Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Hi! My name is Aagje. I am 25 years old and have been working for around 4 years. At the moment I work as a consultant at Wheelhouse (Cronos Group) and am doing a project at the Flemish government as a Front-end developer and UI/UX expert. There, I work as a glue, to make sure the design is applied correctly in the applications.
However I do a lot more than that, besides coding and designing, I also help with marketing at Wheelhouse and I started to get involved in diversity.
I have a broad skillset due to studying Interaction Design. This college program is built upon five main pillars: marketing, UX, graphic design, coding and video. In the three years I was enrolled in the program, I learned how to combine skills from these 5 pillars in projects.
What is your job and what does a typical workday look like for you?
I start working early, around 7:30 am. This is my moment to shine, no meetings, no one who is going to bother me in Slack/Teams/…. So I try to finish my work before our standup(s). At 9 am the standups start, we have multiple standups because our teams are very polarized. After that, there are a lot of different tasks that I can do throughout the day. Starting with managing our Design System in Figma, at the same time making sure that our component library written in Angular and Storybook, is in line with our design system.
Besides, I will also develop and design applications and review other people's work. I am always the last one to make sure designs are applied correctly. In an ideal world I would do 50% design and 50% coding, but at the moment it’s not really like that. I probably do around 75% of design-related tasks and 25% of code-related tasks. Around 4 pm-4:30 pm, my workday ends and my evening can start.
In your interview with Clusity you talk about how your work/life balance is more important than having a career. How did you discuss this with your current employer?
With that part of the interview, I wanted to make clear that going overboard for your company and doing overtime, shouldn’t be the key to your career. You can still be successful and have respect from other colleagues without selling your soul to the burnout devil. However, I often see people have the reflex to work after hours, just because they felt like it and then they tell other colleagues about it. And before you know it (trust me I am typing this at 10 pm, does this count as work?) you are working in the evening/night/weekends as well.
Being open about how I feel is important for me. I will tell my employer that my project is a bit less challenging but that I don't mind it at the moment, because it gives me a breather. And after a while, I will come back to that and say “Hey I am ready for a new stressful project that will be more challenging”. So the ups and downs in stress levels are my attempt to balance work/life.
If you could pick any project to work on, what would it be and why?
The Google logo minigames. They are so creative and fun. I would love to work on those and brainstorm about them.
Or a creepy/romantic visual story game, just because I love visual stories, they aren’t too complex to make, but they can have a big impact on the player and the visuals are often stunning. So brainstorming about the story, the visuals, the characters, developing the whole thing, it’s something I would like. (So if a visual story game studio reads this, call me)
How about when you’re not working? Any hobbies or interests you’d like to tell us about?
I have so many interests, my go-to comfort hobbies are gaming and watching anime (or anything animated). Besides that I draw a lot. It’s more of a love/hate relationship where, sometimes I am so proud and happy how much I improved, but then there are also these periods where I feel like I have no idea what I am doing.
My most expensive hobby is probably cosplay (cosplay is when you wear costumes from a series/game/anime/movie, costumes can be bought or self-made. For me it’s a combination of both). Because of covid, it’s kind of on hold, but I still love creating characters at home just with makeup especially in a cartoonish-anime style.
Which cosplay creation are you most proud of so far? And who would be your ultimate character to cosplay?
I love my Hornet cosplay from the game Hollow Knight. Though it’s really hard to wear because I can barely see through the mask.
For my ultimate character to cosplay, I would say Caitlyn from Arcane. Because I love the series and I am in love with how they portray Vi and Cait’s relationship. So I would love to bring that alive with a Vi/Cait duo cosplay.
What or who got you initially interested in coding and / or pursuing a career in tech?
I was always interested in making websites, but I feel like my real interest in coding piqued when I realized you could make games with it. I never wanted to become a game designer, but the idea of you being able to make anything you want, especially something creative, really caught my attention. After that, I taught myself how to code.
I considered doing Applied Informatics, but it didn't speak to me. It felt like a boring boys club where you only learn how to develop, but for making a good application you need so much more than coding and I wanted to make things that look pretty and were easy to use.
If you look back on when you first started out. What advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself that I shouldn’t compare myself to other colleagues who are better at coding because I have other skill sets that make me valuable and unique. I never felt worthy because I have less experience in coding. Not because I don’t know how to code, but because I have so many other skills like designing and user experience. So a lot of my time and experiences go to both, which gives me a lot of expertise, but not as good as someone whose main focus is coding or graphic design.
Do you have any favourite resources or projects you like to follow?
I like the podcast The Confidence Chronicles or Damn Honey (Dutch podcast). It has nothing to do with tech, but it helped me to grow as a person.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Confidence Chronicles and Damn Honey and how they helped you grow?
The Confidence Chronicles is all about being more aware of your mind and the way of how your head tricks you into certain negative thoughts. It’s about how to stop caring about what other people think, about how to love yourself, how you can change the way you think. Obvs it’s harder than it sounds. It taught me that being confident is an emotion. It’s not something you have, but you can feel it. So even when you are confident, you have days or weeks that you feel like shit.
Damn Honey is a Dutch podcast of two ladies who talk about diversity, sex positivity, LGBTQ+, shit women have to deal with, inequality,... I read their book “Heb je al een vriendje” which is about things that people often say or ask women and how you can react to them (in a funny way). They inspired me to talk about these issues.
Were you ever discriminated against because of your gender, and how did you react? (Question from Marta)
I can’t remember a moment when someone was directly discriminating me because of my gender, though there were some situations that made me feel uncomfortable.
When I was still a student, my college held a speed dating event to match students with companies for internships. At the event, there was a mix of marketing companies, game studios, creative agencies,... . During my conversation with one of those companies, I said I wanted a tech-related internship and their reaction was… really interesting. They seemed really surprised in a way that they never even considered women in IT. And the guys looked at each other and one said: “would a girl fit in our team? … Well, we can give it a chance.”
That first sentence made me self-aware and uncomfortable. So needless to say, I had no interested in the internship. I felt pretty much speechless and was so relieved when the speed date timer went off.
What made you join the women.code(be) community?
I really wanted to get to know more women in the tech industry, so a colleague told me about this community.
How could the tech industry be more inclusive for women and minorities?
There are so many things… But I feel like the tech industry is not reaching out to women (and minorities). As long as the tech industry is not as inclusive as it should be, we have a responsibility to actively work for a more diverse environment.
But if 20% of all developers are female, then your company should at least reach 20%
And I often hear the excuse: but there are just not as many female devs. It’s true, it’s not realistic to reach a 50/50 workspace. But if 20% of all developers are female, then your company should at least reach 20%. And it has so much to do with how a company portrays itself or the kind of network you have as an employer.
I like the exercise of adding female devs to my LinkedIn network. So my chances get higher to reach a woman when posting a job offer. There is still a big difference between wanting to hire someone because of their gender vs. making sure you reach out to a diverse group, so the people who apply for the job are more likely to be a minority.
Aagje recently wrote about the not so positive personal experiences as a female developer in tech and included several tips on how we can all become more inclusive towards women, people with a different ethnicity, culture, disability and so on...
Check out her guest blog called "Alright guys! Oh, and girl..." 😬 My experience as a female developer
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