Developing Detroit is an interview-based blog created to spotlight individuals who drive technology in the city. Discover motivations, advice, and opportunities, straight from the source of Detroit innovation.
This month, the Developing Detroit spotlight shines on Elyse Turner. She has an extensive background in marketing and works in the heart of Detroit as an Android Developer.
Android Developer / Marketing Guru / Detroit Transplant
Take us through your journey – How did your career as an Android Developer begin?
Well first of all, I worked at Brightwing as a Marketing Specialist. When I was a Marketer, I used a lot of different CRM (customer relationship management) systems. I didn’t like all of these systems and wanted to figure out how I could do it better. That’s when I started looking into coding classes. I wanted to figure out how to create new features on websites so I started taking HTML classes with Girl Develop IT – that was a great place to start.
I first heard about Detroit Labs through an interview April [Brightwing Marketing Director] and I did with Erika Carlson in February, 2014. She discussed what Detroit Labs was, and talked about the Labs Apprenticeship Program.
I really started to learn when the apprenticeship started last September. The first month of the program was straight Java – It was all the basics on how to program in Java. I am more of a visual learner – it’s not a really warm and fuzzy language to learn, so it was good to see some of the terminology needed in development.
After learning the Java basics the first month, there was a 2-week time span where we were set free to start learning Android. They had some great tutorials we could work through. At this point, all the apprentices worked at their own pace and got interested in different things. Then we started doing group projects where we just kind of made up something and then created it – that was fun!
That was a bulk of the apprenticeship. You could graduate in December or January. I actually asked if I could graduate in January because it was taking a while for me to figure out some of the basics. I drilled down the essentials, and then by January I graduated. I was then put on an internal product team. I got to try out some things that I never did before. At one point, I also helped out on a project for an actual Detroit Labs client. It’s been a really great experience so far!
That’s a big leap to go from Marketing Specialist to Software Developer. Who and/or what inspired you to become a Detroit Developer?
I started having a major girl crush on Erika Carlson after I wrote that interview blog with her. She was originally a psych major and wasn’t technical at all. She knew someone that was a programmer, which influenced her. When she told me her story, it influenced me. It seemed like something I’d really like to do.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming software developers?
Honestly, It’s really hard. But there’s a lot of support, a lot of user groups and people you can get to know that will help steer you in the right direction. The software community is always willing to help if you’re having trouble.
Also, just get involved with the community. Detroit is awesome. I’m not sure about other tech cities, but I feel like the IT community is small enough where someone always knows someone who can help.
You can also look on meetup. If there’s a specific language you’re starting to learn, you can look up specific user groups in your area. Bloggers are another great resource who can help you get to where you need to go.
What advice do you have for women who are looking to become a programmer/tech professional?
Join user-groups for a language or platform that interests you. Even if you’re intimidated and don’t fully understand the material, you’ll pick up little bits of information and be around people who can help you. When I was learning java, which I found to be intimidating, learning it came on gradually. Sometimes it helps to hear terminology and then delve deeper on your own study time. You will feel more confident if you have at least heard the concepts before.
Some IT groups designed specifically for women include Girl Develop IT, Digerati Girls, and Girls Who Code. There are definitely organizations that are starting to influence younger girls so that’s good.
Metro-Detroit is home to a large, growing software community
In your eyes, what is it about Detroit that makes for a great tech environment?
Detroit’s growing so fast. There’s a lot of startups. There’s a lot of companies that are updating their IT departments. I can’t really compare it to Silicon Valley because I’ve never been there, but it seems like people are pretty inclusive and supportive. It’s just really nice here.
How much of a role do you think the software community is playing in the economic resurgence & development of Detroit?
Most of the startups revolve around tech. All of them are usually based around an app or a service you could use through an app. It’s becoming something that everything is built around. Every industry in Detroit is trying to use technology to advance in a way that makes sense for their company, and it seems to be paying off.
What are the perks to working in Detroit?
There’s always stuff going on down here. People might think there’s nothing happening in Detroit if they never come here, but we’re in Campus Martius right now and there’s a band playing, there’s food trucks, and a lot of people around. For the most part, there’s always something going on.
Are there any software development groups or organizations in Detroit that you’d recommend?
Girl Develop IT of course. I used to do some stuff with IT in the D as well. I haven’t had as much time lately to network, but I would definitely like to. But yeah I really like IT in the D – they do a great job. I’ve also been to Craftsman Guild Detroit run by James York. They’re really cool too. There’s a ton of different groups.
Tech professionals have a lot of opportunities and options these days.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
It starts with coffee.
So software developer teams work on card walls – They basically help you track your project. There’s both large and small cards that developers can pick up – It could be an entire feature or a piece of a feature. If you’re in the middle of a card, it could take several days. Usually your project manager will have the cards prioritized, so we work on the features that matter to the release. If you’re working on a card, you might come in and get that done.
Usually at some point during the day we have a stand-up, which is basically talking about what you worked on the previous day. It’s a really good way to talk about projects, and get help if you need it.
There will be some days where you feel like you don’t know how to do things, and other days when you’ll finish a task and be like “I’m a wizard’. It’s an awesome feeling. From what I hear from other developers, those feelings never really go away.
What advice do you have for developers looking for work?
Definitely use your network. Friends, people in user-groups, sponsors of user-groups. If you have a skill sought after, your network should be able to help you. Be communicative when you’re interviewing of course. If you have skills that are starting to fade out, I would really try to learn some of the newer relevant things. You always have to be learning, especially in IT.
When it comes to working in IT, what sets Detroit apart from the rest?
Well I have only worked in Detroit. I think California is probably the same way, but Detroit has a lot of organizations that help people who want to learn. We have people that are life-long tech people, but it’s not unfriendly to people like myself who still have a lot to learn.
Describe your dream job?
I don’t know. I’m having a lot of fun doing what I do right now. Half the day I’m doing Android stuff, and the other half I’m doing marketing for one of our internal products, which is called Current. It’s 2 very different things, which keeps things interesting. At times I get a little overwhelmed, but I’m never bored.
Outside of being an Android Developer, what do you like to do in your free time?
I like running, and try to exercise when I’m not super tired. I like wine too. I felt kind of like a hermit during the apprenticeship, but it was well worth it. Sometimes though, it’s nice to just unwind and relax.
If you weren’t a software developer, what would your alternate career choice be?
I’m not sure, because I just switched to this one. That’s probably a question for Amber Conville or Onorio Catenacci who have been in the industry for a while.
Which 3 words best describe Detroit’s tech community?
Friendly, Collaborative, Encouraging
Would you like to give any shout-outs?
– Detroit Labs for giving me such a great opportunity
– Nathan Hughes (one of Detroit Labs founders) is awesome
– Erika Carlson, like I mentioned earlier
– Everyone who went through apprentice class beta
– Everyone who I’m probably forgetting
– And Brightwing!
Interested in being featured or have questions about the Developing Detroit series? Contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org