🎉 Hey Girlfriend!: Special birthday edition Q&A
I’m about to say it again, aren’t I? “I’m so excited for this month’s Hey Girlfriend!” Well, sorry, but I am. 😂
A month ago I decided to collect questions because this interview is being posted on my birthday, and I wanted to answer both technology-related and non-technology related questions. So here goes, in no particular order (except maybe the order I received them in 😏). Many thanks to everyone who asked a question. Some of them were actually pretty tough!
I had a lovely birthday and will be writing about it soon. My friend Daniel drew this artwork of me and Nick with ducks (ducks are my favourite animal! 🦆). I wanted to use it for this blog post. 😄
Geoff: What led you to into becoming a front-end developer?
Long answer: I went into detail about this in my talk titled I didn’t mean to become a web developer, it just happened. 🌟 (Transcript available.) (The talk was a hit, just so you know. 😉)
Short answer: I found the internet when I was young, played games, then wanted to know how webpages worked. I discovered you could do some pretty cool stuff with code. I continued to play around with it because my love for writing and drawing translated to the realm of digital creativity. Graphic design and coding was always something I did on the side, and in my teens I made WordPress themes for fun and also wrote a bunch of tutorials (still available on a random site I created). Looking back, a lot of people actually used them, and I could have made money out of them haha. But while studying media-related things (Bachelor of Arts in Communication; Master of Interactive Multimedia) in university I landed a contract in graphic design/data, and at the end of my Bachelors I got a job at a web development agency… I enjoyed it, and it all rolled from there really. 💁🏻♀️
I just realised that the long answer is, in text, actually shorter than the short answer. Oh well 😂
Jack: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s hard to think of advice I’ve personally been given, but here is some of the common “advice” I live by:
- Be yourself.
- The only person you are competing with is the person in the mirror.
And just generally working on improving yourself day after day. That’s what keeps me going – knowing that I can be better than the person I was yesterday.
A quick story that I refer back to when I think of mental health and being burnt out from work: I was going through a rough time at school and my physical health took a bit of a toll. I was terrified of the strict, loud, seemingly-angry head English teacher but I had to tell her I was not feeling well and might not be able to come into school for the exam later that week. She said to me, smiling, with sympathy, “Your health is more important than any exam.” And in context, although she meant my physical health, this can be applied to mental health, and “any exam” can be applied to school, study, and work in general.
A less quick story about my old doctor: I detail this in my blog post titled The twelve-year battle is over, about my battle with high cholesterol and how it took twelve years for a doctor to tell me it was genetic and not caused by diet. I went to see a doctor I hadn’t seen in years, and she had a lot of paintings of sunflowers on the wall that my mum immediately complimented. 🌻 The paintings were actually done by my doctor! This is an excerpt of what I wrote, from the post I linked:
“I’ll show you something.” She opened her desk drawer and pulled out two books. They were books she had published, with poems she had written, and filled with paintings that she had painted.
She told us the story of how she was young, her older sisters were very good at art, got noticed for their art, and that she didn’t have a talent that she enjoyed or that people noticed her for. She said that in grade five, she had made all her sisters do her art homework, and she would do their science homework in return. After all that, the teacher said her work was the best in the class, and one day invited the whole class outside to paint their work outside. and she said “oh I was in trouble” but then she realised she was lucky, because they were around nature, and she was good at painting nature.
She got into a competition where she had to sit out on the street and paint. She was on the beach, around where people were swimming, with tons of people, and she just couldn’t do it, and she couldn’t draw people.
She said from that day, she stopped painting. “No one ever told me that I had a talent for painting nature, that I could paint what I wanted, and ignore everything around me.”
Then five years ago, she wanted to do something, as a hobby, so she went back to it. All those years she didn’t paint and write poems, these ideas had accumulated hugely, and inspired her to do amazing things again.
“This isn’t just for me, it’s for everyone. You might think you can’t do something, or you are never going to be good at it, and you can never do it, but you should just try.”
