Interview with Venus Yu, Full Stack Developer
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am currently a full stack software developer working on a national electric charging project. I graduated from a small liberal arts college in 2017 and initially looked for work relating to my senior thesis involving social robotics but found work as a front end web developer instead. Eventually, I transitioned into full stack work and found my way to S44. In my free time I enjoy knitting, crocheting, and playing the accordion.
What influenced you to pursue a career in IT?
Though I had a passing interest in software development while in high school, my desire to program really took off in my second year of college after taking an "Intro to CS" course. The goal of this course was to create a game with Pygame, a Python library meant for making games, using all the knowledge we learned throughout the semester. Given that most of my hobbies involve creating things, it was no surprise that my interest in computer science took off after completing this course.
It made sense in concept that coding would create a tangible end product, but actually doing it? Completing my game - you simply had to shoot the balls falling from the top of the screen - gave me the same satisfaction I got after completing a sweater or learning a new accordion piece. I changed my major to Computer Science soon after and haven’t regretted it since. Well, other than having to go through a few advanced calculus courses that seemed far too over my head at the time!
What (or who) inspires you in this career?
What inspires me is seeing how technological advancement scan improve the quality of life for some many people. As an example, there have been many cases where Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, have helped increase the accessibility of homes for many people. Even something as simple as using your voice to control the lights in your home is something, I’ve taken for granted quite often, but hearing about how my friend’s grandparents can easily navigate their home using a voice assistant is incredible. This would not have been possible several decades ago.
In terms of someone who inspires me, I’d have to go with Simone Gertz, a very talented robotics inventor that is known for making self-described “useless” robots. It always reminds me that computers and machines only work as well as we make them and that it’s totally fine to have fun in our field. Not everything we make must have meaning - sometimes it’s okay to do something for the fun of it, without any deeper meaning attached. And she’s just a cool lady in general with an incredible plethora of knowledge and ideas.
What is one advice you would give to another woman pursuing a career in this field?
My piece of advice is learn how to learn and be kind to yourself when the learning doesn’t go as fast as you want it to. This field is ever evolving, so one of the best skills you can have is learning how to learn. As technology evolves, you don’t want your knowledge stagnating. Even if you may not be applying that knowledge immediately, it never hurts to keep up with the latest and greatest in the tech world to see what direction things are headed in. At the same time, if the learning doesn’t goas quickly as you’d want it to, be kind to yourself. It’s very easy to spiral into self-doubt after failing to understand a seemingly easy concept or when comparing yourself to your peers. I’ve often found myself questioning my abilities when I have gaps in my knowledge, but it’s taken time to realize that it’s okay to not know everything. In the end, what really matters is how willing you are to improve yourself in the face of a challenge. And of course, forgive yourself if you don’t learn something immediately.
Understandably deadlines and expectations are always a factor in how much time you have to learn, but if you don’t get it on the first try, don’t fret. Reach out to your friends and coworkers; we aren’t meant to be doing this completely alone after all. Or if you have no other points of contacts, Google is a wonderful resource.
When you dream about future opportunities or possibilities – what do you aspire towards?
In the future, I’d love to delve deeper into the field of social robotics. Having done my senior thesis on this topic, it’s fascinating how humans interact with robots. The conclusion of my thesis was that most people helped the robot due to its novelty rather than the innate desire to help a being in need. This made sense considering the novelty of what essentially was a vacuumless roomba with an iPad attached to it asking for assistance to press an elevator button, but my hope is to work on closing that gap so that people are more comfortable assisting and being assisted by robots.
And it doesn’t have to be the kind of humanoid robots we’d think of, though would be the goal. I’d be interested in developing for anything to do with automated machinery that interacts with humans.
But, if all else fails, I am thinking of starting a sheep and/or alpaca farm to sustainably fuel my knitting and crocheting hobby and eventually create my own yarn to dye and sell.