#10 – Amy Yang, Software Developer at TES Global

Amy Yang

Amy Yang shifted from a career as an architect to a career in software development at TES Global after attending Makers Academy in London.

Selected topics: The connection between architecture and software development, the satisfaction of front end development, transitioning from a non-tech career into a tech role, and why women need their own communities in tech.

About Amy: As a former architect turned software developer, Amy is currently focused on making lives easier for teachers around the world in the digital education space. When she is not busy making & breaking web apps or learning react-redux-saga or plotting to dominate the world, Amy loves visiting art galleries and markets in London on her bike and eating street foods.

Books & Podcasts amy Recommends

Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Note to Self (podcast)

Amy’s Favorite Things To Do in London

  • Walk along Regents Canal from Angel East to Dalston / London Fields / Broadway market (stop at Towpath Cafe on the canal)
  • Regents Park rose garden, then walk up to Primrose Hill, then check out the madness in Camden
  • Catch a gig at Jazz Cafe in Camden
  • Kings Cross Granary Square also on the canal; play some ping-pong in the courtyard of new warehouse-converted Central St. Martins of Arts
  • Barbican Center — Brutalist architecture / art center / residential redevelopment in the ’70s; chill at the massive fountain out back after a wander through the Curve Gallery
  • People-watch in Soho / Old Compton Street; hanging out at Foyles Bookstore, beloved by Londoners, then wander into Chinatown to grab a bite to eat


Note: The text below reflects constructive editing of the published audio for clarity and flow. Time stamps indicate a change of topic.

Erin Allard: Welcome to another episode of the WITtalks podcast. I’m Erin Allard, your co-producer and co-host.

Tammy Sanders: And I’m Tammy Sanders, your co-producer and co-host.

Erin: We’re here today with Amy Yang, who works at a company called TES Global. Hello, Amy!

Amy Yang: Hello, Erin and Tammy!

[00:27] Tammy: We’re at TES, which is located near Holborn Station in London, and we’re here to talk to Amy about her work as a developer for an EdTech company. Are you still feeling a little nervous?

Amy: A little bit, but I’m sure we’ll become best friends for life after an hour in this very small room. [Laughter]

Tammy: I hope so! One of the ways we like to get started, one question I’m curious about, is what made you say “yes” to being on the WITtalks podcast? You don’t know us, we reached out to you and said, “Hey, we’re going to be in London”, you were probably like, “Who are these people?”

Amy: That was the same question that I had in my mind and I thought, “Maybe the best way to find out is to just say yes.”

Erin: I like it! The best way to find out is to just say yes.

Tammy: I like it.

[2:00] Amy: It’s my turn for questions! Why did you reach out to me, out of all the marvelous and amazing women in tech out here in London?

Tammy: One of the reasons I reached out to you was that you seem to be new. You seem to have made a pretty major shift and that’s something we’ll definitely talk about. I found it compelling that you work for an EdTech company. We’re hoping to talk about mission-driven EdTech companies a little bit, and also I wonder if you have experience, ideas, and thoughts about diversity in tech and women in tech here in London and what kind of opportunities and challenges there are? You seem to be active in the Women in Tech community.

Amy: Yeah, there’s lots to say. I will be very concise. [Laughter]

[2:36] Tammy: Okay good, we appreciate that. Let’s get started then! What are two or three major moments from any aspect of your life? From your childhood, education, family, young adulthood—what are two or three major moments that most contribute to where you are currently as a professional?

Amy: I grew up in Taiwan. My life has involved a lot traveling and a never ending search. I moved to Vancouver when I was ten. I had to adapt to a totally different environment and broaden my perspective. From then on, I think other major changes in my life have lead me to really enjoying building things; I love making things.

My first career was in architecture and I think eight years of architecture schooling really shapes you into thinking in a different way about space and people. Everything is interconnected, it’s beyond what we see, and that interest also lead to me volunteering in India where I worked with Shelter Associates. We worked with the slum communities to improve people’s lives on basic levels, but in a holistic and respectful way.

Working in India planted the seed for my interest in tech when I represented the NGO at a hackathon for the first time. It was the first time I was working with engineers to solve a particular problem, which was related to conducting surveys. While I was working with the engineers they created a whole new system. It involved using tablets that were directly connected to a beneficiary’s house in order to gather information and map existing infrastructure. That was an eye-opener for me. I was like, “What are you guys doing?!”

