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Spotlight number 78: software engineer Franziska

It’s been a while! I skipped a couple of weeks due to a lot of personal things and I finally got the time to publish spotlight number 78! This week we’re going to meet Franziska, engineer at Google. Franziska is working on Chrome V8 and she is a Node.js contributor. Learn more about Franziska below! 

Name: Franziska Hinkelmann, PhD
Job: Software Engineer at Google working on Chrome V8
Favorite website, app or gadget: Brain Focus, a timer for the pomodoro method.
Favorite book: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Twitter: @fhinkel

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
During my PostDoc, I worked on a project that involved a lot of programming. My mentor was at a different university, so we would usually meet for a week and focus on coding. After one of those visits, I realized that I enjoy a week of programming much more than a week of research. I decided to leave academia and work in software engineering. Luckily, I found a great job where they put huge emphasis on professional development and where I learned a lot about writing good code (shout-out to https://www.tngtech.com/en.html). After almost three years I decided I was ready for a new challenge and I now work on V8, Google’s open-source JavaScript engine.

What does your working day look like?
I spend most of my time reading code. Either for code reviews or because I need to add a feature or fix a bug. When needed, we have ad-hoc discussions about how to best approach a problem or tackle a bug, and of course, coffee breaks. Not on a daily basis, but somewhat frequently, a fair amount of my time goes into proposal writing. Either for conference talks or e.g., a summer internship.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
A web interface for a math research software. It’s a side project together with two friends, but we’re quite serious about it and it’s used in several schools. It’s the coolest, because we can use whichever technologies we want. It’s written in Node.js, which is a lot of fun to experiment with (especially in the early wild days before Express and socket.io), has a fancy-looking Material UI frontend, uses Travis CI, starts up a new linux container for every user, and we can deploy it to the cloud.

Do you have a hero or someone who inspires you?
All the people who sacrifice their time and energy to teach others.

Why do you love working in  IT/Tech?
The work itself is very interesting. It’s like puzzle solving and there’s always something to learn. Sometimes my head seems to be on fire from all the thinking and concentrating. But I know I can talk to my coworkers if I need help, so I never feel stuck for too long.

In academia, I felt like I don’t have any impact: it would take months for a paper to be published, and then it’s read by a handful of people. Now we release daily. To a billion people. Software is also more of a team effort. It’s more fun to accomplish something together and to be able to ask for help (very hard in academia where at some point you feel like you’re the only person in the world that knows the topic).

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
I have a PhD in Math (Discrete models in cancer biology) and took a few CS courses as an undergrad. Working on compilers now, some of the very theoretical CS stuff from CS 101 finally makes some sense, like context-free grammar. They didn’t teach programming in my CS courses, so it’s self-taught by trial and error, pair programming, reading books and blog posts, and code reviews. But mostly trial and error.

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)

Just do it! Don’t get discouraged, programming is hard.

If you can, do pair programming. It’s so much fun and you learn so much more than working by yourself. But mostly the fun part is important. If you have the chance, go to local Meetups (Software Craftsmanship, Code Retreats or anything with Kata in the title means hands on pair programming). They’re usually free and a great way to meet people and learn something new. Often a simple question asked in person is so much more helpful than searching the internet or books for hours by yourself.

Extra question from Sara: What is your favorite gif? Please give a link if you can find it :)


The one above and this one: http://www.hilariousgifs.com/bear-says-hi/

  • junedev

    As someone who studied physics and is now a full time dev a lot of what Franziska shared here resonates with me very much.