Hey Girlfriend!: Jasmine Greenaway
This month’s interviewee is Jasmine Greenaway, whom I found out about after reading an article she wrote about the challenges of working remotely. We connected on Twitter and I was impressed by her involvement in the community and the positive energy she was sharing with other people in technology.
Jasmine is an NYC based developer and Cloud Developer Advocate at Microsoft. With words and code, she uses Azure to illustrate the awesome things developers can do with the cloud. Her 8 years of development experience has led her to different development environments and industries, such as in retail with Sears, gaming with Rockstar Games, and prior to Microsoft, .NET developer tooling as a software engineer at GitHub. She also teaches the basics of web development as an adjunct professor at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, NYC.
Outside of work, Jasmine volunteers as a co-organizer at BrooklynJS, a monthly meetup held in the Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn, NYC. Aside from those responsibilities, you can find Jasmine advocating for remote work environments, easier access to technology for all, and a personal and familiar motivation of unifying and elevating other people of color in technology to tackle social issues in the workplace in STEM.
In this interview I ask Jasmine about her work with Microsoft, how we can help junior developers and minority groups in technology, and some of her hobbies!
Hi Jasmine! You’ve been busy travelling and working! Where have you been recently?
Yes! It’s been a busy 2018! It all started in December, where I went on my first international speaking engagement as an Advocate: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where I talked about bots. Since then, I’ve been to Redmond (Where Microsoft is) a few times, London, Stockholm, DC, Toronto, Orlando, Sydney, Auckland, Melbourne, and recently Boston. I find it so funny to list out all of these cities, because I’m a nervous flier! My family lives in Florida, and when I moved to NYC I told them I can handle flying a few times out of the year to see them. My brother joked that I’d eventually find a job where I travel more than I ever expected. Guess he was right!
Can you tell us more about the Azure Dev Tour and your role with Microsoft?
The Azure Dev Tour is a one day event where a few of us advocates walk through a number of the interesting services in Azure by illustrating a scenario that reflects challenges that developers may face in their daily environments. We show how the cloud can help alleviate those problems with Azure. For example, we had this fictional “instagram competitor startup” in the form of an app. The app was completed, but the marketing department wanted to know the daily top influential photos that are shared. We used this facet of the story to walk through how a serverless technology like Azure Functions and Logic Apps can do this.
This is only one of the many opportunities I get to be part of as a CDA. Our roles are targeted to the developers, and we use our knowledge and past experiences as developers to show them the possibilities of the cloud through documentation, talks and workshops, and demos. We also take on the responsibility of keeping a consistent feedback loop with Azure product teams to make sure the developers voices are heard. This is a very short list, we all have special and unique talents and we use it in our own ways. My role specifically takes those responsibilities and targets them toward the .NET community, and communities who are interested in what Microsoft is doing in the open source world.
As a Cloud Developer Advocate, do you get to work on a lot of code? What are the main programming languages you work with?
You’ve done an impressive number of talks over the past few years. How has public speaking and delivering talks contributed to your career since you started working in technology?
Public speaking led me to this role at Microsoft. My future manager was present for my talk and reached out a few days afterward. Public speaking is also a way for me to force myself to be a better self starter when it comes to picking up new technologies and tools. For example, I wanted to learn about Bots, as we have a bot service in Azure so I pitched a talk on it a few months in advance, and got started on learning how it works. It went well, I created a bot that attendees could use to ask questions during my presentation.
You took over as organiser for BrooklynJS in 2015. The monthly event sounds like it’s organised incredibly well, with great care for the members of the community. What was it like taking on these duties?
The team of organisers helped me ease into my responsibilities. Sometimes the work can be overwhelming, as we have a few additional responsibilities other than a full time job. As a team so we’re really good at asking others ahead of time for help, and the community will help out as well. I am in charge of communication with speakers, making sure we have bouncers (for ticket collection and making sure attendees have someone to talk to if they feel uncomfortable) and setting up for Boroughgramming, which is a coworking event held in the daytime on the same day as BrooklynJS.
It’s a common topic of discussion that formal education is not required to learn how to code. What are your thoughts on this? Has your Masters degree in software engineering helped you, and has it helped you in your career significantly?
I disagree with needing a formal education. I have used very minimal knowledge from my formal education in my jobs, including my internships. My Masters degree was somewhere between a personal goal and a avenue to my next opportunity, which came before I even finished my Masters! I would say my bachelor’s helped, mostly because universities usually have partnerships and resources targeted to getting students hired. Which looks good for the university. The main way my Masters has helped me so far is with being an instructor at a local college, which was a future I didn’t see for myself when I started my Masters. I’m really happy I did it.
What do junior developers need to make them feel more welcome and less intimidated by the tech industry?
They need implicit and explicit permission, and the space to make mistakes and ask questions. When it comes to permission it’s about leading by example. A lot of us learned to code by reading others code, junior devs will also read and adapt to the ways that the rest of the development team works. I think sometimes when we mentor or teach others we sometimes put this wall up that makes it seem like we’re superheroes. We need to be more vulnerable and show that despite being further in our careers, we still make mistakes and learn every day. With space, they just need to feel safe enough to make those mistakes and feel comfortable and asking questions, even if it’s minuscule or repetitive.
You support minority groups in technology and this often involves volunteer work and basically things that can be done for free, or with spare time, out of the goodness of people’s hearts. Speaking more specifically, what do you think is the single most valuable thing that existing women in technology – regardless of who they are, their background, position, or other – can do to support these groups?
Promote and support them. From as little as retweeting a diversity scholarship for a conference, to paying someone’s ticket to go to that conference, to recommending that they speak at that conference and helping them prepare.
Outside of technology, what hobbies do you have that involve technology?
I love the desktop computer I built. I named her Cecelia. I’m always looking up deals on new computer parts and accessories. I’m looking at getting a new processor and video card. I hope to one day find a interest in mechanical keyboards.
Do you have any hobbies that don’t involve technology at all?
I love video games, my favourite platforms are PC and portable. My favourite genres are RPGS and music and rhythm games. I also enjoy taking random classes. I’ve taken classes on things like welding, and making gelato.
What are some words you live by or advice you’ve never forgotten?
“If you’re not asking questions, you’re not doing your job.” and “Don’t say anything you haven’t thought of before.”
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t working in technology?
I’d probably do something in science. I really enjoyed chemistry and biology in high school. I also took this communications class in college, I did an interview of someone and wrote a whole essay about it and I really enjoyed forming questions and getting to interview people and ask them about their jobs and lives. I think I’d be a good journalist.
What’s something you’re currently into that you’d recommend to everyone else?
Audiobooks and podcasts! I used to feel really strange about having a book read to me, thinking I wouldn’t absorb what I was listening to, which turned out not to be the case. I have gotten through so many good and insightful books this way. For books I’d recommend Endurance by Scott Kelly, the astronaut that writes about his year in space. Also, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.
Thank you so much Jasmine, for your insightful answers. I especially love Jasmine’s response to how we can make junior developers feel more welcome – we’re not superheroes, nor should we try to be. We should be unafraid of being vulnerable and admitting to mistakes and shortcomings, as well as sharing the lessons we have learned.
To find out about more women in tech from around the world with different backgrounds and experiences, check out other Hey Girlfriend! interviews. A new interview is posted every month.