What is your name and position?
My name is Kristina Durivage, and I’m an independent front end developer by day and a hardware hacker by night.
What's your background?
What inspired you to become an IT professional?
Money, and my parents. I wanted to be an artist, but they made a good case for making money, then doing art. Turns out I get the same feelings of accomplishment programming as I do making art, and programming can let me build creatively in a way hard to do by hand. I’ve tried to find programming problems that need creative solutions - which is why I like data visualization so much.
Please walk me through your day, what do you do at your company?
I go to work, talk to the team lead about what work is in our queue. Sometimes it’s something new to build, sometimes it’s old stuff that broke. The team I’m on now does a lot of pair programming, but it’s not strictly enforced which is very nice. I benefit from researching a problem better independently, but pairing is nice for either confirming my solution or hearing alternatives. I get home, bother my cats a bit, then sometimes it’s firing up the soldering iron and making something light up, or pulling out the sewing machine or opening up the laptop again to program some more.
Can you see yourself in ten years doing the same thing you do now?
I guess - hopefully with a bit more work/life balance than now. I work too much now, but I there’s variety in the work I do and I enjoy it enough that I haven’t gotten burned out yet.
What is the best advice you ever received?
“Be the person you wish you had when you were younger.” I put work into being open and helpful with the stuff I’ve made. There’s always really frustrating parts to any project, and people (including myself) are too quick to interpret that frustration as something personal when something is just hard to understand the first time. Although this happens to men too, being a minority in the industry adds onto it. When someone tells you you’re wrong, it can make your problem spiral into really weird, discouraging places. Sometimes you’re not wrong - maybe that person is wrong, or maybe there’s some grey area where the other person needs to take the time to address more specifically what’s wrong and right with your ideas. It takes confidence to be able to assert your knowledge to someone who is doubting it. That kind of confidence comes from experience and having a good foundation of knowledge to grow from.
I realize I have a lifestyle that affords me more spare time than others and I am very fortunate to have friendly people to help me where a lot of people feel more isolated. When I describe my projects, I don’t want people to build the same project as me. I do want people to not feel intimidated to pick up a soldering iron for the first time or make an LED blink for the first time - then keep learning and experimenting to build their ideas. I want people to learn what the hard parts were for me so they understand frustration is just part of the project like any other part and it shouldn’t keep anyone from starting. I also hope by sharing how I overcame those hard parts, others can just skip to the lesson learned and not have to deal with that specific problem alone.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the last year?
I’ve learned (well, still learning) to balance what I do. The second best advice I’ve ever received goes along with this - think of a todo list like a menu. You don’t generally go into a restaurant to eat everything on the menu. You look at the menu and decide what sounds good at the time. Thinking of things like that has helped me let go of the guilt associated with not doing something I want to - sure I didn’t do it, but just because I couldn’t fit it in with other things I wanted or had to do. This analogy when dealing with other people involves just not over committing myself and not minimizing how long something will take. I won’t be happy if I’ve promised different people that I’d eat different things, and now I *have* to order half the menu. Letting someone down once by saying no up front is way better than letting someone down because you didn’t have time to do a good job. Finally, you absolutely cannot forget the things that traditionally don’t make that menu explicitly but need time too, like being a good friend. You still want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and see a good person and that doesn’t really relate to how much you get done in a day.
And what are your plans for the future?
I haven’t done as much data visualization lately, and I miss that so I’d love to do more. I also want to build a bigger LED array because you can never have too many bright lights. I don’t really have any major goals, I just want to keep making fun stuff.
If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?
I’d learn to balance my time better sooner in life. Taking on too much and being miserable can happen very quickly if you’re not used to it and there are some very hard lessons when you mess up your priorities.