“Through my research and performance of live coding I hope to initiate conversation about developer transparency. Its important to advocate for developer transparency because right now technologists make decisions about our lives completely unnoticed, and if its only cis hetero white men making these decisions then that system implicitly benefits the person who made it, whether intentional or not.”
Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you.
I haven’t had much rhythm lately because I just finished a project-based internship and I’m trying the freelance thing! So these recent days I’ve been waking up around 8 and then, after making coffee & breakfast, going to work at the library or cafes or various places that have WiFi and I don’t feel weird by myself on a laptop. When I’m not working I go to friends shows and openings, as well as participate in local activism like protests and fundraisers.
How do you stay passionate in your career?
I take the time to identify my role models. To not get discouraged I try to set myself up for success by setting realistic goals. I consume art.
Did you have a traditional path into tech (i.e.: CS/IT degree transitioned into tech job)?
I think that my path is typically atypical. I got into Carnegie Mellon’s fine art school with a painting & drawing portfolio. I took a creative coding class and I fell in love! I transferred to the intercollege program and tacked on “and Computer Science” to my degree title. While I was in school I had a piece in a VR exhibition where I met another VR artist Omer Shaperia & we followed each other on twitter. He works for Nvidia and was looking for someone to hire to work on a VR project, and I was recommended for the job though a tweet, and he reached out to me! Though it is atypical how I was offered my tech internship at Nvidia, I still had to pass technical interviews and such.
Are there any apps, software, or tools you cannot live without?
It’s common knowledge that women often face obstacles in the tech industry based on their gender. Have you ever had to deal with this type of experience and if so how did you handle it?
I had a boss last summer, lets call him Rick, who had thought that the google memo guy “had a good point”. Rick crossed lots of boundaries: unfair punishment, inappropriate comments, inappropriate touches, etc.. I was working a startup with two junior devs: me and a male peer in the same program & year as me, so the juxtaposition was nauseating. I dealt with it by continually performing the balancing act of pointing it out in a light-hearted way and engaging in constructive communication, and leaving the room when things got too much to handle. I was very fit that summer from all the rage-induced working out. Rick has apologized to me after that summer and I assume that he is working on himself (assuming because I don’t keep in contact with him).
What’s your favorite thing about being a woman in tech?
The community! I am inspired by so many women around me. When I work with other women and femme people, I feel like we are participating in an communal movement, in something bigger than us. My experience as a woman in technology inspires my work, which centers around embracing femininity and otherwise marginalized perspectives with emerging technologies. Empowering human agency over technological determinism opens up an alternative reality where everyone can create their own lives and invent their own worlds.
If applicable, how have you given back to the WIT community?
While I was in school, there was a gradual transition from mentee to mentor, I started to notice that some girls in the year below me would ask to talk about what I do and how they can get started, the more I realized what was happening the more I made a point to give them my best self and to check-in after the one-on-one. I also started reaching out to other women starting out digital artists and provide them with resources as much as I could manage. Now that I am out of school I have volunteered to tutor math at Girls Hope. Im still in the process of getting background checked!
Zooming out, through my research and performance of live coding I hope to initiate conversation about developer transparency. Its important to advocate for developer transparency because right now technologists make decisions about our lives completely unnoticed, and if its only cis hetero white men making these decisions then that system implicitly benefits the person who made it, whether intentional or not. Through live coding I hope to be seen and inspire others to be seen.
What is a piece of advice you would give to others wanting to or currently pursuing a career in tech?
Always be critical in your practice, research what system you are working for and enabling. Educate yourself! Find out who is benefiting by the work that you do. Never compromise your morals, if something seems wrong trust your gut.
The truth is that you probably are more valuable and skilled than you think, you can afford to choose what system you uphold. Another piece of advise that I think goes in hand with finding your true path: Reach out to your inspirations! They are people too, (people who probably have twitter).
Tell us about a time you felt extremely accomplished in the past year.
This past year I graduated from CMU with a degree in fine art and computer science, and got an internship at Nvidia while I was still in school. These things happened to me but its always the one-on-one interactions that stay with me and make me feel the most proud. One instance is when I recently live coded visuals at the Mattress Factory and an inspiration of mine came up to me and said “I have no idea how that was made, and it was awesome”. That pretty much made me feel high.
“I think it’s really important to find power in our differences and in our ability to be allies for one another in different ways.”
-Sharmi Basu in her thesis “Decolonizing Sound”