Today I sat down with Katryn, one of the incredible software engineers on our team, to learn more about women in tech, what brought her to Upserve and her epic knitting skills. Check it out!
Have you always known that you wanted to be an engineer?
Not really, I actually went to college at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) for painting. Right after I graduated I went straight to New York City. I was very gungho about being a part of the art world. I started working in a gallery, but I found that was really boring. From there I explored working in fabrics and textiles, but I didn’t love the culture of the fashion industry.
That’s so interesting, so how’d you find your way from art and fashion to coding?
I later found my way to a communications strategy agency. After a while, I got more and more responsibilities maintaining different websites and content management systems, so I just started picking up HTML. As I started playing around with the code, I found that it was the most engaged I’d ever been with work. But it always left me yearning for more control to customize more and more.
How do you think your creative background has helped you evolve into your current role doing UX?
My passion has always been to create more tangible, visual things. I enjoy thinking about experience and interactions. The way I think about it, navigating a website or app is the same way you can explore a space architecturally. I naturally drifted towards doing front-end engineering.
So if you could describe working at Upserve in three words, what would they be?
Building on that a little more, why did you decide to work at Upserve?
The team at Upserve is very experienced and I’m at the point in my career where I’m trying to absorb as much as possible from the people I surround myself with in my career. I don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. Even if it’s overwhelming being in a meeting with tons of people with Masters and PhDs, they push you to go a lot faster and learn a lot faster. Sometimes it feels impossible to keep up, then you realize they’re just people who were in your shoes at one point. It’s easy to assume programmers are superhuman beings, but they’re just like everybody else, they’re a bit weird, but I like that.
That’s an amazing perspective to have. In fact, you’ll be sharing some of those insights in an upcoming event for Women in STEM, where does your passion for this cause come from?
A film called, CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap about women in coding and the issues they face, came to town a while back and I was asked to speak on a panel. That was totally terrifying to me, but I knew it was important, so I did it. From there I met a few other women who just started a local chapter of Girl Develop It in Providence, which I got involved in. I was super excited that there were other women like me in Providence who were programmers. It’s a really small community, but it’s been really cool to see it gradually grow. I’m passionate about it because I wish I had that type of community when I was younger and I want to share that excitement and encourage younger women to explore those types of opportunities.
Throughout your career, you’ve experienced being on teams of mostly men, what have you gained from having this type of community?
What’s really nice is knowing that you have that community you can jump in at anytime and know that you’re not alone. It’s helped me embrace my interests and in some ways it’s made me more authentic.
You mentioned how important it is to surround yourself with people who push you, can you talk a bit more about the culture here at Upserve?
The people are thoughtful, very human and real. They respect that we’re people with lives and that we want to bring our A game but we’re also human and have good days and bad days. I feel really appreciated here, like people listen to me. I feel like they care about my growth as a person and keeping me engaged. I think they go out of their way to make my life easy, to get out of my way and let me do my job. They value that I (and everyone on the team) have a unique opinion and has something to contribute. Plus, I love that they support a lot of the initiatives with women.
Last question, (it’s a fun one) if you could create 5 Jeopardy categories, that you would absolutely crush it at, what would they be?
- Late 70s-80s Machine knitting- I have an old knitting machine I use in my studio, you can’t find them in stores anymore. I view it as being a lot like programming, you use punch cards to plan out patterns, like pixel by pixel drawings.
- Contemporary art- I have a studio where I build things on the side (check out some of her projects here!)
- How to make egg tempera paint from scratch- Thanks RISD.
- Colors- I actually worked as a colorist in fashion- every time they make a batch of garments, I would look at the dyes to decide whether or not there was a small enough difference between them.
- Nature documentaries – any kind, I love learning about them.
That is amazing, you are just too cool! Thanks for your time Katryn.
Katryn (along with Catherine and Nora from Upserve) will be on a panel discussion around Women in Tech (hosted by PVD Lady Project and Girl Develop It) at Upserve, Thursday, November 17th from 6-8pm.