Passion, coding and women in tech — an interview with Muxu.Muxu’s Audrey

I recently caught up with Audrey Labuxiere, developer at creative studio Muxu.Muxu. Following a Master’s degree at a French business school, and a 2-year stint in London where she worked in SEO and performance marketing, she has now embarked on an entirely new career path. Thanks to coding boot-camp Le Wagon, she’s changed the shape of her professional future. She shared her experiences with me, along with her views on how tech is slowly becoming more accessible and democratic, with potentially greater visibility for women in tech.

Hi Audrey! Can you tell me a bit about yourself and why you want to talk to me today?

Hi Emily, I’d love to! I’m Audrey, I’m 29 years old, I live in Bordeaux and I’m right in the midst of a total career change. I co-founded the studio Muxu.Muxu and am a developer there.

What does your role at Muxu.Muxu entail?

I mainly do web development but we all also pitch in on lots of other things. I manage all the content, communications and marketing for our products, I keep the social networks active and I organize our retreats. So my days are very full, but it’s really stimulating stuff.

Why did you decide to learn to code?

I’ve always had various roles in marketing and customer success, until the moment came when I realized that I was just not fulfilled by my work anymore. Here in Bordeaux, I’ve been surrounded by developers and designers who have quite literally infected me with their passion! The triggering factor came last summer. Luc, a designer, former colleague and now co-founder of Muxu.Muxu, gave up his spare time to teach me the basics of front-end web integration (HTML and CSS). He helped me build a few simple landing pages. That was my Eureka moment. I’d discovered a new passion, and realized that I could make it my daily life. I took extended leave from my employment in order to attend Le Wagon.

What led you to the Le Wagon?

I came across Le Wagon whilst browsing tech articles. But the boot-camp had seemed to be totally out of my reach. The program lasts for 9 weeks, and I was already employed at that time, so for a while I put it out of my mind. But once I decided to make the jump and change career paths, I didn’t need to think twice: few training programs in Bordeaux are as appealing and as well reputed as that of Le Wagon.

What were your hopes and fears when embarking on this new adventure?

We’d been told over and over again that the training was going to be very intense, so of course that put us under a certain amount of pressure. I was scared that I wouldn’t be up to the job, both mentally and physically. True, I’ve never worked as hard as I did during those 9 weeks — not even during exam time at business school! But I knew that at the end of it all, my life could change. That was such an encouraging and positive thought.

How did you prepare yourself?

In terms of preparation for the course’s content, there were several talks to watch and exercises to prepare. That was so we could really hit the ground running, without being overwhelmed by all the new info to absorb in the first weeks. There were exercises on GitHub, JavaScript, about how to use a terminal… that sort of thing.

I also told my family that I would be going under the radar for a while. That may seem a bit extreme, but there just isn’t the time (or headspace) to think about anything else. I said to my boyfriend, “Right, for these next two months, you are going to have to hold the fort at home because my time is going to be 100% taken up by Le Wagon.” It was really important for me to have his support and to know that I wouldn’t have anything else to worry about. But a leopard can’t change his spots overnight… I’ll let you imagine how things really turned out!

Did you encounter difficulties or challenges during the program?

How about if I told you that I forgot to eat during the first week? We were so caught up in the exercises to complete that each day sped by in the blink of an eye. The hardest part was the intellectual fatigue. At one point, my brain simply couldn’t absorb any more information. During the part on JavaScript, I went home and revised the day’s lessons in tears, having completely lost hope that I’d ever understand what was going on. But from that point on, we started to put into practice everything we had learned.

When you decided to enter this industry, were you concerned about facing prejudice as a woman?

Yes and no; I remember that when I attended the FOSDEM event in Belgium last year, there were remarkably few women. I don’t think I remember seeing a single talk given by a woman. I realized then the extent to which this is still a very male-dominated industry. It didn’t concern me on a personal level, because the developers with whom I’ve worked and am working with are so cool and utterly respectful. But I see how code is becoming more accessible and popularized, and I’m hopeful that within a few years, we won’t even be asking this question anymore.

What next steps did you take immediately after finishing Le Wagon?

Just after completing Le Wagon, I resumed my old job as a customer success manager as planned. I stuck it out for just one day: it was impossible to go back and continue as if nothing had changed! My bosses understood and let me go. A few weeks later, we launched Muxu.Muxu.

What do you like about your role and work at Muxu.Muxu?

I like being able to work on many different projects and switch between programming languages. That helps me to keep improving my existing skills, whilst adding new strings to my bow.

Is there anything you would change or improve?

There’s so much to do when setting up a company; my social life has been pushed aside somewhat. But I’ve also never felt as happy and fulfilled as I do now. I need to find a good balance between my working life and the rest of my life! At Muxu.Muxu, we make an active effort to do this as a team: if we see that one of us is doing too much, we’ll advise him or her to take a break.

How have you continued to develop your skillset?

At Muxu.Muxu we are lucky to be surrounded by developers who are constantly sharing their knowledge, via the talks that we hold during our retreats. I learned a new way of organizing my CSS with Atomic CSS during a talk by Arnaud, developer at eFounders in Paris. I’m someone who appreciates all that is well ordered and organized, so Atomic CSS is right up my street!

I have just finished building the website of our app Cocotte in Vue.js, and am using components for the first time (which are also the bees knees!). JavaScript is a verbose language: a few months ago I really struggled with it, and now I can really see a difference in my understanding. If there’s one thing that I’d say I’m proud of — bearing in mind that I hate blowing my own trumpet — it would be how much progress I’ve made in the last year.

How do you imagine your future as a developer?

I’ve not had the chance to meet many female developers, but there’s someone who truly impresses me: Lauren (hi Lauren, if you’re reading!). Lauren was formerly Lead Developer on Google Wallet, and now she’s developing a video game. When I grow up, I want to be like Lauren! I’d also hope that this profession continues to welcome women in growing numbers.

What advice would you give to someone looking to make a radical career move and learn to code?

Personally, I don’t think that coding is for everyone. If you’re tempted, in the first instance I’d encourage you to try your hand at one of the many interactive resources available online — I’m a fan of the Ruby track on Codeschool.com. Even if you’re at ease with HTML and CSS, you won’t necessarily be so with object-oriented languages like Ruby and JavaScript.

It is also a good means of working out whether you could imagine yourself happily spending all day every day writing code. Learning to code in order to find work is great, for sure, but it’s good to find out if you are really passionate about it before taking the plunge!

What would you have said to yourself this time last year?

“Go for it, there’s so much cool stuff waiting for you!”
“Grandes têtes sur l’internet” — Photo sur toile, 2017

Thank you for reading, you can follow my daily adventures on Twitter 💚


Article written by the amazing Emily Fiennes

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