I am so delighted I got to sit down with Louise. She was introduced to me by Christian Hernandez (co-founder of White Star Capital, ex-Facebook) on Twitter because of her very interesting and unusual story - and it is every bit as inspirational too! Louise has worked for some of the biggest most disruptive names in tech - Facebook, Digital Shadows and DueDil, and has gone from PA to infrastructure engineer. She manages to balance a full time degree and a full time job and dispels all the myths propagated about coding! Learn about her journey and ambitions, hackathon tips and how to get started in tech!
Current job Infrastructure engineer at DueDil (doing cool stuff with companies house data)
First Job Extra on Harry Potter 1-3
Favourite book/blog Lucas by Kevin Brooks
Favourite productivity tool Sunrise Calendar
Favourite place in London Lantana Cafe, Fitzrovia
Necessary extravagance Cashmere jumpers
Female inspiration in business Eileen Burbidge
Favourite coding language Python
Hottest tech start-up in London right now (apart from DueDil!) Tough one! Automata
Your CV is peppered with some of the most exciting tech companies! Facebook, Digital Shadows and DueDil. Tell us about your diverse experiences
Facebook came out of the blue! I had left my old job as a PA which resulted in me procrastinating on Facebook as you do! I ended up on their careers page and discovered they were looking for a PA for two directors in the London office. After 6 hours of interviews they introduced me to the MD of EMEA and head of the office! A week later they offered me an executive assistant position to Joanna (Shields). I worked at Facebook for 8 months and towards the end I begun a part time Computer Science course in the evening, which converted to full time in 2013. I was involved in company-wide hackathons and was very fortunate to have the amazing engineers at Facebook to inspire my journey.
After Facebook I joined DueDil for the first time. It was small and scrappy (only 17 people) and I loved that! I did everything: office manager/HR/PA. I was there for 9 months before starting my degree full time. Prior to returning to DueDil I worked at Digital Shadows bridging the engineers and analysts. But I continued to bug my friend Aaron at DueDil, asking whether there was an engineering job for me yet! He went out of his way to pitch for me internally and I officially started about a month ago as an infrastructure engineer!
What have you learnt so far in your career?
Culture is so important! It makes or breaks a company. The culture at Facebook was fantastic and the engineers were so welcoming. But as Facebook grew it was hard to hold on to it.
You are now an infrastructure engineer at DueDil! What does that entail?
At the moment I am just figuring out the tech stack! I also have individual projects which are internal that will help our team work quicker. It is a very iterative process and there is no right or wrong way of solving problems. For example, I have functioning code but now it is about going through a review process, optimising it, making sure the code is logical.
At DueDil a lot of our tech is containerised using Docker, which means that every part of the site is essentially in a bucket. Tech wise we try to deploy code as quickly as possible; we are very agile, we want to be able to write code and get it live in response to customer demands. In time I will provision servers and if I see problems I can solve I will have the freedom to go in and do it.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Juggling full time uni and full time work, whilst still finding the time to have fun. It's not easy and there were times when I almost quit. I am now in the final year of my degree though, so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
What are your future ambitions?
I love space, so maybe a masters in space engineering. I'd be an astronaut if they'd let me, although i'm not sure i'd make it off the vomit comet in one piece!
What is your definition of success?
I think if you can wake up in the morning and love going to work, that's a pretty good indicator of success to me. It's never been about the money. Find something that will make you happy.
What are three myths about coding that you would like to dispel?
- Everywhere is sexist and full of bros - 110% not true. Women might not be a majority, but they are respected and welcomed in all the companies I've worked at.
- Coding is really hard and only super smart people can do it - I scraped GCSEs and did acting at college. If you want to do it, you can make it happen.
- Coding is for geeks - coding is for EVERYONE, and it's COOL.
What choices did you consider when researching Computer Science? What are the different merits of coding courses v degree?
A lot of the engineers at DueDil are hackers and have just been coding since their early teens! But I decided to do a degree to have that foundation as I needed more of a kickstarter. There are so many free resources online, I would recommend having a go with some of these courses first and check it's what you want to do before paying up - you have to love it and be committed otherwise you won't have fun!
In terms of what kind of route to take I suggest thinking about your end destination. The likes of Google, Facebook and Tesla are really focused on education and care about the algorithms and big O notation which necessitates a degree. Whereas startups care more about experience - they want you to be able to come in and smash a coding test. Coding courses like Makers Academy get you up and running in as little as 10 weeks and set you up well for the latter.
What are some of trends happening in coding right now?
Everything is about the cloud and big data! Docker and Mesos are also becoming very popular! We are also moving away from old school programming languages to more natural languages like python and Google's language Go.
You have an impressive hackathon CV! Share your highlights and any tips...
The first hackathon I did was with DueDil and I had no coding knowledge. It was a whole weekend - two days with no sleep! We got through about 30 cans of red bull between a team of 6. We built an app called Seekr - a map based event discovery app, using server side clustering and matching to detect and classify events based on a realtime feed of social media from various sources. The map was populated from data gathered from Twitter, Instagram and Flickr, as well as a photo capture interface in the app. It was such an energising environment to be in! We came second and someone even offered us £10k to take it further.
My second one was with #floodhack at Google Campus, which was arranged to help victims of the severe flooding in the UK last year. My team made fludBUD, which connected flood victims to people that could help. We came third. Most recently I took part in an all female hackathon at Facebook. The key is to go for it and be scrappy!
Girls in Tech
You are part of the Girls in Tech UK team! Talk us through your motivations behind being involved and some of the initiatives that you run.
I started at Girls in Tech when I begun at DueDil - they had tweeted saying they needed people to help with the London chapter, that was three years ago and now I sit on the board! It was about finding a group of like minded women who I could chat to and share advice with given I was the only girl in my team at the time.
Girls in Tech run fantastic events each month and welcome both girls and guys! We even hosted one at Downing Street! We are also just nearing the end of our pilot mentoring program. The program is a 6-month exclusive scheme for women working in tech and digital roles in London. It consists of 6 evening speed-mentoring sessions with high profile mentors! We will probably run another next Spring - so watch this space!
Any advice for young girls who may be considering a career in technology but don’t know where to start?
Send me a tweet, I'd love to follow your progress/help out! Find a local coding club (there are quite a few out there), have a look at programming with scratch, move up to codecademy, come to a girls in tech event! You can also find programming jobs on Unicorn Hunt, Work in Startups and Stack Overflow.