[4:38] Tammy: I have a couple of follow-up questions. This is really interesting.

Erin: So do I.

Tammy: Do you want to go first? You go first.

Erin: Sure. I really like what you said about how being an architect made you think about how people inhabit space and how they interact with each other, and that architecture is actually so much more than the physical building that you can see.

Amy: Absolutely.

Erin: For me, as a software engineer, there’s such a clear connection between architecture and software engineering when you describe it in that way. That both architecture and software engineering are about how people experience their world and that there’s also an unseen element to both.

Amy: Yes. I think that the intangible things are the most important and interesting things that shape and influence us. In building software, there are different models of how to build software. There’s the waterfall system, there’s all these processes that come in and out, but there’s always tension about wanting consistency and flexibility, which are constantly contradicting each other.

Erin: That’s just like cities are built, especially in a city as rich in history as London. You want the visual consistency of old buildings but you want the flexibility of being able to build for modern aesthetic sensibilities. The question then becomes, “How do you fit those together?”.

Amy: Yes.

Tammy: We started off with, and I want to summarize, the two or three major moments for you. It sounds like one was being a country transplant, moving from Taiwan—

Amy: To Canada. I also moved to Los Angeles for a short stint, then to Shanghai, and then to London.

Tammy: You were also in India for some time.

Amy: Yes, also being in India, and now back in London.

Tammy: That seems to be a major theme in your life, that theme of movement and motion and encountering different kinds of people.

Erin: And different environments.

[06:50] Tammy: And different environments, absolutely. Another major moment seems to be your study of architecture and the study between the informal and the formal, the consistent and the flexible. Is there anything else that you want to add to that? That is definitely going to set us on our way, but I want to make sure that we cover everything.

Amy: Oh yeah! Now I’m in tech, which is probably the scariest but also really exciting.

Tammy: I’m surprised to hear you say that, why would it be scary?

Amy: I’ve never been much of a planner, I’m kind of like, “Ugh, okay.”

Erin: That is really surprising because you were also an architect.

Tammy: Yeah, how did you manage to not be a planner as an architect?

Amy: We wear many very different hats. I can plan your life for you very well, but not for myself.

Tammy: Fair enough, fair enough.

Amy: I think I’m much more of a “let’s see how it goes” kind of person.

[07:45] Tammy: Talk about that, how did you make that shift from architecture to coding? We’ve already talked a little bit about some of the commonalities but how did you make that shift?

Amy: There were many different elements. One, when I first encountered tech, people were so passionate. People were willing to lose sleep and give up their weekend to go to a hackathon to find solutions to common problems that aren’t their own. When I was in architecture, it was very demanding and similar to tech. It’s a very male-dominated industry. I was often the only woman onsite at jobs. Aside from that, the work-life balance was one huge issue that is still going on. There are very long hours and lots of responsibilities.

I have so many aspirations. When I was in India I saw how there were so many problems to solve. I wanted to be as impactful as possible. I looked at my options and said, “OK, I can continue doing architecture and no one will take that away from me”. But when the idea of tech was planted I thought, “Let me explore that.” What would be a skill that would allow me to obtain more perspective? I love talking to different people with different perspectives. In architecture, things became very siloed and I find that stifling. Tech satiates my appetite to go and explore.

I think the first thing I encountered was an amazing community in tech. It’s crazy that people who go to hackathons are willing to volunteer their time outside of work to organize these events, further their learning, and interact with other people who want to learn. I have not seen that anywhere else.

Tammy: The constant appetite to learn, too.

Amy: Yes!

Tammy: I also think of the willingness to self-organize, so that everyone can be involved in learning. That is something I certainly see as well.

Amy: To me, that’s very invigorating. That energy of, “No one’s going to tell us what to do, but we’re going to do what we think is right.”

Tammy: Yeah, absolutely.

Amy: It’s more like, “We’ll do what we want to do.”

Tammy: And what we believe in.

Amy: And what we believe will benefit the community. I think that’s the way the world should work.

[10:28] Tammy: You sound like you come to tech with a lot of ideals and principles. One of the things we want to talk to you about is: what is TES, as an EdTech company? What do you do here? It seems like there’s a mission here, so how you feel about being a part of that mission? Let’s start off larger, though. What is TES? What do you do here as a developer?

Amy: TES is, to be concise, a place for educators. It’s a community where people come to connect and collaborate.

Tammy: So it’s an online platform.

