Hey Girlfriend!: Karin Persson
Today I am interviewing Karin, whose blog I’ve been reading for quite some time. Her hobbies are so exciting and interesting to read about, and I definitely learned a lot about her after bombarding her with questions!
Karin is a front-end developer living in north Sweden. After a few years at various advertising agencies she is now employed at Scandinavia’s leading photographic print lab. WordPress is her CMS of choice and she has been working with it for over 8 years now. Outside of work she is also a traditional artist and long-time blogger. She loves nature and animals and spends a lot of her time exploring the woods with her dog.
Hi Karin! Thank you for agreeing to do this interview! I haven’t listened to any music in the hard rock or metal genres recently, and I know you’re really into that kind of music, so what are you currently listening to?
Ghost (I think they’re called Ghost B.C. internationally?) recently came out with a new album, so I’ve been listening to them a lot. Actually I always listen to them a lot, they’re one of my favourite bands.
I’ve also discovered Andrew W. K. Never cared much for him before, but he too released a new album this year and I find I kinda like it. It contains a lot of positive self-help style messages. Depending on your mood for the day, it can come off as silly rather than affirmative, but most of the time it actually works.
Makes for a stark contrast to Ghost’s doom and gloom! :D
Your current role as a front-end developer is a remote position. Are you the only remote person on your team, or do you have a distributed team? And did you have any experience working remotely before?
It’s me and one other person (a back-end developer) working from my town. Me and my fellow “remotee” have our own office space here, so we can choose whether we work from there or from home. The rest of the company are all at the same place down in Stockholm.
I’ve done some freelancing in the past, which is remote work in a way, but this is the first time I’m working as a full-time remote employee. So it’s definitely a new experience for me, and it is an interesting one.
Working remotely can be a challenge. What parts of your role can be done anywhere, and what parts do you think struggle because of the lack of physical presence and communication?
I think the actual work is pretty easy to distribute and get done wherever. We divide the work between us and have our more or less separate tasks for the day/week. It usually runs smoothly.
Also, the person I work closest with is the back-end dev, and we’re already in the same place. So, like I said, getting the actual work done is rarely an issue.
The hardest part, for me personally anyway, is the “soft” stuff. Like team building and getting to know your colleagues.
Work takes so much time of our lives so for me, and probably for the majority of people, it’s important to know and like my coworkers. We don’t have to be BFF:s or anything, but having a friend-like relationship can make the difference between an ok job and a great one. It’s also just plain easier to ask dumb questions or collaborate on a project when you know who the other persons are.
All this comes naturally when you share the same physical space – but when you’re remote it takes so much longer to build. Didn’t help that most of my team, myself included, are the stereotypical introverted nerdy types.
It took months for me to feel like I was even part of this company at all, and I know my colleagues in Stockholm felt the same way.
In the beginning we rarely messaged each other unless absolutely necessary. We were more inclined to quietly do our tasks and only talk during our weekly video meetings. It worked alright, but it was at best boring and at worst mentally draining.
After a few months I flew down to Stockholm and worked at the main office for a week. And it made all the difference in the world! As everyone became real persons communication improved too. Now we make sure to arrange regular meetups IRL, either in Stockholm or in my town.
But when you’re (almost) the only remote worker it’s inevitable to get a bit left out. Like, the main office will arrange activities and parties and I only get to hear about it. They do what they can to include us, but obviously we can’t fly down there every time they go out for a beer.
On the other hand I do have a lot of freedom, and it’s easy to get into the “zone” when nobody can drop by for a chat at any time. Being left to work undisturbed for long periods of time is great for productivity.
You love front-end development and have an interest in it outside of your job. But what made you decide to pursue it as a career?
I didn’t choose it so much as it fell into my lap, to be honest.
I’d been making websites as a hobby since I was a teenager, but I never thought of making it my career. I was aiming towards being a designer and even went to school for it, but then I was offered a job.
An advertising agency I had had some contact with through school told me they had heard I could make websites? With WordPress? “Yeah, sure” I said and they hired me as a freelancer. Didn’t take long though before they offered me a permanent position and that was, as they say, it.
I already loved coding and decided being a designer wasn’t that important. Especially not since over time I’ve actually been doing more and more design work. At the moment I’m actually like 60/40 dev vs designer.