Finally, this TED Talk changed the way I see life 🙂
Amy: Who inspires you the most? (And who are close runners up?)
Oh, this is oh so hard, if you wanted me to actually name individual people. 😭 I actually don’t have that kind of answer because I’m constantly inspired by everyone around me. I feel so honoured to know people who are passionate about what they do. You would be one of them, as well as the other people in Fenders of course – and there are many people I follow on Twitter who are working in the tech scene or working hard to get there, and I’m just like, YASS QUEEN/YEAA BRO, and I’m like that person with their fists clenched and pumping and cheering them on.
At work I’m inspired by the people I work with (OK, so I want to name them, so namely Chris and Ryan) because they are both passionate about their work, have wonderful ideas, and have this care about their work which is admirable. But to be surrounded by people who are intelligent and can work in a team is something I love being a part of.
I have a lot of fitness inspirations as well, some of my favourites being Abby Pollock, Rachel Dillon and Hattie Boydle, but I’m sure you could snoop who I follow on Instagram and find a handful of others.
I’m also inspired by Nick. 😍 I feel like I have answered this question in some form before, that may have actually been my answer. 😉
Mandy: If you were a biscuit what would you be? Apparently I am a Jammy Dodger.
An Anzac biscuit! No coating, no dipped-in-chocolate, no cream, no nothing. Just an Anzac biscuit. Nothing fancy. Effortlessly good, which describes me when I am at my best. Cup of tea or ball of ice cream optional.
Kylie: What was a typical afternoon like for you after school?
It depended, really. I had ballet once or twice a week for an hour (at some point this turned into one two-hour session), and one session was usually straight after school so I would catch the bus to the dance studio, the other was at 7:00pm. I had other dance classes (jazz and tap) on separate weekdays, but they were usually around 6:00pm or 7:00pm. I also had piano lessons and swimming, but despite having so many activities, Wednesday was the day that I never seemed to have anything.
When I got straight home from school I usually had a snack because I was hungry. It was probably something like crackers or cookies (something unhealthy) and then fruit (something healthy!) Depending what was on television I would often laze and watch children’s/youth television shows until about 5:00pm before doing any form of homework. 😆 Or I’d go off to one of my extracurricular activities.
As I got older I got into the habit of having a quicker snack and starting on my homework or assignments early. When I started coding and doing graphic design, I wouldn’t watch television anymore, and I spent a couple of hours on the computer playing in Photoshop or writing blog posts before starting homework.
Sandy: What are your hobbies?
I enjoy going to the gym (obviously), coding, dancing (just in general – even randomly at work or at home, I love busting a move), I’ve recently gotten more into rock climbing, and I really like travel and finding new places or things to do locally. I also, of course, love writing. 😍 These are the things I do in my spare time that I consider hobbies.
Sandy: What kinds of things do you wish you had as hobbies?
Sometimes I actually wish I could crochet or knit. I think it’s such a skill and I am too lazy to learn it at this stage. I am digitally creative, but I can’t do more hands-on stuff. Seeing other people create more tangible things make me wish I enjoyed it. 😆 I also used to play music (piano and guitar), so I wish that I liked songwriting enough (or, as much as I used to) to take greater part in that, and be a part of a band, and perform… live music is infectious, and I always admire the work that goes into maintaining a band, so there’s that, too.
Mandy: What most excites you about working in the tech industry now and what are you looking forward to in the future?
I haven’t been excited about much in the tech industry. While I love what I do, I just ride the new technology waves! I’m currently excited by CSS grid and design systems, and in the future I’m looking forward to design systems being common. I love them and think they are a great way to improve the consistency of a product. I’ve always been a fan of pattern libraries, since they seemed to be some kind of “guide” to a website, and even as a kid I loved guides/legends/keys in books. 🤷🏻♀️
Yaakov: What do you want to be remembered for when you’re old?
