In August, I started a new journey with Adobe as a Sr. Web Components Developer working with Spectrum to help create unifying patterns. I am thrilled and honored to have this opportunity to work with some incredible humans and leaders in the web components space.
Leaving Red Hat felt like an impossible decision. The team I work with there are sharp, dedicated, hilarious, and wonderful. They get my humor and they appreciate my process. They share a deep commitment to open source.
How do you make the choice to leave a good situation?
“You can’t get to the end until you’ve been changed by the journey.” — He Who Remains, Loki
You know I had to work in a Loki quote…
My journey started around age 3, when my dad brought home our first PC. Some parents might have been protective and precious with this new technology but not mine. To this day, I remember opening up DOS and typing in the command to play my favorite games.
When we started talking about careers and what to study, I turned away from programming. I’m not a fighter. I didn’t want to struggle in my career just to exist. I didn’t want a life working at a cubicle or in the dark (the only portrayals I’d ever seen of “hackers”). I opted instead for my second love: language.
I studied English in college and found my way into an internship at Oxford Press as a Production Editor. At the end of the summer the team asked if I’d stay on full-time so I took a break from school and started a career, a life.
Publishing wasn’t at all what I’d expected though. It felt closer to project management as I worked with typesetting vendors and printers on quality control, deadlines, and cost. I built relationships with editors and tracked progress in spreadsheets but rarely did I get to pick up that coveted red pen and make use of my language skills.
A few years in, a new software was rolled out at work and they asked for volunteers to test and report back on how it worked. I threw myself into that task completely, writing out detailed test cases and documentation. I got more joy from that facet of my work, making it hard to deny that this was my future. Before I knew it, I was back in school studying Computer Science full-time.
Having access to a great program at a well-respected women’s college (Meredith College) made a huge difference in my education. I felt safe to ask questions and engage deeply in my courses, really owning my education for the first time in my life. Through a partnership with SAS, I started my career in tech as an intern, writing scripts to test software that runs complex calculations inside the database. With access to great mentors, I began deep learning about databases: Oracle, Hadoop, Teradata, Greenplum; simultaneously continuing to pursue a love of web by building php-based reporting pages to present results.
After graduating, I spent about a year at SAS before taking a leap on a start-up in Boston, FlipKey, diving deep into PHP and coding for the web professionally for the first time in my life. It was exciting and I learned a lot, very quickly; in the end though, the culture was not a good fit for me.
Six months later, I found my way back to SAS through some close friendships and connections I’d made there. This time, I was a database consultant, helping companies to set up their architecture and integrating it with SAS’ software. Though it was a great team and a great company, the role just wasn’t what I had expected.
When I heard about an opening at Red Hat in the front-end web development team, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. It came down to me and another candidate fresh out of college and I got the role by a hair because of my prior experience. What a great move that turned out to be. The team there were open and welcoming and generally amazing humans.
I worked with other web developers, designers, and UX professionals with a wealth of knowledge they were more than happy to share. One colleague especially would answer all my questions about how he knew what design adjustments to make to improve the result of a page — tweaking padding here and there or bumping up the font. He would describe to me in enormous detail his thought processes which was an invaluable gift to an engineering-focused mind like mine. I didn’t have the design instincts he did but by listening, learning, and practicing, I found I improved rapidly and started building my own pages, taking on the Training team as stakeholders.
Then I met patterns.
The team had enlisted the incomparable Micah Godbolt to build a pattern system for the redhat.com Drupal CMS. From this work came a project that lasted my entire 7 years at Red Hat and beyond. It was a twig-based templating library using schemas to define the CMS user interface. I was in love with the code and this idea that we could build something flexible and reusable that would empower content writers to feel ownership of their pages without compromising design vision and evolution.
After working on that pattern library for about 5 years, I started to hear about this project building patterns using web components. “Components”, I thought. “Yes, I like those.” As I learned more about the specs involved in bringing web components to life, I found myself engaging more with the people writing those specs. I joined the CSS Working Group and the Web Components Community Group and found a world of details to dive into. More importantly, I found a community; one that was kind, supportive, extremely passionate and a lot of fun.
From this project, PatternFly Elements was born and I had the amazing opportunity and honor to take on a leading role in maintaining the repository and helping to set up infrastructure and best practices. I learned so much from Kyle Buchanan about web components and class-based programming.
It’s exciting working on a modern technology because so much of the best practices and implementations are unexplored. There’s space to learn and try new things and share that with other people and in turn, learn from the amazing experiments other people are doing too. A positive, healthy community around a technology is so critical to creating a diverse and open culture; leaders like Justin Fagnani and westbrook set a really positive example for the community by being super smart and infinitely kind.
When the opportunity to work with Westbrook at Adobe opened up, it was too good to miss. I had really hoped to hit my tenure at Red Hat but change is a blessing and this move has been positive all around. I’m three weeks in now and absolutely love the culture here and the work that I’m doing. The team is so smart and I have a ton to learn from them (which is super exciting). I also feel really valued and am already bringing some of that token castastrophe energy to the role.
Thank you for sticking with me as I described this journey. I hope it can provide some inspiration, insight, or some hidden advice that makes a difference to you.