Women in tech may not be a completely new topic of conversation in 2021, but that doesn’t mean that much progress is still to be made. When we at Hyper Island reconnected with our alumnus, Valerie Fuchs, a full-stack developer and founder of the platform, Female Freelance Developers, we got pretty excited to hear her story. In this blog, you’ll find out what a typical day looks like for a full stack developer and insights into diversity in the tech industry. Read on!

Hey Valerie! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role in the world of work.

Originally from Germany, I live in Amsterdam and work as Full-Stack Developer for WeTransfer. I am also running Cafe Robot, the first non-awkward computer club, where I introduce code newbies to the world of web development in a fun and food-related way. I call it “snacksplaining” and probably have as much fun if not more than any of my students.

As a Hyper Island alumni, I found my way back to the Island as a mentor and Industry Leader for the Frontend Developer program. Alongside this I’m also a part of the Front-End Developer Steering Committee, which is a group of professionals and students who together make sure that the course content stays relevant to the demands of the industry.

What does a typical day/week look like as a Full-Stack Developer?

I recently joined a team of engineers who work on a digital product called “Paste”. Many people associate WeTransfer with a file sharing service, but we also run a suite of creative tools. “Paste” supports creatives with sharing their ideas and is essentially a presentation tool.

We work feature-based and each person is implementing new functionalities across the entire codebase (front end and back end).

“Once a feature is explained and briefed to me, I work on its implementation while getting feedback from the Product Design team.”

At the moment I am, for example, building a new functionality around slide comments.

Each day starts with me posting a small update on my progress in our Slack channel. As our team is entirely remote across different time-zones, we have virtual stand-ups. After this, I get started with coding. First, I make sure that my codebase is up to date with my co-worker’s contributions from the day before, then I pick up from where I left off earlier.

If I wrapped up a feature, I submit it for review to my co-workers and the Quality and Assurance (QA) team. It is then my task to walk through their comments and fix them. After that, we’re ready to ship the new feature—and you can see it live when making cool slides!

How did your Hyper Island story begin?

My Hyper Island adventure began in 2014 when I moved to Manchester to join the Digital Management Masters program. Back then, I worked as Digital Marketing Manager and craved a fresh boost of knowledge. Although it’s been said many times, it also applies to me:

“It was the best decision of my life.”

I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t met all the bright people I did, nor would I have learned about and embraced the Hyper Island way of thinking. I also wouldn’t have met my partner!

You’ve created the Female Freelance Developers. Where did the idea stem from, how’s it all going, and what do you hope to achieve?

“I frequently get asked to recommend Web Developers that are specifically female for freelance projects.”

For a long time, I couldn’t because I actually didn’t know of many. One day, I got another of these requests and realized it was time something needed to be done. So, I decided to create a platform to highlight and collect female-identifying developers and launched femalefreelancedevelopers.com, which took me two days to design and build. For my personal projects, I am trying to follow a “done is better than perfect” approach to mute my inner perfectionist and actually get projects out of the door.

“The Female Freelance Developers platform got great reactions and I am happy to host around 40 female freelancers who come from a range of different backgrounds and countries such as India, Canada, the US, and Europe.”

I hope it helps to shine a light on the great talent out there and provides a useful list for anyone searching. If you want to get on the list, you can submit your details on the site.

How is the developer industry progressing? Any interesting trends or challenges to overcome? What can you say about diversity in this area?

The tech industry is certainly a growing industry with many opportunities. One trend that I find very interesting is the boom of “EdTech” (Education Technology) and the rise of non-conventional learning platforms and tools. Not only can you see more industry leaders creating their own courses (e.g. Awwwards Academy), there is also a rise of education-focused platforms for teachers to shape the new area of remote learning.

In terms of diversity we obviously have a problem. I do however believe that this diversity problem goes beyond gender.

“Technology is everywhere, which in turn means that everyone needs to be represented in the industry that shapes it.”

When I first started off, many tech communities seemed to behave somewhat elitist and weren’t really open to beginners with a non-technical background. I try to create an opposing environment with my classes and everything I do with Cafe Robot, but there is still some way to go. The more welcoming we can be as an industry, the more diverse talent we can hopefully attract.

On a positive note regarding gender balance, I was very happy to see that the new Front End Developer Class (FED22) has an abundance of female students enrolled. So, there is some hope after all, but we need to continue pushing this topic.

Are you using any tools/learnings from your time at Hyper Island that you’ve taken with you into your professional working life?

“Assumptions are making an ass out of you and me”. When collaborating with co-workers and communicating with my manager, I try to make sure to fully understand the other person’s expectations.

“Simply having the awareness that there could be a mismatch with what is in your head to somebody else’s is such an important tool to have in your pocket.”

I am also a firm believer in the idea of “lifelong learning”. Shifting my professional path in my thirties to becoming an intern again was a humbling and crazy experience. It strengthened my conviction that most skills in life can be learned, and for only a small amount of them, you need exceptional talent.

Any advice/top tips for Hyper Island students wanting to become a developer?

First off: Good on you! Here are my top three tips:

Create visibility for yourself, early.
Don’t wait for your internship to think about how you present yourself professionally. Use the time with all your Industry Leaders and people you meet through class to shape your profile.

Create work you want to do in the future.
I don’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy playing around and exploring during your studies, but it helps to have one or two cool and professional looking (!) projects in your pocket that you can use to apply for internships. If you get a client’s name on it, even better.

Be patient and kind to yourself.
Learning how to code is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. There will always be someone who “gets” things faster than you, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to teach that person something else. The job of a web developer is fundamentally about hitting your head against a wall until either your head or the wall gives up. And never feel ashamed of needing to google something because it’s a part of this profession to constantly keep learning.


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Article updated on: 11 March 2024