Spotlight on Women in Tech is a series of interviews of women rocking it in the tech industry. We will learn how they got their start, what motivates them and have them share their perspective about what it’s like working in the technology industry.
Meet Ashley Hebler. Ashley is a web developer for Fans 1st Media, a sub-group of Cox Media Group here in Austin, Texas. Her primary responsibility is on the WordPress platform, building features for different Fans 1st properties both for the public facing portion of the site and the admin. She is also an adjunct lecturer at Texas State, teaching web design and publishing to students. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University and a Master’s in Mass Communication with an emphasis in New Media from Texas State. You can find her on Twitter at @ashleyhebler.
How did you get started in your field?
So that’s where I got my start. Then I went on to take a couple of basic web design classes which were just meant to expose you to code. It wasn’t intended to launch your career. So I had to do some side work. I got a job working for an insurance company making a website for senior healthcare plans. I knew nothing about the subject matter, but I found that I loved the work because it had a steady mix of code and design. That is when I fell in love with coding.
What interested you most about this career path?
I think the biggest draw for me is the fact that I get to make something every day. I think with other jobs, your final product isn’t as tangible. But with web design and web development, your work is just there, and you can see how well you improve with every site. I just really like that rewarding aspect of it.
What helped you grow in your career?
I think being at Volusion was just the best job I could’ve gotten to help me build my career. My coworkers were my biggest learning tool. I think applying their process to mine made me grow so quickly.
What were your personal struggles throughout your career?
The diversity aspect aside, I think it’s a fast moving field, and it can be hard to keep up with the pace. I could learn something one day and find out that I’m doing it wrong the next day, and that’s a struggle.
It is a little bit hard working in a field where you don’t see people like you as often. But what I like about that is when you do meet great women in the industry, there’s almost like an understood camaraderie. I don’t have a fear of asking them questions. I feel less judged by them because I know they’re in the same boat as me.
What do you like most/least about working in the Tech industry?
For the most part, I like the fact that it’s pretty easy to work remotely. It fits into your lifestyle well, but that also means it can follow you around because it is online and it never goes away. But we use things like Slack and other tools that help us stay engaged in our work, even when we go run errands.
The least thing, again, is how fast paced the industry is and how easy it is to fall behind. But the good thing about that is there’s always something new to learn.
How do you balance work and life?
Well, sometimes it’s hard. We are somewhat flexible. Because I have tools like Slack that help me say, “Okay I’m a going to work out in the middle of the day. I am available if the site breaks, just let me know, and I’ll come back.” The flexibility of the remote working lifestyle is great, but it could always be better.
Do you find it’s tough to stand up for your work/life balance?
I think it’s kind of based on projects. I’ll have a big project that’s due, and I’ll do it, and I’ll get a little bit of a break in between to relax. It all depends on the timing.
Talk about how your partner has supported you.
So my partner works in a school. For her, it is pretty much just going to school, doing her job and coming home. Her work doesn’t come home with her as much as my job comes home with me. So she’s learned that maybe if we watch a movie together, I’m probably going to have my computer open and I might be half watching. She’s a very understanding person.
Does she ever call you out on when you might be working too much?
Yeah, she’s excellent at helping me keep myself in check, so I don’t burn out. But she learned everything she needed to do her job well, and she understands that I always have to keep learning to keep up with my job.
How have you grown? In what ways has this industry changed you?
I have more confidence than I did in the past. It’s like I know a secret language that other people don’t know and that’s is a cool feeling. I’ve also learned that because coding is kind of a thing that no one thinks about or even cares about sometimes that I can’t talk about it too much. I have to keep it very basic. Otherwise, it comes off as boring.
What helps you stay focused?
Well, I think attending conferences keeps me motivated; I’d like to attend more. Looking on CodePen also keeps me inspired. And I feel like the developer community on Twitter is solid. I like the Shop Talk Show podcast. I listen to that now and then. It’s very helpful.
What helps you go deep into your work?
There are times at work when I can just put headphones in and dive into my code. I like to listen to music without words. Anything electronic or low-fi. I also listen to classical music whenever I have a deadline because it tends to calm me down. Things like Mozart and Bach are always good. This is probably one big thing I really like about the job. I would say it’s a balance of blocking out time for meetings and working with people and then saving some time to just focus and hone in on my projects.
What are you reading these days?
I don’t read a lot of books because when you work at a computer all day, you are used to something interacting back with you. When I read, I just have to take it in, and my brain won’t do that as well as it used to. I’ll read articles, and I’m on Twitter a lot to look at other developer’s blog posts.
What are your favorite blog posts?
Anything Chris Coyier writes is always good. David Walsh is also excellent. I also like articles on Medium, because I love their editorial design. It’s very clean and distraction-free so it’s easy to pick up on information quickly.
What is something that you love that you always tell people about?
I’m obsessed with rivers and kayaking. I think it’s a good way to keep that work/life balance. When I’m kayaking or when I’m on the river, it’s like the one time I don’t have my computer. I don’t have to worry about if a website is breaking. I just don’t think of it when I’m out there. The lovely thing about Texas is you do have nice days in the winter. It’s January, and I think a few weeks ago it was in the 80s. I had a friend coming to town, so we went out on the Colorado River.
What advice would you give to someone starting out learning to code?
My advice would be to be patient and to not expect to build a masterpiece on the first try. Pace yourself and don’t let other people way ahead of you in skill level make you feel like you aren’t making progress.
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