Amy: Yes, it’s an online platform. We have been in the educational space for over 100 years. Its history dates back to the origin of The Times, here in England. It’s for educators and schools as well as for teachers. A lot of our core services are about helping schools find teachers, helping teachers be better teachers, and creating a community of teachers who rely on each other for support and new ideas.

[11:45] Tammy: So what do you do here as a developer?

Amy: Well, lots of different things, actually.

Tammy: You seem very serious about this. OK, break it down for us, go ahead.

Amy: When I first joined as a junior developer, frankly I wouldn’t have been able to answer that question.

Tammy: How long ago was that?

Amy: That was a year ago. So in the course of a year I have been able to say, “Yes! I finally get what microservices are all about!” The very unique thing about working at TES is that we’re very much a flat-structured engineering team. We pioneered remote-first. We have teams in San Francisco, in Miami, in South Africa. On my team we have a member in Johannesburg, another in Cape Town. We have team members in Italy, in Europe, and in Hungary.

Tammy: How large is the engineering team here in total?

Amy: Around 50 to 60 people.

Tammy: So between 50 and 60 people all over the world.

Amy: Yes. The majority of them are here so I’d say probably 30 to 40 percent are remote and 60 to 70 percent are permanent. The idea that you work best when you’re given the flexibility to work how you want, based on what you and your team agree is best, that’s the best way to be productive.

[13:08] Erin: Can you tell us what technologies or languages you use? Are you a web developer, are you back-end or front-end, can you tell us a bit more about your role?

Amy: Yes. For me, as a junior developer, they really emphasize mentoring and growing. As opposed to pinning someone in a role and saying, “Oh, we hired you to do this,” it’s more about your areas of interest. The idea is to expose you to as much as possible. At the moment I’ve been involved in the front-end, but that’s something that I’ve developed over time. The Web is awesome and it’s something that I find very gratifying, to see something that you make right in front of you.

Tammy: I’m so sorry, if I could butt in for just a moment, I really like the way you just described that, about front-end development. Where you get to see, almost immediately when you code, “There’s the thing that I made.”

Erin: “The thing that I’m making.”

Amy: Yes, exactly. I think that comes as no surprise. I came from a very visual and design-focused background so I draw diagrams and I draw sketches to take notes, because linear ways of thinking just don’t really make sense for me.

Tammy: It’s more a visual representation of that.

Amy: Yeah. I used to think about JavaScript as basically passing something from one place to another. You just keep passing it around.

Erin: Like a bread basket going around the room.

Amy: Yeah! And then it turned from bread to wine at some point.

[14:46] Tammy: Wow, that’s really interesting. You talked about the structure of remote work, what else can you share with us about being a developer here at TES?

Amy: It’s very much a knowledge-sharing, mentoring, and coaching culture. In terms of the technologies that we use, the tech team here at TES has gone through several iterations of growth. Ten years ago everything was .NET. In the past three to four years, we’ve realized that we also have to change and move with the rest of the world.

The teaching and tech spaces are changing. We’ve changed everything to a completely different stack. We’re using a JavaScript stack [http://theothersideofcode.com/building-full-javascript-application-stack] so everything turns into this distributed-service architecture way of working. We also have a Drupal team that caters to our journalism and news-heavy content side of the business. We’re still a journalism business, we have a weekly magazine that is still serving the education community.

[15:49] Tammy: Are you finding that in the course of the year that you’ve been here you’re finding the opportunity to touch all these kinds of tech? Or are you only really touching small subsets of them? What’s that like for you?

Amy: We do everything. I think the very strong ethos here is about personal responsibility. We’re the owners of our codebase, as opposed to, “Oh, this is your problem.”

Tammy: “You work on Drupal, you go do the Drupal things.”

Amy: Yeah, we’re constantly learning from each other. For instance, I could be fixing a front-end problem, but I’m also very capable of fixing an API problem. There’s lots of exposure to different things. You have your strengths and weaknesses but it’s about bringing everyone together.

Tammy: It does sound like you have an area of focus. You love JavaScript.

Amy: Yes.

Tammy: But also if you needed to touch different kinds of tech, you could.

Amy: Yeah, and we have hackathons every month. Actually, I’m the champion of hackathons.

Tammy: You should get a shirt that says, “I am the champion of hackathons”.

Amy: We have 15 areas of engineering improvements, and then we have champions that we rotate through every three months. It’s an opportunity to curate the improvement you want to see in your engineering team as well as serve your fellow engineers.