I can’t think of one individual thing. Most people answer a question like this with something extravagant and great, like changing the world. And don’t get me wrong, I want to change the world. But when I am old, I want people to know that I did my best to help people and that I said some things that provoked thoughts or even change. Be it through inspiration, or lending a helping hand to just one individual person, being that shoulder to cry on for just one person, inspiring even a small group just by doing a talk where I shared my story. There are some things I love, today, like running codebar and teaching people how to code, giving talks at conferences, and writing blog posts. There are some problems with the world that I am vocal about on my blog or on the internet in general, and I know sometimes people read about my viewpoints and feel empowered to have a voice.
If I made a difference in the lives of some people, then that’s enough for me. 💓
Megan: How do you manage stress, and find relief from it?
If I am stressed about something I can walk away from temporarily, I try to walk away from it. Like a coding problem, or an environment that is making me anxious. I try to get away from it as soon as possible. I don’t always do this, but I think it’s a good idea to quickly (in your mind) review the situation and if there was anything about it that you could have done to control it and make it better. Sometimes you bring the stress upon yourself (running late, for example), so if you can recognise those triggers and find a way to make it better. It can be hard, so incrementally, making tiny changes, or improving it by a small amount next time, can really help.
I tend to get really worked up about small things, but I don’t like to give up, so often I press on and try really hard to get through what I need to get through. But we have limits! And I think knowing your limit is important, and having something else you can move onto is good. I personally go to something that doesn’t use the mind a lot – like cleaning, ironing, folding laundry – which I find therapeutic. Even taking a shower can be a nice break.
Ever since I got into fitness I have found myself less stressed. I’m not joking when I say that exercising is such a great reliever of stress. I enjoy lifting weights, and the pushing and pulling and strength required is not just physical, but mental, and I am controlling what I am doing. Because I am in control, I believe in myself, and I can control what I do in a gym session. Not just weights but even cardio, like riding an indoor bicycle. I have the ability to push myself and I can stop when I want. When you experience stress sometimes it feels like a lack of control, and to be able to do whatever you want in your workout at the gym can really do wonders for you. And, it’s good for you. ☺
Mike: What are you most unhappy about in life?
Mike clarified that he was asking about what I am most unhappy about in my own life, but welcomed me to write about anything I am unhappy with regarding the world.
It’s hard for me to think of something at this moment that I am unhappy about, but I’m not religious, although my family is, and this concerns me somewhat because they are very traditional and can’t quite grasp that my beliefs lie in scientific facts and out of a great faith in myself as opposed to a deity. Conflicting beliefs in a family unit are troublesome, especially when you accept every person for who they are, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs, but some people may not see things from your point of view.
That does kind of go into my unhappiness with the modern world though. We are far from having less discrimination in the world, and by that I mean discrimination on all fronts. We have a long way to go. It’s obvious what I mean when I say discrimination, because that includes racism, sexism, and other exclusion of people, but this also ties into something I am passionate about – mental health awareness, and the fact that there is a stigma around mental health, with many people not understanding or accomodating for mental illness when it’s such a common issue.
Another thing I tend to get really bummed about is, quite literally, the fact that as a woman I have this “purpose” to conceive and have children and this is pretty much what a lot of people expect. Over time I get more agitated when I think about this dumb “window” that constitutes a possible 3% of my lifetime and it’s the only time I can give birth to children, and also how much hard work it is, physically and mentally. I’ve realised I have a choice, and while I won’t go into detail, I know a lot of women struggle with this “expectation” that they should have children, and the questions and probing and assumptions should just stop. I love being a woman, but oh, it sucks as well.
I could then go into talking about stereotypes, because I still get the fucking “Oh! You have beauty and brains!” as a software engineer who is interested in fashion. Please, stop.
I could go on forever about the things wrong with the world but, it’s the world. It’s a lot of mental labour going through all of that, and sometimes it really helps to just focus on me and my small bubble. I want to change the world, but to do that, I have to make a difference in my own small circles first. (And that’s why I do things like Hey Girlfriend! interviews, write blog posts to share my thoughts and stories, and meet like-minded people, and all of that.)
