044: Women in Tech and SheNomads with LaToya Allen
In this episode, LaToya Allen, developer at Big Cartel and founder of SheNomads talks about apprenticeship and mentoring, finding community while working remotely, how companies can be more inclusive for hiring women and people of diverse backgrounds in technology, and avoiding burnout and maintaining balance.
In this episode, LaToya Allen, developer at Big Cartel and founder of SheNomads talks about apprenticeship and mentoring, finding community while working remotely, how companies can be more inclusive for hiring women and people of diverse backgrounds in technology, and avoiding burnout and maintaining balance.
LaToya Allen: @HashtagLaToya | email@example.com
- CodeNewbie Ep. 34: Newbie Story: LaToya Allen
- The SheNomads Podcast
- Garage Cowork (Polanco)
- Dear Tech Companies: Focus on Diversity, Not Foosball
- The SheNomads Job Board
- Women in Tech Wellness: Chicago
BRANDON: Hello everybody and welcome to Episode 44 of the Frontside Podcast. I'm your host Brandon Hays and I help run the Frontside.
STEPHANIE: Hello, I'm Stephanie Riera and I am a developer at the Frontside.
BRANDON: Awesome. And we have a special guest today, LaToya Allen. So you're a developer at Big Cartel, is that right?
LATOYA: That is correct, yes.
BRANDON: Cool. We wanted to talk a little with you today about your day job, your work with SheNomads, your recent blog post about inclusivity and how you balance all that stuff for people. We wanted to start, if we could, by having you introduce yourself for the listeners that don’t already know you.
LATOYA: Sure, my name is LaToya. I am a software developer at Big Cartel and I'm also the founder of SheNomads.
BRANDON: Cool. We actually listen to your podcast and found out some cool stuff about you. One of the things is you used to tend bar. Would you be okay telling us a little bit about your story about how you got into software, what you did before that, and why you're doing this now?
LATOYA: Absolutely. I was bartending in Chicago, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life because I knew that it wasn’t staying up until 5 in the morning, making Martinis for folks even though it was fun and I do appreciate that time of my life. One day my yoga class got cancelled and I needed something to do. I ended up stumbling upon some coding tutorials and I really fell in love with it. I noticed that hours had gone by, I wasn’t bored, I really felt engaged, and it didn’t really feel like work to me. It felt like something that would be a cool hobby.
I, like many people at that time, felt that you needed a college degree to become a software developer, so I really looked at it as more of a hobby. I started going to different meet-ups in the city and I discovered that wasn’t true. And I was lucky enough to find people that are willing to help teach me when I was very early in my career.
BRANDON: Cool. And I guess the rest is history now, right? You've had a couple of jobs since then and you went through an apprenticeship program and after the apprenticeship program, you're developing lots of different kinds of software. Are there any software projects you're working on now? I know I met you at Ember Conf but you're doing less of that now. Are there any software projects now that you're fun and exciting, like what languages are you using?
As far as side projects, I started an open-source project for SheNomads as a way to help teach folks how to do simple things like create a pull request in GitHub or just the basics of working with Rails. But SheNomads has become an entirely different thing since I started that, so I don’t do any coding outside of work right now, unfortunately. [Laughs]
STEPHANIE: How long was your apprenticeship?
LATOYA: I was an apprentice at 8th Light in Chicago and I was there for one year as an apprentice. STEPHANIE: And is that where you learned Ember?
LATOYA: No, when I left 8th Light, I landed a job working in FinTech for 6 months. And then after that, I went to Big Cartel and Big Cartel is actually where I learned Ember.
STEPHANIE: What was your apprenticeship experience like? Do you have any advice or anything that you think really helped you along the way?
STEPHANIE: Nice. I also wanted to ask if during this journey of becoming an engineer, were there any experiences that helped shape the way that you think today? And I'm asking this because I'm curious to find out where the 'She' in SheNomads comes from. And why not just make this a very general digital nomad type thing? Why was there a focus on being a woman?
LATOYA: Because I am one. [Laughs] I'm a woman. I think that people tend to think in gender in terms of their own. So for me, it was just fair enough for all to come up with the name SheNomads.
STEPHANIE: Gotcha! Obviously, there is a difference, it seems like, in becoming an engineer when it comes to being a woman. I've participated in a lot of events and usually I have women come up to me afterwards and talk to me. And they usually tell me their experiences and how they know that they haven’t been participating. They know they haven’t been going to hackathons and other events. And I asked them why and 90% of the time, their answer is they're just intimidated. They don’t want to be the person raising their hand in a room full of guy developers and hoodies. They don’t want to be seen as the amateur or the person that doesn’t know.
