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Spotlight 79: self-taught software developer Chantal!

It’s Spotlight Friday! And we’re going back to my country this time. I’m so happy to connect with more Dutch female developers! Please let me introduce you to Chantal! Chantal taught herself how to code when she was 17 and she’s working as a software developer now. Curious what got her into programming?

Name: Chantal Broeren
Biography: I learned myself how to code, I love logic and math, and I’m a perfectionist. At the age of 17, I finished high school with not knowing what to do next. I started working and besides that I learned to code. What began as a hobby, became my next job, when I started university at the age of 23. University was peanuts, and I even got a job at the university, tutoring other students. While still completing the university program, I started working as a developer. Now I work as a lead developer for a small innovative company named Fabriquartz. I’m working with the EmberJS framework most of the times, but sometimes, I’m helping the back-end developers with Ruby on Rails. I’m a fan of test-driven-development and I want to keep improving my skills and just started learning to program in Elixir/Phoenix. I like to attend meetups and conferences to keep up-to-date with the newest stuff. Last but not least, I’m slightly working on getting more well-known in the community, and I already made and presented some add-ons, like the ember-context-menu. I would love to get to that point where I can help others to learn, structure, code, etc…
Job: Lead software developer @ Fabriquartz, Arnhem NL
Favorite website, app or gadget: Right now that would definitely be Slack. The best way to keep in touch with many different communities and get / provide help from / to other developers.
Favorite book: Honestly, I don’t read (a lot), so couldn’t tell at the moment.
Twitter: @cccbroeren
Site: Working on that…

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
Ever since I was little, I was interested in anything that had to do with logic and math. In high school, I was taking the technical classes, and I enjoyed it. Because I wasn’t sure about what study to choose next, I ended up working in a full-time job. In the meantime, I started learning to code by myself since I was 17. Can’t remember any reason for doing it, it just got my attention because of the logic and the technical aspect. After several years and five different jobs, I decided to quit my job and to change my hobby into my work. At the age of 23, I started at the university for computer science, and I began building my network to get a new job in IT as soon as possible.

What does your working day look like?
I arrive at work around 9 am and then I  take some time to get up-to-date with everything. Through the day, I’m programming on parts of our application most of the time. In general that will be varied with a daily standup at 10.07am ( strange time so that anyone will remember it), fix bugs, help/teach my co-workers, do a brainstorm/design/architecture session when needed, review code and deploy our app. We’re a small team of front- and back-end developers, and we work together really close. We all grab lunch in the restaurant that is located in the same building, and I leave work around 6 pm.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
That will be the main project of our organization. We make (and maintain) a 4D asset planning application. We’re running a current version in production, but are working on a new, more generic and extendable version. Besides the background information you need to know the data structure (it is really big), I love it because of the variety, the out-of-the-box innovative thinking and I’m putting all my effort in it.

Do you have a hero or someone who inspires you?
Is it weird to say I haven’t? I’m inspired in general by people who are dedicated and getting all the best out of themselves by keep on learning, taking the lead on new stuff and speaking at conferences.

Why do you love working in IT/Tech?
I love it because it all depends on logic and math. It satisfies me to think about and to solve complex issues and to put some of my perfectionist traits in it.

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
Besides my full-time job, I’m planning to graduate next February. Although, I feel I haven’t learned many new things because most of it I already knew. My point of view is that you have to explore yourself and dive into the details and new stuff to keep learning. If you have a good feeling for logic, you can develop anything. I would say, the university should pay more attention to just logic as a fundamental.

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
Do it! Don’t doubt or wait for it, because you wouldn’t get disappointed. Start with some basics, improve your logic view on the world, and join the communities (Slack, meetups, watch conference talks, and so on…) to get the best help. There is no failing, only learning.

Extra question from Lee: What are the advantages and challenges of being female and working in IT/Tech?
Everybody knows the general women/men ratio and the ongoing discussion about this. Even at high school (with the classes I’ve chosen) we had just two girls out of 24 students. I’m used to be that ‘one girl,’ and I don’t bother. Sometimes it feels like I have to convince others more of the fact that I am a great developer just because I’m female. Otherwise, I think women are way more structured in working, planning and programming, and are more dedicated to improving (themselves and the code they’re writing). My partner once said: every team of developers should have at least one woman because of this.