.

So, if you’re interested, do it! Just try it out. There is practically nothing you have to lose, and you’re probably over-estimating what everyone else knows.

Could you tell us something about Rails Girls Oslo?
I had been eyeing the Rails Girls movement for a while, and I really liked the “franchise concept”. I had been to a number of events related to women in tech in Oslo, but I missed something with a stronger focus on programming. I couldn’t find anything.

That’s when I decided I’d run with it myself.

It still took me almost two years from the decision to execution, but the sheer amount of sign ups we got proved that Oslo needs this kind of community. In the meantime, Django Girls have arrived as well, which is fantastic!

I only managed to get one single event off the ground so far, but I’d definitely like to do it again. So if you’re interested in helping out, and you’re in the area, hit me up.

Extra question from Besma: Do you ever look at your older code? How does that make you feel?
Most often, I first feel confused because I have no idea what I was thinking. And then it makes me laugh. What was I thinking!?! But it also makes me feel proud because I have made such immense progress since I wrote it. I am constantly improving.