So, I wanted to see how your experience was if it was similar to that or if it was any different and see if there is anything you learned along the way.
LATOYA: Look, we all know that tech has problems. I live at two different intersections in the majority of people that are in tech being I am both a woman and I am black. Being a woman – not just a woman, but being a woman of color in tech does come with its challenges. For me personally, I have never been one to shy away from raising my hand in a room or speaking up in a room. But I think that tech in a lot of ways did dole that part of my personality because I wasn’t being listened to. I wasn’t being considered.
For example, there are plenty of times where I've been in a meeting, I've been showing my code and someone else takes credit for my work. And I just don’t even bother to say anything because honestly, it’s like, "What's the point?" At that point, you just find another job. Or I've been in situations where I say something to someone about the code or about a test or about a change that we should consider and then someone who happens to be male turns around and says basically the exact same thing. And while no one really reacted to what I said, people say, "Oh, that’s such a great idea."
I have also been in meetings where people don’t even look me in the eye for the entire meeting which is very awkward when you're sitting in a room for an hour and you're the only woman in that room. And the person leading the meeting can't even bother to look you in the face.
So I think that it’s been an interesting journey. [Laughs] And don’t get me wrong, there've definitely been a lot of positives with it. But to your question, those are some of the things that I've experienced and it certainly made me aware of how women or people who live at different intersections of the majority of folks in tech get treated and how we need to do better.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. I think you and I are kind of outliers. I'm also a woman of color, I would consider, I'm a Latina. Nothing really stopped me from attending meet-ups and hackathons and I've always been very straightforward about what I know and what I don’t know. So, that’s never really been an issue for me but usually, I'd be probably one of two women out of a room of like 40 people. It's not very comforting. So that’s why I'm wondering is there anything for women that aren’t like ourselves, do you have any advice for women and for companies that want to be more inclusive, what can they do, how can they be more proactive or get over that fear or intimidation?
LATOYA: Absolutely. So, one of the first things that I tell them to do when they are thinking about getting into tech is find communities that will be supportive of you because there weren’t a lot of boot camps because Chicago was full of meet-ups. And because there were meet-ups like Chicago Women Developers, I was able to find that community [inaudible] and women were very forthright in sharing their experiences, both good and bad in tech. So, it definitely helped to prepare me a bit. [Laughs]
But also when I had bad days, when I had times where I knew I wasn’t being treated equally, it was easy to say, "You know what? I'm going to a meet-up after work because I can knock with you people." So, definitely finding a community.
STEPHANIE: Sometimes, I feel like those negative experiences where you feel like you're not being respected or you're not being treated equally, at least for myself, that was like adding wood to the fire. That just made me want to succeed more. It made me want to become a developer. It just made me more passionate. I guess for other people, it can have the opposite effect. But I feel like the best revenge is to have them see you succeed.
BRANDON: I wanted to ask kind of a follow-on question there about SheNomads. You talk about finding community being really important and you were lucky because you're in Chicago. But now, it seems like you're doing more travelling and there are other people that travel a lot. Is that where you found kind of a hole, the people that travel sort of nomadically? It can be difficult for those people to find a community. Is that where that comes from? Or what was the genesis of SheNomads?
LATOYA: SheNomads started because when I landed the job at Bog Cartel, I knew – and I discussed this when I was interviewing with them as well, so it’s very transparent. I knew for me working remote from home, that working remote from wherever I wanted home to be within reason as long as there's WiFi and espresso, I promise you I can work from there. [Laughs]
So, I started my podcast actually because I had no idea how to work remotely. I had no idea how to pack a suitcase for three months and I didn’t know how to find good co-working spaces. I didn’t want to feel isolated while I was in the road. So, it kind of evolved. I started a Facebook group for it as well and that was very helpful because for example, I was in Tel Aviv, I was there for two weeks and I didn’t know anyone and I really wanted to meet other women who worked in tech. And through the Facebook group, I was able to meet someone who ended up taking me to a co-working space that's sponsored by the government there with free food, free coffee, free WiFi where a lot of other people who happen to be digital nomads who work in tech were as well.
For me, it ended up being this thing. It ended up being like an international community but that wasn’t the intent when I started it. It's just like a lucky coincidence.
