Eli Schutze — UI Engineer

Eli is a UI Engineer at The Trainline, a regular coach at codebar, has spoken at codebar monthly. And if all that isn’t enough she is also on the board for Women Hack for Non Profits.

You can catch Eli on the internet at:

@elibelly

What did you want to be growing up?

I never really wanted to be anything specific (except definitely ‘not-a-grown-up’!) which actually ended up being problematic when it came time to leave school and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My mom got so fed up of my indecision that she actually sent me to a psychologist to take a bunch of aptitude and personality tests hoping that if I knew what I was good at I’d have a magic light bulb moment. When the results came in they just said I had an aptitude for “anything I set my mind to.” No help at all!

When did your interest in tech start?

Officially, it was at university when I started taking computer science courses ‘just to see what it was like’ but I think the early signs, in retrospect, include learning the Neopets rainbow HTML guide. That tiny bit was very much my first self-taught coding experience.

How did you make the transition to being a developer?

I originally went to university to study economics. I was lucky that I went to an American liberal arts school so I didn’t have to pick what degree I wanted until the second year. which was a perfect deal for teenage me. The very first term I took an ‘Intro to Computer Science’ course where they made us type in some words (in Java!) and click Run and all of a sudden we had made a circle bounce around a screen and change colors! The rest, as they say, is history.

What was your first development job?

My first development job was right after university at a rum company back home in tropical Nicaragua. No, we did not get free rum. We did, however, work on building internal company software tools and data visualisation for measuring sales performance! Woo!

What is your favourite thing about being a developer?

Ooo, I love when it works. That feeling when the program finally does the thing it’s supposed to is priceless.

It’s an amazing reward for all the hard work you put into solving the problem. So many coding problems require troubleshooting, researching and learning in order to fix and the moment it runs is just magical.

Also, I love scaring civilians with my matrix-like screens of code.

That feeling when the program finally does the thing it’s supposed to is priceless.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

I’d say recently my coolest project is Ministers Under The Influence, which is a website that aims to take public but hard to find government data about who ministers are meeting with and make it accessible. The hope is that this will better hold government accountable and increase transparency as well as become a great tool for activists, journalists and concerned citizens alike. It originally came out of a weekend hackathon, Hack Brexit, but then it got chosen to participate in an accelerator so we got to work on it for 6 more months.

I love that while it started at a Brexit event it has transformed in to a tool to tackle global topics of transparency and information access and an exploration of the marriage between citizenship and technology. It’s also all open source!

How did you get involved with codebar?

Since I’ve been in London I’ve been to tons of tech community events. The London tech scene has made me love what I do so much more and codebar was one of those things I had heard about from a few different people in the community so I just had to try it out for myself.

Why do you keep coming back to codebar?

What’s not to love? The people are great, coaches, students and organisers alike.

I love helping people feel like they can do it and I love that moment when you help someone reach a realisation of “hey, I get it!” because coding, I think, is scary and so hoping that being there to guide someone else can help them not be as afraid and become confident learners.

We also get to see other people’s offices and get fed so it’s a win-win-win in my book.

You are also heavily involved in Women Hack for Non Profits (WHFNP), could you tell us a little more about that please?

Yes! Women Hack for Non Profits is a group that is trying to match causes in need of tech help with volunteer women in tech to help build a safe community for the developers, help the cause and increase women’s open source footprint all at once. I am currently on the board of WHFNP so I get to help plan events (meetups, tutorials, tech talks, hack eves) and help out with volunteers and projects as well as decide how to keep the organisation following it’s mission.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ve clearly never been much of a planner. I’ve just started a new job in London so I’ll be around for a while at least but other than that no spoilers.

What advice would you give to aspiring developers?

I think what I would say is that it’s OK to not know things. I spent so long kicking myself about things I didn’t know and thinking that made me a bad developer but the truth is the coding universe is so vast that you’ll never know it all.

Learn one thing and then if you get good at that or don’t like it start with another but don’t try to take it all in at once, it’s not necessary! There are going to be so many conflicting opinions of anything from language to framework to text editor to keyboard that whatever you end up using will be part preference, part skill and part blind chance. You can always change your mind later, too!

It’s OK to not know things.

What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

I think this one time when I felt I needed a change so I borrowed several digits of money and moved across an ocean and several time zones away from everyone I knew to a country I had never been to to get a master’s degree at a college I had only read about online.

Luckily, my program was great, I have my degree and am still totally in love with London a year and a half later!