Erin: That’s really cool.

Amy: I think that’s an amazing way for any team to really kickstart a project. I can run the hackathons the way I want and it’s been really fun.

Tammy: And own the responsibility for that, too, and say, “I think this is something we should be doing to improve as an engineering team, let’s do it.”

Amy: Yes! We have self-organized ways of improvement. The senior developers make courses based on requests from the team. They also organize conferences, organize people looking into new technologies that we should be exploring. It’s a bit of a playground.

[17:39] Erin: Amy, being relatively new to the tech field, what would you say has been the most interesting thing for you about transitioning from architect to developer?

Amy: A lot.

Erin: Interesting or challenging.

Tammy: It sounds like the most interesting thing has been everything.

Amy: It has been everything. Seeing how people collaborate and work together and being exposed to the amazing community that surrounds tech, as well as the amount of knowledge that allows you to continue to learn and grow. I think a lot of it is about self-reflection and putting yourself in very strange and uncomfortable environments, such as the one I’ve been through where I transitioned from a field that I’d been in for the majority of my adult life to something completely different. You learn things about yourself.

Tammy: Is there anything you’d like to share that you learned about yourself?

Amy: I think we’re often too hard on ourselves. I’m only going to speak for myself when I say that we see flaws, we lack compassion for ourselves. I think that everyone would benefit from some compassion. It’s OK to freak out, but it’s OK to get up and say, “Oh yeah, I freaked out but that’s OK.” [Laughter]

[18:56] Tammy: This may be an unfair question to ask us, as women, but I can’t help but to ask it. Do you think that that is more of a woman thing? To be incredibly self critical? Do you have male colleagues who you also see are quite critical of themselves?

Amy: I think women are prone to be more self critical. I think everyone is self critical to a certain extent, but it’s really about balance. I think a lot of it is also a cultural construct and a professional construct. Coming from architecture, you can never say, “I don’t know.” You can’t say that in front of your boss or in front of your client because they need to know that they can trust you.

Tammy: That the building is not going to fall down.

Amy: Yeah, the building is not going to fall down, that my investment is safe with you, and that you know best how to get me where I want to go. I think there’s this extreme in the day to day life of an architect that to admit that you don’t know something is such a taboo. But to me, I think that admitting I don’t know something is really the only way to learn.

Tammy: I like your impression of an arrogant person. That was a really good arrogant person impression. “I don’t need designers, I can just design everything myself!”

Amy: Or this whole idea of, “I’m just going to keep churning, I’m still stuck but I won’t ask for help.” Just admit that I’m stuck and help will come.

Erin: And the help comes much quicker. I think it is useful and important to struggle with something for a little while, maybe 15 to 30 minutes or whatever your team has decided on, but you want to learn quickly. You shouldn’t be banging your head against the wall for hours and hours when you could tap your colleague on the shoulder and get it solved in two minutes.

Amy: Yes.

Tammy: I hear two things. The first thing I hear, Amy, is that maybe it’s the case that women are somewhat more hard on themselves, but also maybe it’s the case that grownups simply don’t allow themselves to not know things. They see it as a sign of failure if they don’t know something, but actually it’s really an opportunity to learn something.

Amy: Yeah, it’s an opportunity to ask questions, talk to someone you normally don’t talk to because you have a burning desire and a problem to solve.

Tammy: There’s also a balance too, between struggling a bit to try to get to the answer and asking for help. It sounds like you’ve been practicing both of those things, where you push yourself to find the answer but also push yourself to ask for help.

Amy: It’s an area of continual improvement, but I think that’s true.

[22:02] Tammy: One of the things I wanted to talk to you about was being in EdTech, which is typically a mission-driven field. Is mission-driven work something that you particularly wanted to pursue in technology? Or was the mission-driven focus of EdTech a by-product for you?

Amy: When I first made the transition to tech, I didn’t have a clear idea as to which area of tech I really wanted to work in.

Tammy: You also went through a bootcamp, correct?

Amy: Yes, I went through a bootcamp called Maker’s Academy, which was a 12-week intensive. The guiding principle that I tried to follow was that I wanted to make stuff to add to the world in a very big way. To serve a community and empower. Empowerment is something that I try to carry with me in everything I do. Empowering other people is how I empower myself. In terms of landing in EdTech, I think that I was quite lucky. At the same time, it also matched with what I want to do. To me, it’s about delivering value.