BRANDON: And so now, you're putting a retreat together around that. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
LATOYA: Yes. After I started the podcast, I started talking to them about their experiences. I knew that I wanted to really dive into it. I wanted to find a digital nomad retreat. But the thing is that the ones that I was coming across were very reflective as the tech industry as they are now. They're very young, people working for like 18-hour days and drinking beer for the rest of the time. And I looked at the attendees and it's like, "Okay, you're all men." [Laughs] And I didn’t really want this thing for a week or two in a house full of drunk 22-year old dudes. It's just not for me.
BRANDON: You don’t want to stay in the front house, huh?
LATOYA: Yeah. For me, I like my sleep, I like my yoga, I really like doing things like journaling and standing a long time. And I also enjoy what I do. So for me, I was like, "Okay, I want to be somewhere beautiful where I can have free WiFi, where I can practice yoga, and where I can talk to other people who want to work remotely but maybe want to explore a city."
So I was working for Mexico City and I happen to have found the most beautiful house just south of the park. And I was speaking to one of my friends who was a yoga instructor and she said, "Yes, I will come. I will lead morning yoga. I will lead candlelight yoga at night. We could do some [inaudible] actions of people who are into it."
And then I had been working in a co-working space in Mexico City and I told them about my idea. They offer to sponsor 30 hours for each attendee and that’s Garage Cowork, it's in Polanco which is a gorgeous neighborhood in Mexico City. And then I used to work with a friend who's now the CTO of MealSharing.com. He said, "Hey, first of all I wish I could be at this retreat." But since it's women only, we talked about MealSharing.com sponsoring an authentic Mexican cooked meal for us. So, that’s how they got involved.
BRANDON: It sounds like things kind of fell together in a way that actually is going to create an experience that, I have to imagine, you're happy with the idea of.
LATOYA: Absolutely. I'm very excited because if this already existed, someone else will be getting my money. But since it didn’t, I just said let's make this happen and I feel very lucky that it all just kind of come together very organically.
STEPHANIE: You recently had an article on Medium. I wanted to ask about that. What made you feel compelled to write this article about how companies approach what they write on their careers page?
LATOYA: I had been talking to a friend who started tech a little after I did. And we had both attended the Sandi Metz POODR workshop together which is amazing. If anyone listening to this is a Ruby dove and you want to up your skills, I would highly recommend it.
So we attended that workshop together, it was a great experience. I keep talking to women who are significantly underpaid, underappreciated, and are having all of these problems in tech. And so, I was just lying in bed on a Sunday night, working at careers pages and I was thinking about reasons that women leave tech because they keep coming in but it almost seems as if we're losing them too quickly. And I was thinking about these reasons why. I was looking at careers pages and it dawned on me that the careers pages of these companies were not very inviting and that I would not want to work on the companies based on those careers pages. Even though some of them, I knew people that worked at them and I knew that they were all about diversity and inclusion and they were paying women practically, if not the same, as what they're paying men. And I knew that they were positive work environments, so I knew that people were learning from them but the way the companies were presenting themselves was so different.
So I thought, "If I was applying for jobs," and I'm not, I'm very happy at Big Cartel and I'm very happy with what I'm doing with SheNomads but if I was, I wouldn’t apply at their company and this is why. And I just sat there that Sunday night in my bed, flipping through careers pages and I just noticed a common theme and it was that they weren’t very inviting. They seemed to think that alcohol was a bigger selling point to the people they wanted to attract than things like maternity or paternity leave.
Their pictures looked like they were trying to throw a party or something. I don’t know. It was just – I was very surprised.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, it seems to be the popular thing right now like this whole Silicon Valley vibe culture type thing. But it's interesting. I have two friends that are both recruiters for tech companies and mainly trying to find developers here in Austin. And last weekend, we were having the same conversation about how they don’t like to admit it, but they have seen over ageism and just general discrimination. How they have seen countless times people that were definitely qualified for the position but because – I think one of their examples was a young lady but she was Indian. And this company that was looking, they were all white guys and they had rejected her because she wasn’t "culture fit".
But I find that very interesting because I think, as a company, you would actually benefit from having people of all kinds of backgrounds, someone who's 20 years old to someone who's in their 50's or 60's. They must have different sets of knowledge and experiences that could benefit the grander picture.
