Hey Girlfriend!: Seren Davies

I am so grateful for everyone’s support in announcing the Hey Girlfriend! series last week. This is the first interview of the series!

Today I am interviewing Seren Davies. Seren is a software engineering student in Oxford, England. I first found out about Seren when her talk, “Death to Icon Fonts”, circulated in numerous web development newsletters (you can check out some of the events she has previously spoken at). She spoke about a topic that is widely debated in the field of front-end development: although fonts with icons are easy to implement and use, they have accessibility problems and can be difficult for dyslexics to interpret.

A photo of Seren

Seren is dyslexic, meaning that she often has difficulty reading on the web when a website is poorly designed. Too many advertisements and images, small body copy, words in uppercase, small line-height and highly decorative typefaces/fonts are all examples of what make a website more challenging for a dyslexic to read. She uses her experiences as inspiration for her talks, and would love for the web to be a more accessible place for people with disabilities.

I also want to thank Seren for helping me out a little in deciding on the title of this series. I previously wanted to go for GRL PWR but got her input on whether this would cause a problem for dyslexics. It wouldn’t have been a problem because the words are short but I really appreciate her feedback even though I didn’t go with that name in the end.

Hi Seren! You got a lot of attention thanks to your “Death to Icon Fonts” talk. What made you decide to do a talk rather than a blog post or an article? Were you comfortable with speaking or was it a bit of a challenge?

So it all started when I went to a conference and met Dave Letorey, he convinced me to speak at London Web Standards. After that I realised I needed to create a talk and Death to Icon Fonts was born. The idea of speaking didn’t really bother me too much as I had to do it in school. It was more the fear of the unknown, speaking at a meet up. It was my first ever technical talk. I was so worried I was going to get something wrong and the crowd would call me out on it.

Did you expect to get a lot of people watching the video of your talk or was it a bit of a surprise?

It was a huge surprise! I never expected that many people to be interested in what I had to say. Icon fonts are a big topic on the internet and lots of people had already spoken about them before. I was never expecting to get the feedback I did! It was amazing and I feel so proud that I was able to bring a new perspective. Something that made people think about how they implement their icons and hopefully change it for the better.

I personally say age is just a number, but it’s impressive that you are still studying and already getting involved with the community and giving your career a head start. What made you decide to stick to studying software engineering?

I chose to study Software Engineering as it was marketed as the more hands-on version of Computer Science. I wanted to learn to program not so much the theory behind programming. I stuck at my degree instead of leaving uni going into the industry as going to university was such a big deal for me. Not many of my teachers at primary school thought I make it this far so getting my degree is a way of proving everyone wrong and showing the world that I may be Dyslexic but I can get a degree. However I did do a placement year as part of my degree which meant I went and worked in industry for a year. I loved my year out and am excited to get working again once my degree is over.

As you probably know, there is a shortage of women in tech. As you move on from being a student to being a full-time worker, are there any challenges you foresee in looking for a job? Do you have any personal expectations from potential employers? Is there anything that might turn you off working for a company?

One challenge I can foresee is finding a company where I am not the only female developer.

As a graduate I expect an employer to acknowledge that and be willing to train me on the job.

There are a few things that would put me off working for a company.

A lack of flexi time could potentially be an issue, during my placement I was lucky enough to have this option and I learnt just how valuable this is. I’d also be put off by companies that don’t value female staff, or who treat junior staff badly. Another thing would be if the code I was writing wasn’t used for good. I have always wanted to help people and if I learnt I was doing the opposite I would find that heartbreaking.

What is one of your aspirations for your career?

To help people. Technology plays such a huge role in my life and I want to do the same for others. Its why I speak about accessibility, I want everyone using the web to have a good experience.

Is there anything exciting you have planned for 2017?

This year is my final semester at uni. So it means I am finally graduating! I am so excited to graduate and go find a job I love.

I am also in the process of writing a new talk which I am planning on giving at a conference this coming year.

If you could travel to another country right now for leisure, where would you go? What about for work (even if you can work remotely)?

I think it would be either Australia or Asia. They are both very different to the UK and look amazing places to explore.

I don’t really know if I’d like to permanently relocate overseas, but speaking at a conference in America would be pretty awesome.

Do you think you would like Australia if you visited?

I am visiting Australia for a month this summer and I am very excited about it, minus the spiders! Me and my family are planning to visit Sydney, then fly up to northern Queensland, and drive down the Queensland coast to Brisbane.

