How’s it going? Thanks for agreeing to talk to me. I was thinking we should start with a little bit about what you do?
I work for The Filter as a software developer. The Filter is a company that provides personalisation and recommendation solutions to retail and media customers. These are things like populating most popular panels, similar items lists or recommended for you suggestions. As a software developer here I get involved in the full development life cycle from analysing new features, designing components with the team, developing and testing these and finally working with the operations team to deliver these to the customers.
Have you always wanted to be a developer?
No, my favorite subject at school was math and initially I wanted to do accounting or economics but I did a class in programming in year 10 and was quite impressed with the applications that we could create to automate tedious tasks, to organise data efficiently and reliably and to share information. I did 3 years of programming classes in school where we did various topics like animations, website design and implementation, resource management systems etc. It was quite interesting to be exposed to all these kinds of applications so I decided to do it at University level.
I think creating fun and useful applications in classes in school and university made me want to be a developer so that I can help people solve problems faster. The amazing thing about being a developer I think is that with one program, you can reach millions of people and make a difference to their day.
That’s beautiful. Is that what you love most about being a developer? Being able to make a difference to people’s lives?
Yes definitely. In my current job, we provide personalisation to the end users. The Internet is a huge place and nowadays we are bombarded with all sorts of information all the time. I think that personalising an end user’s experience makes a huge difference to them because they immediately see the relevant content to them instead of having to search for it which would take from their valuable time. So even though they might not realise it, they are being saved lots of irrelevant content and unnecessary scrolling and search.
Similarly in my previous job, I worked for an investment bank on the emerging markets risk management platform . Whereas not that many people used the applications I created, I know that they had a world wide impact on the economy because risk management is of huge importance as we have seen in 2008 and keeping track of it correctly is of vital importance for the market.
Do you think that is the future of tech? A completely personalised experience?
In my opinion, yes. 20 years ago when there was only say 2 TV channels and you could only watch what was being broadcast right now there was no need. But today you can watch so much more – content from anywhere in the world(almost) which you can watch on demand, anywhere you are. I think it’s a bit too much information for anyone to sift through. That’s where technology would come in- try to highlight the content that would be of most interest to us.
Wouldn’t that put us in danger of not discovering as many new and interesting things? We would no longer be able to stumble across them? Or should that not be a concern?
The material would always be there. If you don’t like what is recommended you would definitely keep looking until you do. I think an okay analogy is that with a big physical library. You wouldn’t have absolutely every book on the say Modern History Isle. You have just the most frequently required ones or the most popular. But books that are accessed only once every few years would probably be stored in the archive room. There to find for anybody who is looking. But the Isle with most popular books on the topic is probably sufficient for 99.999999% of the users. So I think it’s okay. It’s not an exact science but I think personalisation can have a massive benefit for the people who will use it and it is to no detriment to those who won’t.
Good analogy. 🙂
Do you think that as a developer you or your work have been treated differently because you are a woman?
No I really don’t think so. However I have been invited to quite a few women in technology networking events which I wouldn’t have been invited to if I wasn’t a woman.
So would you go so far as to say that it’s a good time to be a woman in tech because of the opportunities available?
Indeed. It seems to be a popular topic in the industry and there are more opportunities because of it.
So, finally, do you have any advice for women working in tech?
Don’t feel uncomfortable that there isn’t a 50:50 split between men and women in technology. This is true in plenty of other professions. it is true that it would add to diversity in the work place but people are different in so many different ways than gender that I don’t think that the gender gap matters one bit . Just enjoy what you do every day! And spread the word about our profession to the younger generations. It is a quite new profession that many won’t know much about. This will help get more both men and women into the industry.