LATOYA: You would think so, you think companies would think that way but unfortunately, a lot of people don’t. For starters, if you are a person who isn’t interested in working with women or people of color, you're going to look at a careers page in the opposite way that I would. You don’t want to work with people over the age of 35, people with brown skin, people who identifies varying genders. Those careers pages are going to attract you.
LATOYA: Which is unfortunate but that’s just the world that we live in right now, and I have had people say this to me as someone who is a woman and someone who is a person of color. But a lot of companies, unfortunately, once they have a base of all straight cisgendered males, for them it becomes a liability to bring in women or people that live at other intersections because they have to worry about things like the woman getting hit on because she's the only woman that these 30 or 40 men can look at all day which is ridiculous, I think. But at this point in time, sometimes they just say it's a culture fit thing when really this is a law-suing happen thing.
BRANDON: I saw this rag regressive 1940's thing about a woman in the workplace.
BRANDON: And it's both hilarious and really sad because that actually sort of regressive feeling has just kind of morphed into that law suit type of thing. It's the same exact thing of just like breaking that sort of mono-culture and people are fearful of it because they don’t know what the consequences are going to be. That cost-benefit calculation doesn’t happen because a lot of people in tech haven’t experienced what a diverse workplace is and does and the benefits of bringing people from different backgrounds would care about different things.
And so, I'm curious. We kind of talked a little bit and one of the things I want to ask you about we already kind of covered is why people don’t do that. Why do people continue doing that if it's not that productive? I'm curious to see if there are things that you’ve seen companies do like what attracted you to Big Cartel and other companies that would be able to bring some people from different backgrounds? What are the things that companies do currently or you'd like to see them do that would make it more attractive and more inclusive?
LATOYA: I think one thing right off the bat that I noticed about Big Cartel and one thing that I noticed about many companies in tech that I'm really excited about is that they put people first. And I think that when you operate from that standpoint, you're not going to have problems that come with creating a diverse or inclusive workspace. You're not going to have women wanting to leave because you're treating them like human beings. So, that’s first and foremost.
I think some companies really care about the people that work for them. They really care about their client base, their user base. So, for me personally, I always recommend that if people aren’t happy at their current situations and they want to find something more inclusive, look for companies that put people first. That’s the first thing. I think the benefits that they offer and the way that they talk about their benefits are really important. I have no intention of being a mother; there are lots of great mothers out there and it's a lot of work in the world's best [inaudible] in my mind, anyway.
I also wouldn’t ever interview with a company that didn’t have a good maternity leave policy. It’s one of the things that I look for upfront. So, even just putting your maternity leave policy and paternity leave, if you have it, on your careers page can be a really big seller.
I think starting early on, once you have your core team in place, if you haven’t already had women or people of color or someone who isn’t like you, this may be a good time to stop and think about why that is and what you can do to pull in diverse candidates.
And there's also reaching out to communities that do have them, like SheNomads is one example of many communities that exists. There are also bigger more established communities like Girl Develop It, for example. Reach out with them, host a couple of meet-ups at your space, if you have it. If you don’t, figure out a way to work with them.
BRANDON: Right. So you're saying if you make it a top-of-mind goal, you will find ways to reach out because there are people out there looking.
BRANDON: But they may just not be in your immediate vicinity. In my experience, that’s the actual problem. The problem is that it's not in my proximity to see and know these people that are involved in these communities. And so, connecting into those communities naturally, organically, and through effort is a way that I've actually seen people grow that. That’s how you can kind of go from saying 'I care about diversity' to actually growing a diverse and inclusive workplace.
LATOYA: Absolutely. I think another thing that folks that can do is have a remote position. You get a remote culture going if it's something that you're comfortable with. I understand not everyone wants to work from home and not every company will do well having remote positions open. But if it’s something you're open to, that is a great way to do it because you might be living in an area where all the people are like you. So, you're going to have trouble getting someone to drive in a car.
So, there are two other ways that I was thinking that people can attract diverse candidates. I'm actually launching a Job Board for SheNomads. I got to the point -- it's actually once the article came out on Medium that a lot of people were emailing me wanting to know how they could find jobs and a lot of companies were emailing me wondering how they could find diverse candidates and like what they could do to be more welcoming to other communities. So I said, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm putting together a job board."
BRANDON: So where is the job board?
LATOYA: The job board you can find on SheNomads.com.