Tammy: Sounds like it’s being of service.

Amy: Yeah, being of service and making changes at a scaleable level, as opposed to, “Our technology is going to benefit this prestigious one percent of the population.” That’s where I’m coming from.

Erin: Because you have this—I think you called it a “guiding principle” to empower other people, and that’s how you empower yourself—it’s really scaleable that you’ve gone into EdTech because you are empowering people who then go on to empower lots of other people through their work as teachers. You probably have more of an impact on the world than you could ever know, because you won’t ever know how many people are being reached by the teachers you are serving.

Tammy: I’m also not surprised when you talk about your focus of empowerment, given the story that you told us about what first excited you about tech. You were at a hackathon for people who were trying to build something to better the world and it sounds like a seed was definitely planted inside of you.

Amy: You have to know why you’re doing something.

Tammy: You have to have a bigger purpose.

Amy: Yeah! It’s like, “Oh, okay. I’m doing this because I can tell myself that this is something worthwhile. This motivates me, other people can do different things.”

Tammy: Got it. So being of service is what really motivates you.

[24:35] Erin: I’m really curious to know about the community for women in tech in London. We’re pretty familiar with what it’s like back home in the Bay Area but what’s it like here to be a woman in tech?

Amy: We have an incredible community here. I first stepped into tech because of that as well.

Tammy: Can you talk a little bit about that?

Amy: Yeah. I still remember the first meetup that I went to. It was about TDD, which is Test Driven Development. The idea is you write code by first writing a test that fails, before you write anything else. It’s almost counter-intuitive. You use tests to guide you to the final shape of the code that fulfills your requirements.

Tammy: So you’re actually looking for failure to drive functionality?

Amy: Yes. So I went to my first workshop on TDD and it was led by Ladies of Code. I was completely stunned. I was in this room of 50 other women, some of them are senior and have been in the field for a very long time, some are just like me and completely clueless. We were there learning and I was like, “This is incredible.” It felt really odd, we were all swimming in the sea together, the big whales and the small shrimp. [Laughter]

Tammy: [to Erin] She is very visual!

Amy: I’m probably like a jellyfish saying, “I don’t know where I’m going!” But we’re all there together. It’s such an incredible energy. I was hooked.

[26:16] Tammy: How involved are you now, and also what is top of mind for women in tech in London?

Amy: Being a developer, I am a co-organizer of this meetup, Ladies of Code. I want to be able to serve the community, because I took something from it and I wanted to give back to it. There’s also a lot of other initiatives in the community, every single language probably has a group.

Erin: If any of the listeners ever travel to London they could certainly find some meetups while they’re here.

Amy: Absolutely. A lot of people might say, “Why all these women focused groups?”

[27:02] Tammy: I was actually going to ask that. Why do we need all these women focused groups?

Amy: I think it’s about creating a safe place. The dynamic is very different. When you go to events and conferences where the ratio of male and female is more lopsided and you have more men than women, the dynamic is very different. It’s about creating this safe space where people [women] are more willing to engage or open up. You feel less vulnerable when asking questions. These are the same questions we all have. Anything we can do to foster that environment is great.

Tammy: I have a question around that. You talked about creating this safe space, and then you also mentioned when the ratio is different and there’s more men and a very small group of women that the dynamic is different. Is your sense that it’s harder for women to be in that place of not knowing and also struggling to ask questions when there are more men? What is the challenge in the dynamic? From your perspective.

Amy: I think in people’s day to day lives as developers, there are a lot of professional women in male-dominated industries. Architecture is the same thing. I’m very comfortable being the only woman on site, asking for the ladies toilets. You just hang out with builders all day and they forget that you’re a woman. To me, it is great. I have this group of female developers who I can look up to and see where my career can take me.

Tammy: In one way, you can see yourself.

Amy: Yes. I’m sure I can feel equally comfortable having the same conversation with male colleagues as well. I do think that there is this energy, and it’s very nice.

Erin: It seems like one description would be that you can let your guard down a bit more, when you are more surrounded by women, because you trust that they have had similar experiences or have had similar mental blocks as you are having.

Amy: Yes. I think this need of having all-women meetups and coding groups wouldn’t be necessary if everywhere I go there was equal balance between men and women in tech.

