women.code(be) Member Spotlight #1
Freelance Web Developer
Specialised in WordPress & Front-end Development
Meet our very first spotlight member, Veerle! Veerle works as freelance web developer for Con Impeto, doing mostly custom WordPress and front-end development. She is also one of the co-organisers of WordPress Meetup Antwerp and WordCamp Antwerp.
You can find Veerle on Twitter as @veerleverbert
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your job?
I once gave a talk about my learning journey, luckily not many people attended; the story was way too long. 😉
So long story short: I started working at the Open Universiteit (at the University of Antwerp) as soon as I graduated from college (“communication/journalism” degree) where I was the one ‘who knew about websites’. My working days were spent guiding students through their study, tinkering on the site and playing the helpdesk.
Eventually I’ve worked there for 11 years, but midway I started learning again: the browser wars were fought, the web was ready to grow up and I returned to my old hobby and dug into the web again, wanted to go deeper than what I needed for my job.
I found it to be a hard quest on my own: there were so many articles and tutorials, but I couldn’t find the right ones (I had no interest in the frontpage-only web, there should have been more, I just couldn’t see where). There were no official ‘web studies’ early 2000’s, but I found a course at Syntra with a great teacher who brought a pile of great books each week. I ordered a bag of books at amazon and got really started. 😉
What or who got you initially interested in coding and/or pursuing a career in tech?
The myriad of possibilities when witnessing the early glimpses of the open web in the late 90’s. It was just magic, being able to actually find and access so much information, tear down walls and provide possibilities. I wanted to be a part of that world, it empowered me and I wanted to empower others by making that world more available to them.
Maybe that’s why I stayed so loyal to WordPress for so long already: openness, empowerment to all, to all kinds of creators and users. And why I dove into community things, to pay forward.
Stay true to your beliefs
If you look back on when you first started out. What advice would you give yourself?
Stay true to your beliefs, even if everyone says a different thing: you really don’t have to go along with every new trend and get down each rabbit hole.
Just be sure to follow the headlines as you go along, and dive in whenever you feel the urge. And if it’s a question of money: try to be as self-sustainable as early as possible, or maybe even have an exit plan, to keep the power to say no.
Time and energy are too valuable working in tech, it just goes too fast to waste them on poor projects or trend-demands that won’t last.
Are there any particular women in tech who have inspired you?
Jenny Wong (PHP/WP), for all her energy and persistence in getting out there & her community effort to help others get out and broaden their contexts. And for her character: bluntly honest, I like it.
Both Juliette Reinders Folmer and Rian Rietveld for both being that good in what they do, the perseverance they have and for always being themselves.
And lots of others: researchers, tinkerers, blogpost writers, conference speakers & tech girls/ladies I’ve met. But that list is quite long. 😉
Do you have any favourite resources or projects you like to follow?
Too many, so my reading lists keep growing..
For WordPress the news sources are different people on twitter, our Belgian WP slack team & of course the WP Tavern (http://wptavern.com/). I once tried to list all resources in a blog post, got some help from our meetup group; so nearly all resources on https://wpbelgium.be/general/learning-resources-for-the-web-and-wordpress/.
Non-WP: Subscribed to Mozilla, Smashing Magazine, fronteers news (like their advent calendar recently) and a couple of newsletters from agencies like Clearleft. Honestly, there’s way too much, so I mostly try to keep my eyes & ears open whenever something interesting passes by or when conferences share their talks on video. Some non-WP podcasts in my queue: Syntax.fm, Nerdland & Tech45.
How could the tech industry be more inclusive for women and minorities?
Make being kind and being honest a standard to strive for. For some reason it seems lots of women don’t thrive very well in competitive environments. Maybe we’re just too honest about our skills, what we know and what we know we don’t know. It can be a handicap, but should be a competitive advantage.
It would benefit all of us. It’s corny, I know. But hey, after +15y in web I finally get a nose for pretenders, no way so many people are such experts in a field so wide and ever changing. It’s OK not to know it all, it’s understandable, but it’s not OK to pretend otherwise and co-create a fake and territorial landscape. The web thrives on openness and sharing.