BRANDON: Cool. There are a lot of things – and this is really what I wanted to drill into was the blog post helps kind of point at the problem, "Hey, your careers page is sending messages that are actively turning away people that you want working for you. You say you want a diverse workplace but it's so far down the list of your actual priorities, or at least whoever it is that’s running your careers page, that you're actively turning people away that you don’t even realize you're losing people through that funnel that are bouncing out before you even have a chance to meet them and know them and know what they can bring to you." And so, that’s actually a really big deal and a big problem in tech.
I also appreciate your jumping in and that we have some sort of concrete things a person can do. Get involved with GDI or with Women Who Code.
We had a thing here in Austin and I ran the local Ember meet-up for several years and it's a lot of work and it was really challenging. One thing we noticed was that there were only two or so women, on the average, at a meet-up of 30 people. And I recognized it as a problem but I didn’t feel like there was anything I could do about it. And so, I handed the reins of running the meet-up over to a group of people that included the women. And sure enough, the women were like, "You know, we might be able to do something about this." Stephanie actually got involved with this, and they held an event for women and it's changed the makeup of that meet-up significantly. You can have an impact on this stuff. You just, sometimes, have to step out and think differently about the problem.
BRANDON: I'd like to shift gears a little bit and talk about – you're involved in so much stuff. Running SheNomads, running retreats, you have a full-time job, you're traveling a bunch and balancing all of that stuff, I have to imagine, is really tricky. And I'd like to dive into that and have you kind of talk about like do you ever get burned out? Do you feel like giving up? What do you do to manage that? Do you have preventative maintenance that you do? What is it that you do to try to keep all that together?
LATOYA: One thing that I find very interesting is you asked me specifically about burn out because burn out is something that I recently experienced. I am not good at knowing that I'm setting myself up for burn out. I'm not even good at knowing that I'm in burn out until I'm there. For the most part, I think that I've gotten better as my tech career has evolved. So for example, when I first started, I was working a lot of hours. There were days when I had to be in the office at 7 in the morning because I was mentoring people who were in London even though I was in Chicago. So for me, there is no more of that. [Laughs]
One thing that I really like about working at Big Cartel is that most of the team is on the West Coast, so I get to do things like sleep and if I want, I can go to the gym, I can run all of my errands before I even start my work days. Once I start my work day, all of I have to do is worry about work as opposed to waking up and not having time to do nice things for myself, not having time to run errands and I'm starting my day having all of these stuff on my mind.
For me personally, working remotely allowed me to become a more balanced person as well. I don’t like riding trains with crowded people. When I was working downtown, it would take me an hour to get to work every morning. If I have to go downtown in the middle of the day, it might take me like 20 minutes or half an hour just because there's not as many people running around. Also for me, I didn’t particularly like going to the grocery store. At times, you can go to the grocery store if you have a 9 to 5 job. If I realize that I don’t have anything for dinner, I can just tell my pair, "Hey, do you mind if we take a 20 minute break?" And then I can go to the grocery store and get whatever I want, knowing that I'm the only person at the grocery store. I mean, it gets a little bit to my inner introvert but I know myself well enough.
Let's see here. Practicing yoga is something that’s very important to me and taking walks as breaks is something that’s very important to me. I think when you love what you do, it can be hard to take breaks. So, it's always nice to be pair programming with someone and have them say, "We haven’t taken a break in a while." I find that when I work on my own, I don’t take as many breaks. When I take a break, I pop my yoga mats always open. So, I'll do yoga for 10 minutes or take a nice little walk outside or just get away from my computer for a while.
BRANDON: It sounds like working remotely kind of gave you the flexibility you need to implement your own self-care regimen, the one that works for you.
LATOYA: Yes. And I would not have even thought to implement this regimen had it have not been for working remote, I think, because it's not as easy. It's bad enough being one woman amongst a hundred men but then you're that cliché woman with a pink yoga mat walking around the office trying to find some space.
BRANDON: I actually did use to work in an office that had a yoga studio on site.
LATOYA: That is so nice.
BRANDON: Things like that do exist but I have to imagine that’s about as uncommon as it gets.
LATOYA: Absolutely. I had the idea of starting a meet up which I started in Chicago called Women in Tech Wellness. Basically, we get together and we practice yoga for an hour. And then after that, there's a little bit of networking.
Luckily for me, Braintree is sponsoring the event which is so great because it allows us to keep it free. I think having free and low cost events in tech are really important because there are people that are trying to figure out how to break into this and if they have to spend $10 or $15 to go to a meet-up, they're not going to go.
