It’s time for Spotlight 75! Number 100, here we come :-) This week I’m introducing you to Laura Sanders, and she is SUPER awesome. Laura runs two different companies together with her business partner. She co-organizes HybridConf, a wonderful conference that took place in Berlin last August (I should go next time!) and she’s working on design and web development at Superhero Studios. I’m really happy to share her story this week! Enjoy reading :-)
Name: Laura Sanders
Job: One-half of Superhero Studios & Co-Organiser of HybridConf
Favorite website, app or gadget: Instagram – it’s consistently positive, and I love seeing my friends sharing the fun and joyful parts of their day
I don’t have a single favourite, but my favourite author is Jeffrey Eugenides
Site: I don’t have one right now, I am working on it!
What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
Honestly, I hadn’t even really considered it until I was looking for something new and a couple of friends pointed out that I had some skills and qualities that would make me a good fit for UX. I started studying core UX principles and some basic front-end development in preparation for getting my first role and realised I really enjoyed the problem solving. I’ve always liked things that combine both creativity and logic, so as soon as I started it was a natural fit and I couldn’t wait to learn more.
What does your working day look like?
I run two different companies with my business partner and we’re the only employees, so the range of tasks I have to do is super broad and I really don’t have any typical day in terms of the work that I do. One day I might be sketching logo concepts or working on CSS animations, and the next I’m sorting out foreign VAT returns.
I’m fortunate to work from home, so I have a lot of flexibility with when and how I work. I’ve been trying out a few new things lately which have been great for my work day. I’ve just started keeping a bullet journal and I’m already obsessed with it, and I’ve started taking walks late morning or early afternoon to take a break and reset before diving into the next task.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My favourite recent project was working with an accelerator program with BMW MINI as a design mentor. We got to work closely with nine different early stage companies helping them with all kinds of things from branding to wireframes to front-end to infographics over a couple of months. Having so many mini projects with so much variety was really motivating, and it was awesome to help passionate companies that are just starting out but will hopefully go on to do really well.
Do you have a hero or someone who inspires you?
Oh gosh, this question is the hardest because there are so many people who inspire me and I know I’ll be mad if I miss someone important out. But to mention just a few: The ladies at Ghostly Ferns
for always creating work that is so joyous and positive; our HybridConf MC and ambassador Carl Smith for inspiring me to be kind, generous, and open-minded; Heather Rooney who has just the most incredible talent for drawing; Brit Morin for creating an amazing, successful business for women.
Why do you love working in IT/Tech?
I have two main reasons. Firstly, I love the creation process. By myself I can come up with the initial idea and take it all the way to a finished product. Gradually seeing it come together as I build it is really exciting and it’s so great to see your progress from one project to the next and to have this physical evidence of your growth that you can be proud of.
Secondly, the community. I have met so many fantastic people through this industry (especially through running HybridConf), some of whom are now really close friends, and it’s really inspiring to be part of this group of wonderful, talented individuals.
Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
No, not at all, my degree is in media and journalism. There are definitely skills I learned and honed in my degree that are still useful for my job though, like writing, and deconstructing things to analyse why something has been done that way and whether it actually works for the purpose. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out by not having any technical qualifications as there are so many other great ways to learn new skills in this industry.
What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code ?)
Get involved in the community even if you don’t feel like you ‘belong’ there yet – follow some people on Twitter, go to a local meetup or even a conference (there are plenty that are beginner-friendly). If you have a friend who is already in the tech industry, ask if you can take them out for a coffee/beer and grill them about all the things you want to know, or ask for recommendations of those people to follow on Twitter. If you want to learn to code, I always recommend Codecademy because it’s free and the courses are short and well-written and it’s a great introduction to see if you get on with it.
Could you tell us a bit more about HybridConf and your experience with organizing this conference?
:) Gladly! HybridConf
is a two-day conference that we’ve been running for four years now, and which moves location every year. This year’s event was last month in Berlin, which was an awesome city.
It started out as a conference for designers and developers to come together and learn about how to better work together, but it has shifted over the years to be an event where anyone from the tech or creative industries can come along to hear stories from a really wide range of people, some of whom aren’t in the tech industry at all, and be inspired. Our aim is really for everyone to leave feeling positive and excited about their work and motivated to create things.
We’re taking a break next year because running a conference is HARD and we need to regroup. There is so much to do and so many things that can and do go wrong, and it’s not at all easy to make any money. However the feeling you get from seeing everyone’s reactions to the conference makes it so worthwhile, and having created this event and community with zero previous experience, it’s easily my proudest achievement.
Extra question from Laurence: Any tips on how to ace a technical interview—like the one you went through to get the position you have now?
Sorry Laurence, but I’ve never had a technical interview, I would probably suck at it. For my current position, I didn’t have any interview, just a brief discussion with my business partner.