Tech Leader Spotlight: Jessica Goulding

Jessica Goulding is a marketer turned developer who currently does software development downtown at ParkiFi. Code Talent was lucky enough to sit down over a Thai lunch with Jessica this past week, and discuss her involvement in the tech industry and the new conference she co-organized that took place on Friday, June 24, Dinosaur JS.

What is your involvement in the tech community?

I’m currently a software developer at ParkiFi on a team with eight other developers. I am an organizer for Go Code Colorado and Dinosaur JS. I also just love going to other meetups and being a part of this awesome community.

How did you get into tech/development?

I was in marketing for a while and I felt like sometimes what I was doing just wasn’t enough. I wanted to do more analytics and interpreting data. So I started getting more and more into e-commerce, SEO and pay-per-click. I liked that I could create a story from data.

Then I started working in Boulder, because I thought I should be around more startups to move into a technical marketing role, or something of that nature.

And in Boulder, I ended up meeting with a software developer, and he suggested I check out Rails. I was reluctant at first. I didn’t think coding was something I could get into unless I had been doing it my whole life.

But he pushed me to check it out, so I did. I found the tutorial on Rails really appealing, I liked that it allowed you to optimize processes, and turn something that used to be 10 hours of work into just two minutes. That really started my journey. I started doing freelance stuff, I got an internship, and I was building Wordpress sites. But I still didn’t feel like I was quite where I wanted to be as far as my skill level went.

Towards the end of my internship, I met Jeff, who runs Turing. At the time, he was just getting it started. I thought it was a big commitment, the time, money and everything he was asking for. I would have to quit my job and pay how much for a seven month program? But I took the leap of faith and ended up being in the first class at Turing.

And you love it?

I love it. It’s been great, I’m really happy I got into programming and the tech community in general. I love being a part of it, I love giving back, organizing tech events, advocating for women in technology and those who come to tech from different backgrounds. The reality is, that is is something you can do, programming isn’t just for those that have been playing on computers since they were five.

I love getting to constantly learn and solve problems, especially at ParkiFi. It’s so fun. I feel thankful to have all these great things happening in my life. I’m super busy, but I love my life.

You’re our first female tech spotlight. Tell me about your experience as a woman in the tech industry.

It’s been hard. I generally think of myself as a pretty positive person, and I don’t give up easily, but there’s definitely been a lot of moments in my career that have been pretty tough as a woman. I feel like generally I can stand up for myself pretty well, but it’s a lot harder sometimes in a massive group of men.

When I first started learning to program I went to an interview and the guy laughed at me and said, “I don’t have women on my team.” I was shocked. But what he said actually was a catalyst for me. I wouldn’t accept it. I said to myself, “he told me no, but I’m going to do it anyway, and I’m going to make a difference and try to bring more women into the industry.” So, it’s been tough, but I just keep trying to encourage women… and I’ve seen some amazing women grow into software developers, and be truly badass in their field.

I feel stronger knowing they are in the community and knowing they are my allies.

(Dinosaur JS, which Jessica co-organized, is a new JavaScript conference in Denver. It is part of the JS Conference family, and took place on Friday, June 24 for the first time.)

Tell me about Dinosaur JS, how did it go?

It went really, really well. Better than we expected! We had 220 attendees and only 9 no-shows. We got really great feedback from everyone. Steve Kinney, the other co-organizer, and I were already discussing next year before it was even over.

What was the motive behind Dinosaur JS? Why add a new conference to the JS Conference family?

There wasn’t really a JavaScript focused conference in Denver, so we wanted to bring that community together here. Also, Steve (co-organizer), was doing a lot of traveling on the conference circuit last year, and he wanted to be closer to his family, so he asked me to help him organize a conference in Denver.

It was great. Steve and I were able to come together with his vision for the conference and my background in event planning, and organize this awesome event. Of course, the help we got from the Denver community, and volunteers, was also a huge part of putting on Dinosaur JS. We couldn’t have done it without them.

I know that 6 out of the 10 speakers were women, was that intentional?

It actually just happened. We did a blind selection process to choose our speakers and we just had a lot of badass women that submitted awesome talks.

Once we had already selected the speakers and started putting the schedule together, that’s when we realized that we had a majority of women speakers.

It was also cool because the speakers were from all over. We had one local speaker and the rest were from out-of-state, from all over.

Were you part of the selection process?

No. Steve and I intentionally were not part of the initial selection process. We had people in the community review the talks and narrow it down. We had a little over 200 proposals, and it wasn’t until it was down to 15-20 speakers that Steve and I came in and looked at was really going on.

We really wanted the selection process to be completely unbiased. And it worked out, we ended up with such amazing people. So, I think we did a good job.

Did you have a speaker that stuck out to you at Dinosaur JS?

That’s really tough because we had a really amazing line up of speakers. We had a combination of people just dropping knowledge, teaching us amazing things that I had no idea I could even do [with the technology].

One of the talks that stuck out to me was from Suz Hinton about being really thoughtful about your framework to accessibility and to your users, not just as a software developer. It gave me chills, I literally had goosebumps. And then we ended on another really amazing talk from Jen Tong who was live coding with hardware and software. Which blew my mind.

Everything was just really well put together. I’m still thinking about it and it’s almost a week later.

I have to ask, why did you name it “Dinosaur” JS?

Wes, Steve’s son, one of the cutest human beings alive, loves dinosaurs. During our meetings he would be making dinosaur noises on the side and everything. We were brainstorming names for the conference and one day Steve called me when he was watching Wes and asked, “what do you think of Dinosaur JS? With the dinosaurs discovered in Snowmass and the Dinosaur monument in Colorado…” And I said, “Right, and Wes likes dinosaurs.” And we just decided to go with it.

It ended up being a really fun theme. We weren’t sure if people would go with it or not, but it worked out really well. We got inflatable dinosaurs and everything, and people got really into it. We had 3 people show up in dinosaur onesies and stay in them for the entire conference. It was fun to have a theme for people to really get into.

Where are you going from here?

We are already starting to plan DinosaurJS 2017 and have huge goals to grow the community and make the event even better. If you want to learn about pre-sale tickets, follow us on Twitter. Or if you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to hit me up at @jessicag or Steve at @SteveKinney. Happy to meet for coffee anytime and chat!