Also, it's nice to go to a meet-up where you might be stressed when you show up because you just left work but you know in an hour, you're going to be feeling really good.
Plus the Braintree office in Chicago has this amazing atrium where we do the yoga. So when you're lying on your mat, you're looking straight up into the sky and you see plants and you see all of these amazing stuff. It's just a great place to do yoga. So, thank you Braintree. [Laughs]
BRANDON: I think that’s really cool. I have one question, though. Do you ever have the ironic circumstance of the things that you create to help you and other people find balance wind up actually contributing to your overall sense of being overwhelmed?
LATOYA: Oh, absolutely. There's only 24 hours in a day and right now, I am all of SheNomads at SheNomads party of one. [Laughs] I would love to get to the point where I can afford to hire a couple of people just to help even if it's part time. So, absolutely.
Doing a podcast is a lot of work, booking guests is a lot of work. I would say that organizing the meet-ups is fairly easy just because I'm lucky enough to have people that wanted to step in and help there. But yeah, I think having a few things on your plate other than work is always going to contribute to a little bit of imbalance.
BRANDON: Stepping back and looking at the arc, you haven’t been in tech for a million years but you’ve been in it long enough to start drawing some themes through it. If you look at your career like where it's been and approximately where it's going, are you starting to feel like there are some themes to the stuff that you do and some themes that are kind of common threads in it?
LATOYA: I can tell you some themes in common threads. Yes, for my personal tech career. For me, I really care about code and I really care about people, so I'm glad that I was able to early on learn clean code and learn how to refactor and learn test-driven developments.
First job I had at 8th Light taught me all those things. I think for me, that is a theme that will be throughout my career. Test-driven development, who knows, 10 years from now there could be a better way to write clean code, but for now, it's the best way I know how. And finding community, even though I am absolutely happy with where I'm working. Big Cartel does a great job at creating an inclusive space, but still I like being a part of a tech community. I know that’s not for everyone but it's something that I think I will continue to do.
BRANDON: From just my casual place of observation of seeing what you do, definitely finding and creating the communities that you want to see exist certainly seems to be a theme. And I think it's really cool that you do the SheNomads stuff. I think it's really cool that you run that podcast. For a person that hasn’t been doing this for 15 years, I think it’s really awesome that you found a community early on. It's something that certainly has accelerated my journey as a developer. I haven’t been a developer forever, either. So I appreciate seeing you do all that stuff. I think it’s a really good example for other people that getting involved can benefit everybody and you can have an impact in ways that are sort of uniquely yours. I mean, certainly the stuff that you do is sort of unique to you and your perspective and I think that’s really cool because it winds up benefiting a lot of other people.
LATOYA: Thank you. I wish I would have said that as my answer.
BRANDON: It's sometimes easier to see from the outside in, even as a casual observer.
STEPHANIE: I did want to make a comment about balance. That’s something that’s very important for me. It's something that I've been trying to implement in my daily life. I recently started going to the gym and I try to work out either early in the morning or in the afternoon after work. Sometimes, I realize that even when you try to do something, you still don’t accomplish what you're trying to do like keeping that balance.
I started this about two months ago. And last week, I realized that I was not in balance at all. I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday really focused on trying to learn certain things. I was going over Clojure actions and trying to destructure and get rid of components and change the actions from where they originally were.
I'm a junior developer, so I feel like if you are an apprentice, it's really hard to not be in this state of overdrive of like you really want to accomplish things. You really want to learn as much as you can and just be a sponge and absorb everything. But if you're spending eight hours, give or take, going over these things, at the end of the day, I just feel sometimes my brain is just like it’s done. I can't even formulate sentences. I can't function. I just get home and I want to keep working on this but I just literally can't. I think on Wednesday, I just had a horrible headache and I got home and I was like, "I'm just going to lay down for a little bit." Laying down turned into a 3-hour nap and I will go [inaudible] 8:00 and I felt so much better.
And then on Thursday, when I came in, everything just made sense to me. All of the problems and everything that didn’t make sense before made sense. And I hadn’t reviewed, I hadn’t done anything, all I did was I got a nap. But I feel like there's definitely this struggle when you are wanting to achieve and prove yourself and to get to this next level, it’s really important to try to remind yourself to give yourself breaks even during the work day because if you can't continue, if you're at this point of mental fatigue, it doesn’t matter how much longer you're sitting in front of the computer, trying to read about it in the documentation, it's just not going to do anything.
