CityJSConf talks to…Debbie O’Brien

James Malvern
Published in
5 min readSep 7, 2020


“I guess you could say I love the buzz of the stage but also because my talks help people learn something new. Now the virtual world is not the same at all, but what can we do? I don’t dislike it — I would just prefer to see and talk to people. I am very much a people’s person.”

Based in Palma de Mallorca, Debbie O’Brien is Head of Learning and Developer Advocate for Nuxt.js, with over 10 years experience in frontend development. O’Brien can also list being Microsoft certified, ‘Microsoft Most Valuable Professional’ in developer technologies, ‘Google Developer Expert’ in web technologies and ‘Cloudinary Media Developer Expert’.

In addition to being an international speaker and organiser of MallorcaJS and VueSpain, O’Brien still finds time to contribute to open source projects, as well as teach at the Vue School. She has created the Vue Router and Vue Internationalisation course as well as writing for Ultimate Courses.

Formerly an actress and an English teacher, she now combines these two experiences with her coding talents to spread the word about JavaScript, and more specifically, about all things Vue.js and Nuxt.js, ‘nuxtifying’ the world one app at a time.

Be sure to check out her talk at the CityJS Conference 2020 to find out what’s new in Nuxt.js!

Tell us about your daily life where you are.

Palma de Mallorca, Spain, right now and it is hot, hot, hot [editor: interview took place in July]. I live on a beautiful island. It really is beautiful, but it is very small. When you can’t leave it, there is not much new to discover. I would love a causeway that you could drive across the water to the mainland so I don’t have to rely on flights for everything. But I can’t complain. Have beautiful beaches, good weather, a pool, great food…

O’Brien now lives on the Mediterranean island of Palma de Majorca (Photo by Andrea Junqueira on Unsplash)

How are you (and your company) adapting to the current coronavirus pandemic?

I changed jobs in the middle of lockdown. Yeah, said goodbye through video and cleared out my desk when lockdown ended. My job is fully remote so I guess the virus didn’t really affect things in that way. The only difference is normally we would be catching up with the bosses at a conference and for now that is not going to happen so video calls it is for a while.

Which hobby has been keeping you sane during coronavirus?

Running and Taekwondo. Ran 10km on my roof terrace which is not that big, so round and round in circles as we were not allowed on the street to do sport for over two months. Taekwondo patterns on my roof terrace too.

O’Brien likes to relax with a spot of taekwondo on her roof terrace (Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash)

What are you missing most during this pandemic?

It was sport, freedom and the ability to just leave your apartment and go for a walk. Now that we have all that finally, I miss not seeing my family. Normally they would be visiting now. I am still not allowed to visit Ireland due to quarantine. That’s hard. I guess I miss normality.

What and when was your first JavaScript project (professionally or personal)?

1997, but it was really shit back then so I wouldn’t have called it a project, just a marquee on an html site. Three years ago personally, two years ago professionally.

TypeScript: yes or no? And why?

No, haven’t had time to learn it, plus I like simplicity so if it’s too complicated then I might not try it.

How does your company use JavaScript?

At Nuxt I guess you could say we built a framework using JavaScript and it is called, wait for it…Nuxt.js.

O’Brien is Head of Learning and Developer Advocate at Nuxt.js (Image: Twitter)

What are your views on PHP? Is it indeed the work of the devil?

Laravel is pretty cool. PHP gets a bad name because of WordPress.

Why did you choose the frameworks that you use?

I was testing frameworks for a work thing and fell in love with Vue because it was easy to learn and use. I needed SSR, and a Vue core team member recommended I use Nuxt. Never looked back since.

What was your first experience speaking at a conference?

It was in Lithuania. I was terrified. I had to change my shirt because I was sweating so much with nerves. But I had some good speaker friends who came to see my talk, so had friendly faces in the audience. And when my mic was playing up they just nodded and said it’s OK and so I kept going. In the end I did great and people loved it. Still get so nervous before all my talks. 🤷‍♀️

O’Brien has spoken at tech and coding conferences across the globe (Photo: Twitter)

What made you begin (and what keeps you) speaking at conferences?

Always had a love of the stage. Worked as a hotel entertainer for many years, plus I was involved in theatre and TV. I am good at talking or at least people keep telling me I never shut up. I used to be a teacher for many years. Put that all together and yeah why would I not want to be a speaker? I guess you could say I love the buzz of the stage but also because my talks help people learn something new. Now the virtual world is not the same at all, but what can we do? I don’t dislike it — I would just prefer to see and talk to people. I am very much a people’s person.

Any particular mantras that you live your life by?

Believe in yourself, do more of what makes you happy, change your thoughts and you will change your world.



James Malvern

Data, words and (some) coding. Makers Academy (London) August 2018 cohort and Interactive Journalism MA graduate 2020 @ City, University of London