The reason why I’ve gone for front-end rather than back-end development is because of the visual aspect. Coding is very creative, but back-end is more abstract and hidden away. Front-end development is like painting with code instead of brushes. I find it satisfying to watch my work come to life on the screen. To see the shapes and colours and fonts falling into place. It is, in my opinion, the perfect way to combine my interest in art and design with my interest in coding.
You’ve been blogging for a while – how long exactly? And given that having a “personal blog” is not as popular as it was decades ago, what keeps you checking in and continuing to add to your personal blog?
Had to look at my archives… My current blog goes back to 2009. Wow, I knew it was a long time but not that long! I actually had a Swedish blog for a number of years before that, so in total it’s probably like 12-14 years.
I think one reason I still blog is because I’m so used to it by now. After all this time it would be weird to NOT have a blog.
Also, I still love the idea behind the old way of blogging. To just document your life and your thoughts and use it as a way to make friends you otherwise would never knew existed.
I come from a remote part of the world, and my main goal with blogging has always been to use it as a way to connect myself with the rest of you. To see who else is out there and what your lives are like. :)
I really love your artworks – I think your drawing skills are incredible. How long have you been drawing seriously for?
Thank you! :D I’d say since high school. Drawing has always been an interest of mine, but that’s when I realised I was actually good at it.
But I haven’t been continuously serious about my art all the time. Sometimes I’ve gone months and even years between drawing anything other than small doodles.
Practicing drawing is a common suggestion given to people who say things like, “I suck at drawing”. Over the years, what have you learned about practicing?
Practise is the only way to learn anything, but it works a lot better if you do it with a conscious plan.
I can draw every day of the week, but if all I do is things I already know it will only help retain my current skill level and not advancing them.
For example, I’m very good with animal anatomy. Dogs and horses comes easy to me. So when I doodle aimlessly that’s what I end up with. Page after page of animals. The brain goes to the things it knows well.
But if I want to actually learn something, I need to step out of my comfort zone and draw something else. (Like human hands… ugh.) It won’t come naturally, I will have to force myself do it, but it’s the only way if I want to step up my game.
So, there’s practise and then there’s practise. It makes a difference.
You’ve had quite a few pets over the years. Can you share more about some pets you’ve had in the past and the pets you have now?
I grew up in the countryside so was surrounded by animals from day 1. My mum has always had at least one cat living with her while my dad and stepmum always had dogs.
My first own dog was a whippet named Zappo. He passed away last year and I miss him a lot. It still hurts to think about him, he was the best friend I’ve ever had.
A previous boyfriend introduced me to reptiles and other exotic pets. He used to work at a tropical zoo and was like a low-budget Steve Irwin. Together we had lots of different exotic animals. Many different kinds of snakes, two tokay geckos, a turtle and some tortoises, a few different types of frogs, a tarantula, and even 3 fire salamanders. The salamanders were gorgeous to look at! My favourites were the snakes and the tarantula though. Her fur was as soft as a kittens.
Unfortunately I had to move into a tiny apartment when we broke up and couldn’t take all the pets I wanted with me. I only kept one, Flamma, a red corn snake.
She was the very first snake I bought – and my very first pet as an adult. She passed away this winter after 13 years. I will probably get another snake in the future, but not yet.
Currently, I have one cat and one dog.
The cat, Maja, is probably around 7-8 years old. She’s a rescue so we know nothing of where she comes from. First we only fostered her but then decided to keep her. She’s a shorthaired blue tortoiseshell, small in stature but with a big mouth. I’ve never known a cat with so much to say!
The dog is a 7 months old Labrador mix named Runa. She’s kind of a handful, but friendly and social and very eager to learn new things. She shows a lot of potential and I think she’ll make a fine companion when she grows up.
You’ve done quite a bit of travelling, but have you ever thought about moving to another location, whether it was a childhood dream or something you considered as an adult?
Oh yes, I’ve definitely been thinking about moving.
Growing up I always knew I wanted to leave our little village as I knew it was the only way to get an interesting job. And I did as soon as I graduated high school.
Now I live in a town I don’t have any particular bonds to other than a few friends. My family is 3 hours north of here, and my boyfriend’s is 3 hours south. Both of us just sort of ended up here and we’ve actually been talking about moving for years.
Now that I’m working remotely I’ve been thinking about relocating to Stockholm. I mean, I already have a job so the biggest hurdle is taken care of. I don’t think I’d want to live there permanently, but for a while it might be fun.