So, I wanted to ask if perhaps you ever had those moments of frustration especially in the beginning as you're trying to learn all of these difficult concepts.
LATOYA: For me, yes. I love taking naps. I consider myself a professional. Luckily, Big Cartel is very flexible, so if I feel like I need a nap instead of lunch, I might take a 2-hour lunch break because I'm taking a nap. And for me, there's just something about resetting my brain through sleep that allows me to be more productive in a way that’s just walking away from my computer and doing something else.
Also, I spent two months this summer working abroad. So, I worked from the UK, Israel, Spain, Portugal, and Norway. So I worked abroad for two months and because of the time difference, I would wake up in the morning and work for three hours and then I would have all day to do whatever I wanted which primarily meant being a tourist in some of the most beautiful places, I've been very lucky to place my eyes upon. And then I would do another three or four hours pair programming at night and I think that I was able to get more done and I had a greater sense of clarity because I had such a big break. I was only working for three or four hours and that’s it and you're taking three or four break because no one else is awake yet. It’s almost as if you're working two separate days.
I think I would like to go back sometime soon, actually, and do that again because I'm not getting up at three in the morning here to work for three hours and then take a break.
STEPHANIE: Definitely. And that makes sense. It makes sense to stimulate your brain in a different way. Looking at the beautiful buildings and reading about the history and walking around and being outside. Even just a 30-minute break can just be just so wonderful and be like a refresher for the brain. Nice.
Before we go, I wanted to ask if you have any shout outs.
LATOYA: I do. I will give you three resources that I tell everyone who’s a junior developer, where they should look in to break into tech and what they should look for.
Number one, I kind of already mentioned a little bit, but Sandi Metz has a great book called POODR. She also has a POODR workshop. If you can go to that, I highly recommend it. I know that she offers scholarships for that as well, so you can apply.
Number two would Katrina Owens' Exercism. It's a great way to learn how to code. It's also an open-source project. So not only can you go to exercism.io and pick a programming language and work with people on teams to learn how to code. But if you want to contribute to the open-source project, you can.
And the third thing would be the CodeNewbie twitter chat. I love it. I really need to get my stuff together and be there on Wednesday nights. I believe it's Wednesday at 8 or 9 Central – don’t quote me on that. But those are the big three things I like to shout out, even though you only asked for one. [Laughs]
STEPHANIE: That’s perfectly fine. I was going to ask you anyway if there were any open-source projects or programs that you are involved in.
LATOYA: Yes, I have been involved in exercism in the past. I think I might have mentioned this, but I tried doing open-source project with SheNomads but I would need someone who's like at least a mid-level developer to come in and help out all of the juniors and the people that are trying to get started to learn how to code because my time is very thin these days and I'm trying to maintain some level of balance.
STEPHANIE: Right. And that’s a huge challenge too. So, lots of time management and just time is a resource itself.
BRANDON: There are a lot of mid-level developers out there that are looking for, "Hey, how can I contribute to open-source?" So, it sounds like you have a project that if people out there are looking for a way to contribute to something meaningful, then you have stuff that you could certainly use help on.
LATOYA: Absolutely. If you want to contribute, you can email me or tweet me, find me on Facebook, do whatever, and I will happily add you as a contributor to the project.
BRANDON: That actually is the last question I want to ask. How do people get a hold of you to volunteer for this or ask additional questions or find out more about the retreat?
LATOYA: The three best ways are number one, you can go to SheNomads.com and if you wanted to find out about the retreat or the job board, there are contact forms there. Number two, I am always on Twitter. You can tweet me at either accounts. My personal account is @HashtagLaToya and then I have a SheNomads account, so it's @SheNomads for that. And then the third way is email. My email is LaToya@SheNomads.com and I always am up for answering any questions you may have.
BRANDON: Awesome. LaToya, thank you so much for coming. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with us and you’ve certainly learned some unique things. I think your take on self-care actually is really sharp and something that people don’t think were talked about enough. And it probably [inaudible] as a developer in lot of ways and I think people can learn a lot from that.
I wanted to thank everybody else that’s listening to this. I'm Brandon Hays. I'm on Twitter also @tehviking. We are @thefrontside on Twitter. And Stephanie, you are also on Twitter, is that right?
STEPHANIE: Of course. I'm Stephanie Riera and I'm @stefriera. And thank you so much, LaToya. It was a pleasure talking to you.
BRANDON: Absolutely. Thanks everybody and thank you, LaToya. We will see you all next time.