Tammy: In other words, if you could see yourself in the workplace, if there were more women represented, you wouldn’t need to go find women so you can think about, “Where can my career go?” and “What things could I learn?” and “How could I develop myself?” You wouldn’t need to find that space if that was just represented where you were. What is the gender balance here at TES, in the engineering team?

Amy: On the engineering team, probably around 20 percent women.

Erin: That’s actually not bad compared to some of the very large tech companies in the Bay Area, who are hovering around 15 to 17 percent. There are certainly companies out in the Bay Area who are doing a bit better than that. But I think 20 percent is right around where some of the other companies are.

[30:30] Tammy: I think what I’m hearing as well, is you become less aware of being a woman in tech when you are surrounded by other women in tech.

Amy: Yeah!

Tammy: But when you’re surrounded by men in tech, you’re very much aware of being a woman in tech.

Amy: I agree with part of that. At the same time, I think it’s more about the environment and the culture. I can relate this to architecture. Women drop out of architecture as soon as they come to an age where they want to have a family because you simply can’t work 12 hours a day on weekdays and weekends. This is an underlying issue that happens, as much as it’s getting headlines in tech, it’s not just in tech.

Erin: It could be the case that these over-demanding cultures simply don’t place enough value on raising a family. One could argue that the underlying cause is this over-demanding culture and the symptom that you see on this surface is, “Oh, there’s not a lot of women.”

[31:32] Tammy: To this point about putting more women in the pipeline, the Guardian had an article about front-end developers and a disparity between front-end and back-end developers, and how more women are being put in the pipeline as front-end developers and that this might disadvantage women.

As a woman who is working as a front-end developer, and this article in the Guardian was speaking in general terms, I’m very interested in your specific experience and how it resonates or refutes the notion that women are being put into the pipeline, but they’re being put into the tech pipeline as front-end developers.There’s a disparity where front-end developers aren’t as valued as back-end engineers and this puts women at a disadvantage.

What are your thoughts about that?

Amy: I read the article and I think there’s lots of assumptions. In terms of the stereotypes regarding front-end engineers not being as valued as back-end engineers, front-end engineering has changed a lot in terms of our browser, the web, the space of JavaScript in the past five years. You have a new framework every 3 months, it’s a messy space and it’s definitely not one where someone would say, “It’s easy, therefore it’s being looked down upon.” There’s a lot of changing, moving bits that are continually evolving where you have to know certain techniques and rules about performances.

I don’t necessarily feel that front-end developers are undervalued, but I’m also quite new to the field. I take every stereotype with a grain of salt. In terms of how women come into the field, I think there’s more market demand for front-end engineers. You need more people to navigate this very complex area. There is more demand for front-end engineers.

Tammy: There’s more opportunity.

Amy: There are more opportunities in front-end development and therefore I don’t know if it’s fair to say that women are pushed into this field and then to say they’re at a disadvantage.

Tammy: What I think I hear you saying is: first of all, front-end has it’s own complexity and it does take some work to keep up with that complexity and that change.

Amy: It’s very complex, yes.

Tammy: Secondly, there’s just more demand for front-end developers. If more women are going into technology, they might end up in front-end development because that’s where demand is.

Amy: I think so.

Tammy: Okay, I think now we can move on to our fun questions. Are you ready or do you have something else on your mind?

[34:12] Erin: No, I’m ready. Let’s do it. Amy, I’m really curious to know what reads you recommend. Books, blogs, anything?

Tammy: Especially because you do seem quite focused on your development and ensuring that you are growing and learning. So, if you do that with reading then what do you recommend or how do you focus on your development?

Amy: Well, I like to keep my perspective open. As much as I love reading about tech, it’s really the world that technology touches on that tickles my fancy. I really recommend the book, “Black Box Thinking” by Matthew Syed. It talks about how iterations and feedback loops. It’s based on learning from all the mistakes people have made and how it’s really important to be open about mistakes as opposed to having a closed culture about mistakes. For instance, that’s how the aviation industry created its standards and protocols. I think that also applies to innovation and technology. It’s a fantastic read. I think that it also then feeds back into this idea of “The Growth Mindset” which is another book by Carol Dweck, it’s fantastic.

Erin: Yeah, I think another of our podcast guests has actually recommended that as well.

Amy: Yeah. One of my favorite podcasts as well is “Note to Self”. It’s a technology podcast about being human. It talks about topics that touch on people’s lives. It’s about privacy and security. It talks about the ethics of us tracking data on our wearables and how that affects our lives. Does it make our lives better, now that we have all this data?