Do you prefer tea or coffee?

Tea, I am a huge tea drinker. Nothing quite beats an English breakfast tea.

If you were a speaker at a conference and could request any meal you wanted, what would you request?

Umm this is really hard for me as I am a big foodie! I think I would have to go with something simple like a good fish and chips.

So I have to ask you about your nail-painting hobby. I love painting my nails as well, I probably do it about once a week on average. But every time I finish painting them I just feel like taking it all off and painting my nails again. Do you ever get that? :P How often do you paint yours?

I get that all the time! I often finish a design and hate it and want to take it off straight away! I paint mine about once a week depending on my schedule. Around my exams I had no polish on my finger nails and hated the way my hands looked.

What is your favourite nail art design that you’ve done?

Umm this is a hard one I have done a LOT of designs. I think I’d have to pick purple roses. They were so simple but effective. So many people asked how I did them and thought I must have spent hours on them but in reality it was just swirling two colours together.


Who is your favourite Star Wars character?

Princes Leia – She’s a badass princess who saves herself. She shows girls you can be a general and a princess. The two are not mutually exclusive.

What five emoji sum you up most?


Unicorn, crying with laughter, nerd, star, and nails being painted

Seren tweets @ninjanails and also has a nail art blog. You can watch her “Death to Icon Fonts” talk on YouTube. Seren is definitely someone to watch out for in the coming year – I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what she speaks about next.

Comments on this post

Yay! A fellow Brit 👋🏽

I love the premise of this series. It’s so so important to highlight women in tech and show just how badass they are!

Even though Seren is dyslexic, I love how that doesn’t stop her from going out there and doing her thang – and drawing from your personal experiences always make the best talks, I find.

I really enjoyed this interview and finding out more about Seren. Also, her nail art is the best!

I really love this series and the first one is so fabulous. :D Seren sounds likes a great person that is going to do amazing things and I can only wish her all the best!

Seren sounds like a hard working woman! It sounds like she will be well set up for when she graduates and I’m confident she will find a job she loves.

I totally get why Seren wants to prove everyone wrong regarding her dyslexia. Teachers can have such an impact on what we choose to do in the future. I know that my science teacher calling me weak made me more determined to study for a science degree. I’d love to wave my certificate in her face some day.

I’m currently the only female developer on our team and before I started my job I was concerned about how this would impact on the overall experience. But as it happens, I love working with men and being the only woman on the team doesn’t bother me in the slightest. They once said to me that they don’t think of me as a woman, they just see me as a team member and a fellow weirdo, haha!

Those nails look incredible!

I love this first interview and how you’re going about representing women in the technical industries.

I’d never thought how the font I use in a theme could affect people with dyslexia and will keep that in mind for future. I love that dyslexia isn’t holding her back, I have numerical dyslexia (dyscalculia) myself.

Great interview!

I hadn’t stopped to consider how someone with dyslexic could have difficulty viewing the web. I’m actually pretty ashamed of myself for not thinking about how we should make websites more accessible for everyone. When I have time, I’ll definitely check that talk of hers on Youtube! It sounds like a really interesting topic.

It’s awesome that one of her aspirations is that she’s also wanting to help people via technology. I feel like not many people would have answered that question in a way of giving back, so that’s very cool of her that is one of her career aspirations. I think we can all make a difference in some way!

I really enjoyed reading this!

I really admire how Seren doesn’t let her dyslexia slow her down and it was cool read her perspective on things. I actually took the liberty of watching her talk and I came away feeling a lot more knowledgable about some of the issues that people with disabilities face while using the internet.

I’m currently tutoring a student who is visually impaired and after reading about Seren and watching her talk, I want to do more web development that caters to people who use screen readers.

Thanks Seren and Georgie for this interview – it’s great to get a bit of insight into the woman behind one of my favourite talks :) I look forward to whatever comes next!

Thank you for this interview. It’s a very refreshing read. Seren just reminded me of an old practice that I used to do whenever I build sites but kind of abandoned it (checking my sites to see if it meets the WAI guidelines, etc.). She also reminded me of an argument that I made with some people I argued long time ago regarding how sites should be responsive and accessible to those with some form of disability, even though they’re hobby/personal projects. I always get the responses of “no one cares” or that “if they have trouble seeing my site, then that’s their problem and they’ll have to deal with it.” It’s really disheartening reading them. Seren and her ‘Death to Icon Fonts’ talks proved my argument that there are people out there who do care about accessibility.

