Today we will be talking with a woman I admire. Monica is a superb blogger, speaker, and product developer!
She has been around in tech for a long time and will answer some questions for us!
You can also find Monica on her website, twitter, or her amazing newsletter for bloggers!
Could you tell us about your background?
I'm a primarily self-taught developer. The earliest evidence of my code dates back to 1998, so it's been over 20 years now (So please don't calculate how old I am! 😂). I basically started coding so young because of my dad. He's an engineer, so we always had computers and technical books in the house.
I really never planned to become a developer. I graduated from the university with a degree in Latin and Ancient Greek. At that point, I also didn't have a plan for what I wanted to do. I was tired of going to school, so grad school was out of the question. I decided to keep my student developer job and went from there.
I eventually transitioned out of this to work for a fintech startup in Berlin. It's called SumUp, which is similar to Square. Basically, it’s a payment processing company. When I started, they had two front-end developers, when I left about 15, and now it's even close to 40. The company grew a lot during the five years I worked there.
I started as a front-end developer and later became the Technical Lead/Manager.
Seeing you are now in Berlin, where did you grow up?
Well, considering my accent after 7 years in Germany, some may think I'm German. But I'm from the USA originally. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona. That's where I went to middle-school and university.
After my first tech job, I got an out of the blue offer to go work for a project in Leipzig that was doing Ancient Greek and NLP. You can imagine how hard it is to find someone in tech that also knows a lot about ancient languages. So you could say I was one of the few people in the world who was a perfect fit for the role.
So will you stay in Berlin?
I'm not interested in moving back to the USA from a living perspective. But I'm definitely looking at moving around a bit. I have to say, my plans became a bit complicated due to the pandemic...
If that didn't happen, I would be traveling at the moment. But the good part is I get to focus on my projects without distractions.
How is it like being a woman in tech?
I have been in tech for so long; I got my first job at 19. I'm used to being "the only one". To be honest, I’m a bit desensitized to it.
Not saying it's a good thing, but you get used to it. I was not only a woman but also usually the youngest person in the room. It was really hard to tell if they didn't take me seriously because of my gender or my age.
In some situations, my boss would need to iterate everything I said, just to make it count.
I consider myself lucky. All my bosses have been very supportive of me throughout my career.
My number 1 piece of advice: Make sure your boss will be an advocate for you!
It gets more challenging when you take on a more senior/leadership position. But again, I have been super lucky to have bosses that supported me.
There were definitely times that even I thought I they could’ve hired someone with more experience for the job I was learning to do But they let me grow into the role, which gave me the experiences I have today. So I'm super grateful for that!
That’s a big part of the reason I spent 5 years at my last job, longer than most tech people these days.
Why did you decide to go to work for yourself?
I set this goal for myself:
By the time I turn 30 I don't want to have a boss anymore
It was nothing personal, but I never liked the idea of working so hard to make someone else rich. I struggle to shut-off work, and if I'm going to be all in, I’d rather have it be my own thing.
Fun fact: I was actually on safari in South Africa when I decided, this is going to be the year that I do it. So after I got back, I started the visa process and that was that.
In your business, How do you motivate yourself to do the tedious tasks that none of us enjoy?
When you’re running a business, there are infinite ways to spend your time. You can improve the product, work on marketing, content, and a million other things. What’s important to realize is that if you don’t do it, no one else is going to do it. So you might as well do it now!
When it comes to deciding what to work on, I try to work on elements that will benefit the business the most. Sometimes it’s just hard to figure out exactly what’s going to move the needle.
Developers often get absorbed in adding features, but without clients, it's useless.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Who knows! I have a couple of projects right now. The main one is a SAAS analytics tool called Affilimate. So I really want to grow this and ultimately sell it. And I would like to be able to try a lot of things. I don't have a grand vision. I am just trying a lot of things and see what sticks.
When I need to renew my visa in 4 years, I want my business to be legit so they let me stay in the country!
What's the key to building a thriving community?
I feel like a super beginner when it comes to communities. I have used my experience as a team lead to build my community. Here are some take-aways.
Right now, the community isn’t just open to anyone. You have to apply to join. If you think about it, it’s not so different from building a company or a team: you don’t just hire anyone who applies. You want to find the right balance of people who can support and complement each other. For now, this is the approach I’m taking when it comes to crafting the kind of community I’d want to be a part of.
It’s also about creating the right type of environment. People are looking for specific information, and you must be sure that's what you provide.
Next up: Quickfire round!
Do you have any pets?
No pets, but I love animals and grew up with dogs and a cat.
Coffee or Tea?
Introvert or Extravert?
Not sure to be honest, depends on the situation.
What's your favourite food?
Maybe coffee? Not sure if I have an actual favourite food. I love food in general, all of it. The food I miss the most in Berlin is authentic Mexican food.
What's your #1 hobby
Photography, if it's not writing, blogging, coding.
What's your favourite country to visit?
Japan, I absolutely loved it there.
Thank you, Monica, for taking the time to do this interview with me and being an awesome person! 🤟
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