Erin: Or do we actually just think it is?

Amy: Yes!

Tammy: I will tell you though, I’m very, very passionate about my Fitbit! I think it makes my life better. I’m very passionate about it. It has definitely given me a visibility into my health that I did not have before, and I really appreciate that. But, I also agree that all technology should be investigated with a thoughtful mind and not taken for granted.

[36:25] I realized that there’s a question I wanted to ask you after we talked about the Guardian, which is you’re a front-end developer now, where do you feel like you see yourself a year from now, or five years from now?

Amy: Well, I actually first came into tech because I had this crazy idea that I wanted to start a social enterprise, or a business.

Tammy: As everyone in tech does.

Amy: As everyone in tech does. I had this very naive way of thinking that was like, “OK, tech! Now I need skills. Right, skills, what do I need? OK, I need to learn to code.”

Erin: I love hearing what it sounds like inside your mind! [Laughter]

Amy: This is coming from me in my mid-thirties, I was like, “Yeah, I’m pretty naive.”

Tammy: Well, you’ve gotta start somewhere.

Amy: All these engineers, they’re just billionaires that are hibernating, they don’t even know what they can do. [Laughter]

Tammy: Alright, so your first thought was, “I’m going to start a social enterprise.”

Amy: Yeah! I said, “OK, I want to be able to make a platform to solve problems and improve people’s lives. Well, what is the most impactful skill that will be worthy of all my attention? Learn to code!” You should at least be able to read it because it’s so much of our everyday lives, but we have no insight into it, to an average person it’s just another language.

Erin: In a couple of years do you see this social enterprise coming to fruition?

Amy: Well, I’m not going to stop myself from exploring things. But for me at the moment, I want to become a good engineer and bridge this gap between engineering and design because I do work closely with designers. Being able to add to this collaborative space is something I’m very interested in.

[38:20] Tammy: We’ve talked about what you recommend reading and we’ve talked about what you think of yourself for the next few years. What do you daydream about?

Amy: I daydream about traveling, immersing myself in different cultures.

Tammy: Where else would you like to travel? You’ve been to a lot of cool places.

Amy: Yeah! But us sitting here today is a result of traveling.

Tammy: That is very true.

Amy: This can happen when you shake things up and take yourself a little bit outside of your routine.

Erin: And it’s awesome that you work at a company which encourages working remotely. You could potentially keep your job and still spend a lot of time living elsewhere.

Amy: My dream is to do more of that, to travel while I’m given the opportunity, spend more time with my family, and to have more interesting conversations like the ones that we’re having.

Erin: Thank you!

[39:12] Tammy: Yay! What are two of your favorite aspects of London that tourists are not going to find in a guidebook?

Amy: I would say to not look at the guidebook and get lost, leave your smartphone at home. Just put it away, take the chance, don’t always walk on the big, obvious roads. Take those interesting, “Oh, what’s that?” roads.

Tammy: A woman after my own heart.

Erin: That is exactly to a T, Tammy’s outlook on traveling. Today I was planning to walk from our Airbnb to the Tower of London and across the Thames to the Globe. Thanks to you, I will not take the same path we took, I will choose a different road.

Amy: Choose a different way!

Tammy: Will you leave your smartphone at home?

Erin: I will not. [Laughter] But I will commit to only using a paper map, if I need to.

Tammy: Amy, thank you so much for spending some of your work day with us, we really appreciate it.

Erin: It’s been really fun!

Tammy: Yeah, thank you.

Amy: Thank you so much, I’d love to take you out for coffee and explore a bit more. Just get in touch!

[40:26] Tammy: Yeah, how should people get in touch with you, if they would like to reach out?

Amy: They can contact me on either LinkedIn or Twitter, my Twitter handle is @aycyang, which is terrible because I didn’t realize when I came into tech that all the Twitter handles and my Github username need to all line up.

Tammy: Lesson learned.

Amy: Yes, anyone listening out there, it’s really important. [Laughter] Have the same username everywhere.

Erin: Across as many platforms as possible.

Amy: Learn from my mistake.

Erin: Amy Yang on LinkedIn, she works at TES, or @aycyang on Twitter.

Tammy: Okay.

Erin: Right on. This has been another episode of the WITtalks podcast, live from London. I’m Erin saying goodbye for now.

Tammy: And I’m Tammy, saying goodbye for now.

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