I do wish Seren the best as she eventually ventures out to the real world, presenting a new type of technology that would make a difference to people, especially those with any form of disability (dyslexic or not). I’m not an expert on nails or nail art in general, but they are beautiful to look at. :)

Accessibility sadly doesn’t get prioritised in a lot of companies, even the one I work for. I think inclusion is important and I have seen people with other disabilities use the web – we need to continue fighting the good fight for them. It’s easy not to prioritise accessibility because people don’t experience the struggles that people with disabilities face. Sometimes it takes a person like a blind user trying to use a website, to really open someone’s eyes. But best of luck continuing to encourage good accessibility practices in the projects you work on. 😄👍

I have relatives who have disabilities, which is why it has become an important issue that I hope I can tackle through technology (well, if I do succeed after classes and getting certified). Maybe build an app or an API of some sort that would aid them to have more accessibility towards websites, web apps, and the like. Just a few ideas like that in mind.

I’ve already hit the age where I have also become concerned with one issue that is still ongoing in the tech industry: ageism. My blueprint program that I’m part of has a lot of women who are way over 30s who excel and those who want to change careers, and this is another issue (along with sexism) that needs to be tackled, especially during the hiring process. I’m not a millennial, so there will be times in which I’m not “in sync” with the times.

Here’s to accessibility equality for everyone. :)

I love the idea of Hey Girlfriend, because it’s not shown or even mentioned that women do work in the tech field and if they do, it’s usually not in good light or in good terms, still I enjoyed this interview a lot ^^

That’s awesome that Seren talks about accessibility on the web and brings her perspective to the table! We used to have a developer at my company who would frequently do talks on accessibility at our dev lunches. It was an eye opener for a lot of us and made us realize we really don’t think about it enough. I think it’s great that she’s bringing more awareness on the topic!

I wish her luck on finding a good job afterwards! If I were to job search again, I’d look for the same things – flexible schedules and treating everyone equally. I think it’s a good sign if a company has several female developers and would question it if they had none.

I enjoyed reading this interview!

This is an interested talk. I’ve always wanted to hear thoughts on dyslexia in the tech world. My husband has dyslexia, so it’s very hard for him to read web pages that are jumbled and have small text. He actually doesn’t even read my blog, because despite larger text and a simplistic nature, it still gets to him.

I really enjoyed this and it gave me a lot to think about as I am also currently studying in college to work in the tech industry. I’ll admit it’s a gentleman’s world, but that’s not to say a lady can’t hold her own ;)

Also, I hope you don’t mind, but I linked you on my blog, as I’d like to continuously visit your site

Hey Shanae, thank you for your comment! Since your husband has dyslexia I am sure you could understand exactly how Seren feels when browsing the web. I definitely encourage you to look into working in tech and even in the realm of accessibility – no doubt people like Seren and your husband would appreciate your contributions and you would be increasing awareness for people with these kinds of disabilities. I’ve been working in tech for a number of years and women are under-represented, but definitely very, very capable of doing the work that is required. :)

I don’t mind you linking me on your blog, I hope you enjoy my posts in the future! 💗

Women are definitely under-represented in the tech field. I think a lot of it is that the women who ARE interested it probably feel like they don’t belong. I actually keep putting off my comp sci I class simply because I am the only girl interested in taking it, and honestly that is a bit intimidating. o.O

I don’t think that should be a reason to be intimidated. Don’t let the fact that you’re a girl stop you. You will probably kick ass – and other people could be intimidated by you instead. ;)

What an amazing interview! Eek, I’m so excited for this series.

I’m feeling incredibly inspired by Seren – I now want to do my nails all pretty haha. I really enjoyed watching her talk, she has talked about things I never thought of before – I’ll definitely be much more mindful!

“Tea, I am a huge tea drinker. Nothing quite beats an English breakfast tea.” YES. Haha!

I’m glad to see Hey Girlfriend! up and running :). It’s great to see people giving talks about areas they’re knowledgable at. It saves some personal research time and you learn something new pretty fast. It’s always great when you get better feedback than expected. Power to Seren for powering through university while being dyslexic. Companies who value women is the place to be. They’re losing valuable talent when they are not considerate towards things such as maternity leave and etc. Australia looks like an awesome place to visit ;). I am loving the floral nail design!