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Katy Farmer Speaks About Workplace Diversity and How to Make Sense of Database Metrics

Ryan Greis

Katy Farmer Speaks About Workplace Diversity and How to Make Sense of Database Metrics's Image

Katy Farmer, Developer Advocate with Influx Data, recently spoke at Hack Reactor’s Telegraph Track speaker series. Her presentation, titled “Database Metrics That Matter”, focused on how to find value in the huge amount of metrics available from databases.

H/R: What are your thoughts on Telegraph Track?

 Katy Farmer
Katy Farmer

Katy: Hack Reactor’s Telegraph Track program is a valuable pathway that brings coding to underrepresented groups. Hack Reactor is already thinking about what underrepresented individuals might experience entering the job market. To ignore those differences is idealistic because they affect the way one works. Being able to talk about differences freely before they enter the workforce means they can talk about them more freely when they are in the workplace.

H/R: What inspired you to present with Hack Reactor?

Katy: I tried to learn to code initially on my own, and I didn’t find the learning resources at the time accessible at all. They were written by people that had been coding for years, who had been programming for so long, they didn’t remember what the basics were anymore. What they thought were the basics, I didn’t even know the terms.

I wanted to maintain that perspective even after graduating from bootcamp. I didn’t want to forget what it felt like to start coding from zero. I want to make difficult concepts accessible for everyone.

That’s why I decided to present at Hack Reactor.

There are lots of barriers to learning in today’s education. Financial barriers, learning paths. We don’t need an elitist language to talk about complex ideas. We just need better communication that allows and invites anyone and everyone to learn.

H/R: What were you doing prior to your role at Influx?

Katy: Before Influx, I was doing a Ruby On Rails internship. I had just graduated from Turing School of Software and Design the previous year  and was job hunting, interning, and coding. Over the course of job hunting, I became aware of an opportunity at Influx Data.

 InfluxData workplace
InfluxData workplace

A friend of mine in my network told me he knew someone employed at Influx. I was lucky enough to schedule a lunch with his contact. We hit it off – same sense of humor. The more I spoke with people at the company the more I caught onto their authenticity. One person I spoke with said, “I cant promise we’re more organized than any other company, but I can promise you that we’re always trying to do our best.

Originally, I interviewed for an engineering position. I wasn’t aiming to be a Developer Advocate mostly because I didn’t know it existed. At other companies, the role is titled, “Developer Evangelist”.

H/R: What was it about Influx Data that appealed to you?

Katy: I picked Influx because I felt they were in the beginnings of something and was excited to explore alongside them and figure it out together.

H/R: What does the Developer Advocate role entail?

Katy: At tech companies, when you develop tools that developers use, you need people that can talk to developers both as customers on a technical front and be able to represent the product to provide context. That’s where the Advocate role comes in.

During the interview process, they said the role involves giving talks and writing client libraries, which appealed to me. I’m not a huge fan of working in the traditional developer lifecycle of sprints and features. I like having autonomy which I get now. I also get to interact with the developer community. I attend a lot of conferences; sometimes to speak, sometimes at our booth to hand out marketing materials and talk.

Most of my job at the office is writing code and then writing blog posts about that code. Everyday I use the tool; that’s important. I could be in New York one day, and Vancouver the next. But I need to be using our products everyday because I need to be aware of its pros, cons and idiosyncrasies.

H/R: Have you had any recent accomplishments in the role?

Katy: I just had my first full-length conference talk accepted. In May, I’ll be speaking at DevOps in Silicon Valley. It was one of my goals for this year.

H/R: Congratulations. What do you plan to talk about?

Katy: If you’re a mid-sized company, what does it mean to adopt DevOps? It’s not a well-known term yet in the industry. There’s not a definitive and accepted definition. It’s a combination of philosophies implemented in different ways. My knowledge of it grew through research, both online and in-person. It’s currently used to solve some really big problems by really big companies. But my talk is aimed around how mid-sized companies might get what they need out of adopting DevOps even when they don’t have a lot of money, resources or time to pour into it. How to prioritize and where to start.

H/R: Knowing you attending a coding bootcamp, what do you think of them and how they fit into tech space today?

Katy: When bootcamps first surfaced, most engineers I knew were skeptical and a bit offended, to think anyone could learn their job in 3 or so months. They thought, “It’s never going to be enough time.”

But coding bootcamps students don’t expect to do the job of an experienced engineer in 3 months. They are, however, making a promise to themselves to ramp up their learning and make the first big move towards the beginning of their coding journey. The end of a bootcamp education is not the end of a student’s learning. All the best engineers I know teach themselves new things constantly.

I think bootcamps have made technology a lot more accessible. We’re not talking anymore about just people who have a Masters in Computer Science, or even people with college degrees.

It took San Francisco a while to get onboard with hiring bootcamp grads. But at Influx we have quite a bit of bootcamp grads here, myself included. I think it’s an important part of how we build teams. We don’t build teams based specifically on what they know. We hire people we want to work with.

H/R: How do bootcamp grads differ from more traditional four-year CS grads?

Katy: Bootcamps really do a lot to develop soft skills: learning to work in a group, on a team.

No one goes to coding school because everything is going really well. It’s kind of high-stakes. That results in a different kind of employee that tech companies are learning to really like. People that are dedicated to their job. You don’t have to be an elite hacker. You just need to enjoy solving problems and have a good work ethic. Bootcamp students are committed to learning and working hard. And since bootcamp grads are agile in the way they approach problems and learning, they’re good at using their skills to pick up a new language or tech on the job.

Coding bootcamps, in a lot of ways, are much more difficult than a professional role. In most jobs you don’t have the crazy deadlines like at school. You don’t have to write a massive functioning application in a week. Rather, you work on one feature that has to work really well and you’re allowed time to do it right.

All companies I’ve spoken at have been weirdly excited to have bootcamp grads on staff.

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