Jane: Have you ever experienced a wardrobe malfunction? Deets, please.
I wish I had a really amusing answer here, but I don’t think I have ever experienced a wardrobe malfunction – as in, where my clothing unexpectedly exposed part of my body that I didn’t want exposed. I remember occasions where the fly of my cheap jeans has slid down, but often I was so paranoid that I kept looking and checking and making sure it stayed up more than it did down.
In the past I used to own scoop-neck tops that were very wide on top, and being a small girl, I would lean over and often forget that doing that would let everyone see right down the front of my shirt. I don’t doubt that someone might have accidentally seen down my shirt on occasions I might have forgotten to hold my shirt up. But I haven’t worn those kinds of tops in a while, partially for that reason, so. 😆
Jane: Your candid made the cover of a trashy magazine. What’s the headline?
Wife of Australian product manager Nicholas Cooke spotted wearing booty shorts ordering at local restaurant
Because the media talks about women as fuckin’ possessions of their husbands or partners. It’s never gonna be me, the user interface engineer, winning an award and inspiring women worldwide as she shares the stories of other women in technology through interviews (see what I did there?). It’s always going to be about the fact that I’m the wife of a successful product manager (and it’ll mention his name, hi Nick) and it’s going to be about how I look. It’s going to, guaranteed, be about my appearance.
It’s probably going to mention that I’ve got a nice piece of ass that you can check out on my days off. It will either say something raunchy and objectify me with strong language describing my curves, or depending on the poor individual writing the article, will take a slightly different stance and paint me as a demure woman going about her daily life, that I dress comfortably and appropriately for the occasion. Who knows, right? Because in my gym gear I can either be 1) hot stuff, or 2) comfortable, even if I am wearing exactly the same fucking thing!
Insert juicy goss about how I frequent the Salmon and Bear restaurant in my neighbourhood and buy poke bowls.
Probably mention some shit about how it looks like I worked out my hamstrings today.
Jane and I have been talking about the headlines of magazines and newspapers and had a big ol’ joke about it because let’s face it, it’s kinda funny, but sad.
Jane: How do you feel about gardening? Do you have plants?
My mum really enjoyed gardening before she got really busy with work (and other issues that impacted being physically able to do gardening). I admired her work. In the past I thought about planting fruits and vegetables but never got around to doing it. I think it takes a lot of time and I believe I’m too lazy and impatient to physically get involved in gardening so I’ve never been very interested.
Nick enjoys taking care of his bonsai and I occasionally just sit and watch. We have a few tiny pots of different-sized succulents outside on our balcony that my mum and I put together for our wedding favours. Nick has a Sargent juniper, Japanese maple, Japanese black pine and a jade. My favourite is the Sargent juniper but I do really like when the maple grows a lot. I loved jades when I was a child because they looked so majestic. I still like them now but I used to think they were rare and for some reason I keep seeing them everywhere.
Jane: What are 5 things you’re loving right now?
- The jewellery store By Invite Only – their pieces are unique, and suit my style, and they go with a lot of my clothes.
- The LOUDPVCK remix of the song Paris by Chainsmokers. They use this song for one of the shoulder tracks in Body Pump (a fitness class) and I don’t know why but it gets me fucking emotional. The lyrics (“if we go down, we go down together”) remind me of the scene in Doctor Who where Amy and Rory both jump off a building, and they also (“show them we are better”) remind me of people having been bullied through childhood then going on to show everyone how successful and talented they are later on. And the music… just gives me the fuckin’ feels. It also makes me think of my fitness journey and how I used to be called weak, and just how far I’ve come over the past couple of years.
- In line with jewellery – shorter, slightly delicate necklaces. Not quite choker length, but a tad longer.
- I started a new notebook this week to do more serious bullet journalling, and I am loving that. It’s a navy soft leather cover and has a dot grid layout. I hope it works out and that I don’t give up on it.
