Natalie Ventura immersed herself in technology early in her college career. After taking a Python-focused computer science class, she knew she wanted to work at the intersection of software engineering and writing. She enjoys both the process of programming and watching how things change as you tweak them along the way.
To cement her knowledge, Villasana jumped into DigitalCrafts’ 16-week full stack immersive program. During her bootcamp stint, she worked on several projects including a live polling application where the audience can send instant feedback to presenters and an interactive app that translates body parts into different languages.
Next on her list? “Learning how to contribute to open source projects will probably be one of my first moves after graduating from DigitalCrafts,” says Villasana. “Finding ways to continue working with code written by people other than me will help me develop a good sense of coding habits to maintain.”
Learn more about this savvy junior developer seeking to work at an agency where she can explore different projects and keep stretching her skills.
What is your previous education?
I graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in Creative Writing. I also conducted research in Digital Media and Comparative American Studies as a Mellon Mays research fellow.
Why the interest in the technology field?
I discovered programming first through glitch art, and later through culture studies research. I realized that I didn’t want a career where I would only read and write about other people’s software — I wanted to develop my own too. In my last semester at college, I took an introductory computer science class taught in Python, and it completely hooked me in. I realized I wanted to pursue software engineering as well as writing after graduation.
What projects have you worked on?
I’m currently working on a Node application called AirSpace. It’s an audience response platform that allows presenters better insight into their audience’s thoughts by live polling audience members via phone, tablet, or computer. Audience members can easily join a presenter’s session by going to the AirSpace website and entering the presenter’s unique key. Our first version was built with lots of jQuery manipulations and WebSockets, but for our second version, we’re refactoring our live-updating dashboards using React.
My first project was BioLingual, an interactive anatomy map that translates the names of body parts and commonly associated symptoms by accessing ApiMedic and the Google Translate API. For example, if you clicked on our little avatar’s head, you could view the translation of “head” and symptoms such as “headache,” “swelling,” or “dizziness” in both English and another language of your choosing.
What tools are essential to you as a developer?
Pen and paper! A little ironic, but I’ve found that writing or drawing out an action plan on paper before I even touch a keyboard (and then continuing to write and draw during development) has been one of the most consistently helpful strategies for me to learn new technologies.
On-paper planning helps me think about code apart from the editor and ensure that I know what my intended programs are really doing.
How do you stay informed & on top of emerging trends?
Tech Twitter! Which was suggested to me at a Women Who Code ATL meetup. A mix of both social media and talking to developers in real life has definitely provided me with endless fountains of supportive tech resources.
What are your best technical or creative skills?
Having a few years of video editing and writing workshop experience has been a huge unexpected help with strategizing website layouts and functionality. Just like videos, I think a website should have a beginning, middle, and end.
I’m also interested in exploring new technologies that I don’t completely understand. For example, I was trying to make a flower graphic to put on my portfolio site, but Inkscape’s bitmap tracer was rendering this really ugly flower. Instead of tossing it, I took a screenshot of the flower at every tracing stage, and turned all of those screenshots into a GIF in Photoshop to allow a sort of glitchy blooming effect. I decided to keep this GIF on my portfolio because I thought it looked prettier and more interesting than the original stock image flower that I wanted.
What’s next on your list to learn?
Content-wise, I want to start developing with 3D visuals and I’d love to eventually build an app or game in VR. So following that, learning C# and Unity seems like the right move. I also want to keep practicing and learning more computer science fundamentals, like the math concepts that I missed in college. I’m really curious about graph theory.
Are you interested in working for a startup, mid-sized company, or a corporate giant?
Working at some kind of agency where I will be developing a variety of client projects over the course of the year appeals to me, but working long-term on one project could also be a great learning opportunity. I think as long as the culture is creative and values the effective mentorship of new developers, I could be happy at a workplace of any size.