Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I’m Stefanie, 32 years old and I live in a small town called Ruddervoorde near Bruges. Mostly known in Belgium from the Telenet Superprestige Cyclocross Ruddervoorde and hometown of Jan Verheyen (famous Flemish director).
I have a girlfriend, Sanne. We’ve been together for over 6 years. She’s an assistant vet, which is amazing. I could never do her work, so I admire her. We have two pets together, which are our children. We have a cat called Pixie and a dog called Sprot.
What is your specialisation and what does a typical day look like for you?
I’m currently a freelance Front- and Backend developer. My first job was frontend focussed at a digital agency, I mostly worked with Expression Engine at that time and integrating my frontend templates inside of Symfony. I touched base with Craft CMS 1 in my second working year and kept growing in that field. After that, I specialised in setting up Craft CMS backends with frontend designs.
Currently I’m also deep diving into custom solutions based on Craft CMS, which includes creating plugins. Which is awesome, I like the challenge of getting in there and seeing all the puzzle pieces coming together.
My typical working day would be getting out of bed between 8 and 9 AM (not a morning person). Hop into the shower and grab myself a cup of coffee. After that I’ll check if I missed any action at night (Discord / clients from abbroath / PRs that are outstanding / …). I’m currently working for a company named Percipio, which is based in London. We’re running an hour in front of them, which is ideal to get some things done before everyone comes online.
At 10:30 we have a dev team standup every day, where we discuss our progress from the past day and what’s on the plate for today. Our dev team consists of Jamie (director), Michael (dev lead) and Demis (junior dev). I mostly nag and ask to update our Github kanban boards so we’re all up to date. I like everything written down and clear what needs to be done.
The rest of the day I mostly tackle my Github issues. We’re having a quite busy period with the release of our Education Endowment Foundation website and we’re busy creating an Employee benefits portal, which is a headless Craft CMS solution.
I work until around 7 PM. After that I go and have a walk with our dog and give them some love (which means food in their eyes). After that, I prepare dinner and eat together with my girlfriend. After that, we mostly watch Netflix or other tv shows.
How was the transition to become a freelancer? Got any tips for starters?
I think before taking the loop to become full time freelance, make sure you have a safety cushion. I had the opportunity to do some freelance work for the company I was leaving, so I had work from day one to start off. I also was self-employed after hours. So I did some projects on the weekend as well, which continued when I freelanced.
I haven’t regretted this for a moment being a freelancer. Of course there are some downsides, but you’ll have them whatever you do. I don’t like the paperwork it takes to be indepent, so I took a good accountant under my wings who helps me out with this.
How about when you’re not working? Any hobbies or interests you’d like to tell us about?
I’m a big fan of boardgames. Together with my two best friends we have 2 board game nights. Besides that, we love to have a drink and have social gatherings. And of course, I like a good Netflix serie, currently into Sex Education 3
What or who got you initially interested in coding and / or pursuing a career in tech?
That’s an interesting story. Back in the days, when I was in school, I played football. One of my teachers, who also played football (in another team), taught me the basics of HTML. Funny story here, we later end up in the same football team and she’s now one of my best friends.
When I learned the basics, I soon found out it interested me. I started my education Devine at Howest and so it began.
How was your experience at Devine?
Back when I studied Devine, there were some women in the first year, because of the design aspect. But 80% or so stopped after their first year, because of the development part. I think I was the only one who graduated in my senior year, so that says enough.
I still follow Devine on Instagram and such and it seems like there are more women, which makes me glad. They also have more hands-on lessons, like installations and such, which makes it more attractive as well. Wish I had that when I was studying, I would’ve loved that!
If you look back on when you first started out. What advice would you give yourself?
Have a bit more confidence in yourself. Junior development years have always been a stresspost for me, I did like all the projects that we did. But I always doubted my skills. Everybody needs to learn and keep on learning in our field.
What do you feel you could’ve done better during your junior years? Or was there something you somewhat regret you didn’t do back at that time?
I was the only front-end developer at our company and I felt like I rusted in the things I was comfortable with. We had our way to work and I never challenged myself enough to learn new things. When I became a freelancer, I needed to stress myself to get to know more fields. But I must admit, I still use Craft CMS, which I learned on my first job.
So if you’re the only front-end developer, I’d say, make some time to go fully out of your comfort zone to make something in a different language or the new kid on the block. Just to have more knowledge. I think if you have a team of developers, with a dev lead, you automatically get dived into those things.
How do you keep motivated when you keep failing? (Question from Imane)
Covid was a hard period, I lost my projects at that time. So I felt like I was going downhill fast. I wasn’t able to find any jobs with my clients at that time. It’s hard to be creative in those times, but I tried to stay positive and look for new opportunities and roads I could take. This opened my doors in the UK and USA. Before Covid, I would never seek out those projects.
I also followed some online courses and dived into plugins in Craft CMS, which also helps me at my current jobs.
So there’s always another way to achieve fulfillment and a solution. Never give up I guess :-).
Are there any particular women in tech who have inspired you?
There was a teacher at my college that I looked up to. She always felt confident and teached pretty well.
I always try to keep up with various people online, but it’s hard to come up with one specific person though.
Is there someone in the (global) tech community you would like to meet?
Not in specific to be fair. I never think about that, I always like it when I see female speakers or see female devs at the Craft CMS discord chat. Also with the women.code(be) community, I’m quite intrigued about what they all do.
Do you have any favourite resources or projects you like to follow?
I like to follow “De Koterij” on YouTube. Henk Rijckaert is a Flemish comedian, but besides that he’s super handy. He makes a lot of electronic gimmicks for his shows and makes installations and such with Arduino. It’s not directly into my field, but I love watching it because it’s interesting and he brings it with a comedian type of flair. Love it.
If you’re interested in Craft CMS, I would recommend reading Andrew Welch’s blog articles on https://nystudio107.com/blog.
If you could choose any project to work on? What would be your dream project?
When I was younger, I always wanted to work on a festival site like Rock Werchter or Pukkelpop. If I think about it right now, knowing I have resources abroad. I’d say working on a new product app / site which is spread out worldwide and well known.
What made you join the women.code(be) community?
I got the question earlier this year about how I connect with other women who code. I never thought about it, but I felt connected when I searched for communities. And it’s always nice to meet new people and even nicer if you don’t feel like the only woman who codes.
How could the tech industry be more inclusive for women and minorities?
I think there’s already a change in the field. There are more and more non male speakers at conferences. I also see some progress in the youth getting into technology from a younger age now. We didn’t have computers when we were younger, nowadays they all have a tablet at home and a computer in the classroom. You also have popular apps like TikTok and Instagram among young people. So the image of our dev world is getting less “boring” and I think it will interest girls at a younger age now.
When you say there are more and more non male speakers at conferences, do you also feel that the Belgian tech scene is making the same progress?
To be fair, it’s been a long time since I went to one (also due to covid). The Belgian ones I usually attend are KIKK festival and Bump festival. Most of these speakers are also from abroad.
Besides that, I also try to attend the Craft CMS conference, dot.all and they really try to get as many women involved. This year there are almost as many women as men, so that’s quite exciting to see.