- Before You Speak coffee.
Rosemary: What tunes do you like to listen to and does music influence your work?
I usually give anything a try, but most music I like falls into classic rock, pop, pop rock, 90s music, and definitely some lesser-known indie music. I also like a bit of R’n’B. It was probably almost a year ago that I put together some music to listen to solely at the gym, to help motivate myself, but now the music I listen to on my daily grind has merged with my gym playlists. I guess the music motivates me no matter what I am doing.
I like listening to music while I am working on my computer. While working, I often get into certain moods or get a sudden urge to listen to bands that I haven’t listened to in a long time, so I might pull their music up and enjoy it while I work. I tend to listen to electronic/dance music when I want to focus, because the catchy tunes get me into a groove. I find pop punk really fun to listen to as well.
Sometimes I find music a bit too much, or a more distracting, at which point I’ll just remove my headphones or stop my music.
Music doesn’t influence my creative work as much as it used to. When I used to do more graphic design and less typographic design, my work was heavily influenced by the pop punk and emo bands I listened to. Designs I made for my blog were dark, with grungy brushes, collages of emotional lyrics, and dark landscapes and images laid over each other with lots of shadows. These days my work is more influenced by my strong and fun personality.
Yaakov: Who would be your dream person to interview, and why?
In terms of Hey Girlfriend!, I interviewed Amy Wibowo last year and had only just gotten to know her, and to be honest I was honoured that she replied and agreed to do the interview. We have quite a bit in common and I admire her work with Bubblesort Zines. She also starts a lot of discussions that need to be heard, and tweets about issues she is passionate about. So she would have been my dream person, but… I actually want to interview Una Kravets. I met her at Mixin Conf in 2016, and I was shaking. I have admired her creative work and the work she does in front-end, and her personality is lovely, and I know I could easily flick her an email, even though I don’t think she would remember me I think that she might be more available for an interview. Tracy Chou, purely because of her work in diversity, is someone I would love to interview as well.
I actually contacted Naomi Wu and although she politely declined (completely understandable), I was so excited that she replied!
After seeing Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s TED talk, What does my headscarf mean to you?, I was incredibly inspired. Simply from the content of the talk and the way she delivered it. Strong, confident, with purpose. With a desire to challenge stereotypes and change the perspective of people. I was also drawn to the fact that she is Australian. I’d love to interview her, but I know she has a ton of followers and I may never get a response. But I believe it’s worth a shot, so who knows. I will try one day, I think. 🙂
Finally, although not directly, I’d love to chat with Malala, because, well, I don’t think I need to explain why. 🙂
Lina: What trend / concept in tech do you personally find fascinating at the moment? Which do you find frightening?
My answer to the first half of this question is similar to my response to Mandy’s question: I am enjoying design systems. 😄
As for what I find frightening, I do like this question, because there have actually been a few articles floating around about how design systems will take the place of some jobs. This actually frightens me a bit, because design systems are things that I believe have a lot to do with my work as a front-end developer. And since I enjoy that very much, and don’t want to move to back-end languages or other areas of technology (yet, anyway). I fear that design systems will be incorporated into every company, will be easy for everyone to use, and I won’t be needed anymore. Maybe I should deliberately make them hard to use so I’ll still be employed? 😜 I’m just joking.
It’s a long way to go, but I can’t help but feel that way. I know there’s AI, but I haven’t been exposed to that much, and that, again, is something that has a long way to go before “replacing humans”. Because it has a long way to go and doesn’t concern my job (unlike design systems), I am not concerned about it taking over the world, at least not right now.
Ohhhh gosh there were some lengthy answers there. 😅 I hope you enjoy reading them!
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who asked me questions! Wow, I wrote some long answers. But there was really a lot to say and for some of them, I had to think about some of my answers for quite some time. I hope you learned a little bit about me. 🎈
If you do have additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comments! 💕