Working with a mainframe computer in the 1960s.

Learning from the Past

When I was first asked to write for the new Better Programming publication, I struggled to come up with a suitable topic. There is already an overwhelming amount of content online about how to improve your programming in any number of languages, using various competing frameworks and countless tools. Such articles are also prone to becoming outdated against the constant stream of new technologies, techniques, and obsoletions. What could I write about programming better that would still be useful in a year? What about in five years, or even a decade?

To attempt an answer, I looked at what has…

Startups often require employees to take on multiple roles, and one such combination is for an engineer to take on product management functions. In this talk, you will learn what a product engineer role looks like, why you should be a product engineer, and how to become one. I will discuss why product engineers are an invaluable asset to an early-stage startup, and how having product engineers result in better products and happier developers. This talk relates my experience over the last eight years in the trenches of early-stage startups, as a founder, and most recently as a product engineer at

2016 AltConf, San Francisco

2015 FITC Web Unleashed, Toronto

2015 InfoShare, Gdansk

Refactoring is a practice that is often overlooked when it comes to CSS. As a result, styles seem to just grow and grow, until no one knows for sure which styles apply where, or whether many rules are still used at all. In this talk, we’ll cover strategies for refactoring CSS using Sass, with a focus on maintainability of code. Topics include code organization, naming, incremental change, and handling special cases such as responsive styles. This talk is based on my experience refactoring thousands of lines of CSS into Sass, in a way that allowed for continuous feature development, as well as supporting multiple layers of responsive styles and device-specific styles.

2016 FITC Web Unleashed, Toronto

2015 SassConf, Austin

2014 Front-Trends, Warsaw

Video Vimeo

2013 HTML5 Developer Conference

Video Youtube

Building Strong Foundations for Leadership

This is the part 3 of 3 of an edited version of my talk on becoming strong leaders, given at Lead Dev London, June 2018. See here for Part 1, and Part 2.

You can be highly productive yourself, and you can grow and develop a great team, but you can’t be a great leader if you’re leading people toward the wrong thing.

The Big Picture

You want to be a great leader, but what do you want to lead people towards?

The promise of technology, and why I studied computer engineering, was because this is what I believed would help people. Technology…

Building Strong Foundations for Leadership

This is the Part 2 of 3 of an edited version of my talk on becoming strong leaders, given at Lead Dev London, June 2018. See here for Part 1, and Part 3.

We think of a leader as the person in the front — like a commander leading their troop to battle. If the leader is wrong, their team is doomed. That’s a lot of pressure on one person to get everything right.

Building Strong Foundations for Leadership

I had the honor of speaking at The Lead Dev conference in London last week. Lead Dev is one of the best organized conferences I’ve attended. I love that the conference focuses on how we improve engineering as people, not just learning new technology. I highly recommend it to engineering leaders, whether you’re a manager or IC.

My talk is about how to build healthy foundations and developing the core characteristics for great leadership. You can watch the whole talk below, or continue reading. This is Part 1 of 3 of an edited version of the talk, not a direct…

And how learning to sleep made me superhuman

What being a morning person feels like. Photo by Andressa Voltolini on Unsplash.

Despite how click-bait-y this title sounds, it is not an exaggeration.

In the last six months, my average wake time has been 6:30am—including weekends, holidays, and frequent time zone crossings. To be fair, 6:30am is not that early in the realm of early-birds, called larks, who espouse the miracles of a 5am wake up time. But for me, this has been such a momentous change that I’ve become quite literally a different person.

I am now someone that wakes up naturally before their 6:30am alarm with enthusiasm to tackle the day, and with a wide menu of pre-breakfast activities including…

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Make Meetings More Equitable By Giving Everyone a Chance to Speak

How many times have you sat in a meeting rolling your eyes as a fellow attendee delivered a soliloquy wholly irrelevant to the meeting?

Sometimes detours are necessary to provide background information or explore new ideas in a meeting. But often one person dominates the meeting with lengthy tangents, as everyone else discreetly checks their email. Not only is this phenomenon a primary reason people think meetings are useless and a waste of time, it also drains the creativity and energy that comes from working collaboratively in a group setting, as participants become bored and disengaged.

The promise of working…

100% NOT what it feels like to run. (Photo credit: Bradley Wentzel)

My first year as an un-reformed “runner”

Note: I wrote this in 2013, but didn’t publish it until now, five years and well over another 1000 miles later.

I grew up a nerd. A TV stereotype of a nerd complete with glasses, braces, and a wardrobe of hand-me-downs even though I was an only child. Being a nerd wasn’t so bad. Everyone expected me to be good at math and physics and book reports — which in hindsight is one of the best things to happen to a girl — and I dutifully met these expectations like the goody-two-shoes I was.

What no one expected me to…

This talk explores computing’s roots in arts and humanities, and why the divide between science and the arts stunts the development of technology.

2014 SF Bay Area Digital Humanities Meetup

Video Youtube

Alicia Liu

Wanderer above the sea of fog // programmer beneath the sweat of brow

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store