your daily code for breakfast

Spotlight 82: meet software developer Jessica!

Happy Friday everyone! It’s almost March and that means, Spotlight will be 2 years old! Thank you so much for all the love, for reading, for your support and for all the interviewees who took the time to answer my questions :-) Here’s to the next two years!

This week we’re going to meet software developer Jessica. Jessica has a background in Neuroscience, she started a Women in Tech meetup, and she has been working on some amazing things! Enjoy reading and thanks again!

Name: Jessica White
Job: Software Developer
Favorite website, app or gadget: Buffer – life saver of a meetup organiser
Favorite book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Twitter:  @JessPWhite

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
My background was originally in Neuroscience. This involved some code (Python and Matlab) as I was conducting EEG and fMRI studies as a main part of my studies. Halfway through my PhD, life happened, and I was driven to reassess if I was really enjoying what I was doing and if it was heading to a career I was passionate about. Long story short – I loved the code, but academia wasn’t necessarily for me. Discussing this with my partner, who was already working as a developer, he got me to do some coding challenges to make sure it really was my passion, and I really enjoyed them. I guess I can give him quite a bit of the credit for what inspired me to pursue a career in IT.

Picture of Jessica


What does your working day look like?
As a software developer for a loans firm, I work in a Scrum team of 7 people. Our development team predominantly work with the backend of the system, though we do work anywhere in our system that we are needed. A day in the life normally starts with a stand-up, where we discuss what we have done, what we are doing, what is left to do and how we can aid getting the work completed. I then either pair with one of my colleagues or pick up a task alone. This could be writing code or manually testing another developer’s work. Between these tasks, there may be meetings and peer reviews of other people’s code. At the moment I am also part of a piece of work outside of my scrum team relating to improving monitoring in our system.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
If I’m honest though the coolest project in my eyes is possibly the least technical. I have really enjoyed running Women In Tech. Through this event we have helped local charities recruit technical help, helped members do their first talk, as well as our main aim of increasing the amount of women involved in the social technical scene. Currently we are trying recruit two teams for our local hackathon, Hack24, and are trying to help local school visit tech companies so that they can see how great our industry is. It’s a lot of work to run a meetup, and it’s not technical or fancy – but it is exceptionally rewarding.

Do you have a hero, or someone who inspires you?
I don’t have a hero, but there are plenty of people who inspire me every day. Whether it’s due to the work they do, the way they make other people feel or how they cope outside of work. People inspire me on a daily basis

Why do you love working in  IT/Tech?
Tech is challenging, and if you allow it, it will stretch you. It can be overwhelming, but with so many languages, techniques, best practices applications… it is an industry where it should be impossible to be bored. I also love the people in our industry. Being surrounded by intelligent people with many different experiences is a privilege. I have been lucky and know a lot of experienced developers who are happy to knowledge share and want everyone around them to not only be excited by their work, but want to succeed in it as well.

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
I do, but not a typical one. As mentioned, I come from a Neuroscience background, having studied it in university for around 6 years. When I decided to pursue a career as a developer I completed a conversion course at The University of Birmingham. This roughly involved the third year of a BSc followed by a MSc standard dissertation from what I could tell.

I do think I missed out on some knowledge – but really it’s more the years of experience of coding that I felt more heavily to begin with. There are certain fundamentals and techniques I hadn’t learnt, but I gained enough knowledge to do my job well and have a basis to build off.

The biggest lesson I learnt from university is that it’s the extra learning you do that will help you most. Being able to self train is invaluable.

Could you tell us a bit more about the women in tech meetup you run in Nottingham?
Nottingham has an amazing tech community, which is ever growing. There are around 22 meetups and one hackathon in the city currently and there seems to be new events being announced every other week. I’ve attended these events for a couple of years and there aren’t many female attendees or speakers.

I started Women In Tech nearly a year ago, to try and encourage more of the women in our industry to get involved in the community. We are a gender inclusive event, but are different from the other meetups in that we only have female speakers and try to have a female majority in our attendees. Our aim is to provide a comfortable space to celebrate women in our industry, while encouraging members to take part in other events as attendees or presenters.

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
Do it! In all honesty I would say try some code first. When I first showed an interest in becoming a developer I use resources such as Code Academy to make sure I was going to enjoy it. Even then I came into the industry knowing code wasn’t for me there were plenty of other routes I could take.

Another thing I would do is get involved in your tech community early. You can find local, often free, meetups in your area using sites such as Meetup or Eventbrite. There are numerous benefits to these events. You get to meet people working at different tech businesses in your area, which helps you make the right choice for you when applying for jobs. You can learn about new technologies and methodologies in a social and friendly setting. You can get friendly advice about resources if you want to learn about something.

Extra question from Silvia: What do you do to relax after a quite stressful work day with a lot of mental work?
I cook. Most of my stress comes from a feeling of a lack of control. I know I can cook an edible meal that I find tasty without out too much concentration. It’s a way of regaining that feeling of autonomy.