BigCommerce Employee Spotlight: Katie Hoesley
Welcome to the BigCommerce Employee Spotlight. Each month, we’ll chat with an employee who works on the BigCommerce product. These are the folks behind the scenes who are crafting the BigCommerce developer experience, from SDKs and APIs to themes and documentation. Discover what they’re building, their tools of the trade, and learn about the technologies they’re passionate about.
Hi Katie, tell me about your path to BigCommerce.
Hey! I’m Katie, and I am a Senior Developer Relations Advocate. I’m originally from Minnesota, but now live in Denver, CO with my enormous dog, Lenny (half Great Pyrenees half Anatolian Shepherd).
My path to BC started when I graduated from University of Minnesota with a Writing-Intensive English degree, unsure what to do next. I’d always loved teaching, so I moved to Thailand and spent a year teaching English. When I returned, I (again) wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and it turned out that a 23-year-old English major with no relevant work experience was not exactly what companies were looking for.
I started working as an intern at a digital health company, and quickly became suspicious about how long it took our contracted remote developers to make changes on our website. I found myself wondering how it could possibly take two weeks to change a background color, and decided there’s no way it was that hard. Fascination turned to frustration, and I decided I’d just learn to do it myself.
I moved out to San Francisco to attend a coding bootcamp (where I learned, in fact, it does not take two weeks to change a background color!), and after graduating was hired internally to assist with bootcamps and curriculum development. I later consulted for and taught bootcamps at organizations like USAA, Volkswagen, McKesson, and the US Air Force and Space Force.
After years of teaching, I was feeling a bit burnt out and was describing my background and what my dream job would be to someone. “You’re describing a developer advocate,” was the response I was met with, a role I’d admittedly never heard of. Upon researching, it was true! This role combined my love of working with and advocating for “students”, in this case devs, and the skills I’ve developed the past few years teaching full-stack development. Immediately, BC struck me as an organization that not only was offering a role I was excited about, but an organization that aligned with my overall values.
What’s important about a problem that BigCommerce is solving?
BigCommerce offers enterprise-grade solutions without charging enterprise-grade prices. As the world around us continues to change, mom & pop companies who previously relied heavily on their brick & mortar revenue streams are likely feeling the need to pivot. BC offers not only an affordable platform, but one that is objectively easy to use.
I feel passionate about providing access to those types of companies, and I also feel passionate about products that are built for users, which BC is. It not only solves a pricing problem, but also solves an ease-of-use problem. As a software engineer myself, some other products I’ve experimented with aren’t intuitive to me, let alone someone who is unaccustomed to coding, building websites, etc. BC is solving an overall access issue that exists and is providing access to affordable tools that are easy to use.
What projects/products/etc are you most passionate about building at BigCommerce?
As the world continues to morph, users’ needs and requirements are going to continue changing at the same rate. I really look forward to creating a more direct and immediate avenue for feedback from developers using BigCommerce products. I aim to create tight feedback loops that allow our product to evolve as quickly as our users need it to. Creating more direct lines of communication between external devs and our product team will allow us to be incredibly agile in the face of ever-changing developer needs. I can’t wait to help further cultivate the BC developer community!
Do you have a formal education or are you self taught?
A little of both! I began teaching myself to code before enrolling in Hack Reactor, a full-stack bootcamp in San Francisco. I continue to self-study all the time to keep up with the ever-changing trends in tech, but owe a really solid foundation of knowledge to Hack Reactor!
Do you feel like you took a traditional or non-traditional path to becoming a developer advocate?
I think in the tech world, “non-traditional” paths are becoming the new traditional path, so I would say I took a “roundabout” path! I began my career teaching, then writing and developing digital content for a website, then learned to code, and then got into teaching coding. All of these disjointed parts of my career really come together to contribute to my being an effective developer relations advocate.
How do you approach learning something new?
I like to say, “I have strong beliefs, loosely held.” I also like to say, “The more I learn, the less I know.” These are essentially my learning mantras. Before I learned to code, I genuinely hated being wrong. But, learning to code was the most intellectually humbling experience of my life, and taught me that I am wrong all the time. And that’s okay!
I now approach learning something new humbly and armed with a lot of questions for someone who knows more than I do. I also employ a lot of learning strategies from Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work. If you haven’t read this, I give a copy to everyone I know who is in school or has a knowledge-based job. It’s a must-read!
Tell us why you chose to work at BigCommerce.
I said previously that I really like what BigCommerce offers its users, but a major reason I chose BC was the company culture. I don’t know of many companies, particularly tech companies, where employees happily stay for 5+ years, and that seems to be a norm around here. Everyone I spoke to while interviewing spoke highly of opportunities to advance, to learn, and to grow within the organization, and that is something I really value. It feels to me that BC is a place where people are encouraged to find creative solutions to problems, to grow within the organization, and to grow as a person while here. That really sold me!