I’d also love to move abroad if given the opportunity. Again, probably not forever, but for a while. To see what it’s like.
What’s holding me back is mainly 2 things:
- Markus would need to find a job too, or I’d have to move alone which would be pretty sad.
- I live in a place with a very low cost of living. Here I can rent a whole house (albeit a small one) for pretty cheap. The same amount of money in, say, Stockholm would only cover a tiny one bedroom flat in a dodgy suburb. If even that. Having to downgrade so much would suck.
You’ve been with your partner Markus for over a decade. How did the two of you meet?
We met at school. I don’t know what to call my education in English, it’s not a University degree but some sort of higher vocational diploma.
Anyway, it’s not important. We both enrolled in the same educational programme in 2006, so we got to know each other there.
From there it took about 8 months until our relationship started developing from mere classmates to friends to wait-is-this-something-more? We finally became a couple during Sweden Rock Festival in 2007. Apparently, you can’t share a tent with someone for a week (at a music festival, while constantly tipsy) without ending up a couple. ;)
You proposed to Markus many years ago without hesitation. Although the number of women who propose to their male partners is increasing, it’s still uncommon to hear these stories. Did you have any thoughts relating to this before you proposed?
Women are generally expected to be the more passive ones when it comes to relationships and dating, and it irks me quite a bit. Why are we supposed to be the ones who wait? Wait for him to make the first move, wait to be asked out, wait to be picked up and dropped off, have him pay, have him propose…
I’m not very hung up on traditions or gender roles so if anything, it seemed cool to go against the norm. I wanted to marry the guy, and if you want something done you better do it yourself, right?
I also knew Markus didn’t have anything against it. Honestly, if he had he probably wouldn’t be the kind of person I’d want to marry anyway. On multiple occasions I’d heard him say things like “why am I expected to propose just because I’m the man? Can’t a guy want to be swept of his feet too?” I couldn’t agree more, so when the time was right I planned and went through with my proposal.
I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s no less romantic and special being the one asking. <3
You must be busy preparing for your upcoming wedding! Although you’re planning for a relatively small wedding, are there any particular things that have really worked for you in terms of getting organised?
I’m a list maker, and I change between computers and devices a lot, so Google Docs have been the best way to keep everything easily accessible.
Other than that, I’m really not that organized, haha! I have my lists of stuff to do and buy etc. and that’s about it. And it is a very small and laid-back wedding (30 guests at most) so it’s not a whole lot that needs to be done.
What was your most memorable moment at a concert?
I don’t know about most memorable (for me), but the funniest for everyone else and the one I’m constantly reminded of is when I fell asleep while Blind Guardian was playing. I was in the crowd, surrounded by people and the VERY LOUD music, passed out in a camping chair. I wasn’t even drunk, I blame the lack of sleep and scorching sunshine!
But I did wake up just in time for the first chorus of Mirror Mirror. I jumped to my feet and started singing along, all in one fluid motion, startling everyone around me.
It was Sweden Rock Festival in 2007 – same year as Markus and I became a couple – and it’s still brought up every now and then. Nobody who was there lets me forget it because apparently it looked hilarious.
Not like I don’t deserve the mockery. Falling asleep during Blind Guardian is just plain heresy.
You love and connect with nature regularly. What are your specific favourite things about nature? Does it translate directly to the things you like to photograph in nature?
My dad and grandparents are/were very outdoorsy people. Growing up they would always take me out in the woods to “keep track”. Their literal words. And I was instilled with this notion that – with risk of sounding like some cooky new-age hippie – the wild is the real world. Don’t get me wrong, I like the comfort of human civilisation just fine. But out there is where life is actually happening, and I want to be a part of it. To feel like I, too, am alive.
So everything is my favourite part of nature. It’s life itself.
For a less pompous answer, I love the sounds and smells of the forest. To be in complete solitude yet surrounded by living things. You might be on your own out there but you’re never alone. And since it changes with the seasons there’s always something new happening. You never run out of things to see and explore!
My nature photography is just that: documenting what I see and trying to capture the beauty of it all. With mixed results, I’m very much a novice when it comes to photography.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Karin just as much as I did! Karin can be found blogging at Imaginary Karin, where she blogs a lot about photography and her pets. You can catch up with her on Twitter, Instagram, or see her artwork on DeviantArt.
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.