1) A much-belated welcome to ToneDen! What's your role and how long have you been here?

I've been at ToneDen a little over three months now. I add a feminine flair to the development team as a software engineer with a focus on front-end development, but over the last few weeks, I've been delving into a lot of back-end features, which is SUPER exciting! I honestly can't believe it's been three months since I started working at ToneDen—the saying 'Time flies when you're having fun' is very apt in this situation.

2) You started coding at a young age—thirteen, I've heard! What sparked your interest?

I've always been interested in technology because I grew up watching my uncle go to university for security architecture in tech. So, after I quit all my lifelong dance classes at thirteen, I asked my grandma for my first computer to foray into a new hobby. When that shiny new Compaq, with the purple back and purple speakers, was brought home from Best Buy, I immersed myself into anything tech-related I could get my hands on. The interest in coding came about in the age of social media explosion for me, back in the days where Xanga blog diaries and MySpace playlists took ahold of the early aughts and teens spent their waking hours looking up lyrics to Usher, Yahoo! searching about the Britney Spears-Christina Aguilera feud, and changing their AIM screennames every couple days. The desire to learn basic fundamental coding languages like HTML and CSS initially sparked because I had the urge to personalize my own MySpace page: I needed my top 8  and my emo-curated playlist be a standout amongst the crowd of Gen Y'ers. From there, my thirst for knowledge in development kind of took over and I began to build websites for friends, businesses, and celebrities. I became the go-to for any landing page my friends wanted—I spent a lot of time helping friends make fansites for their favorite bands. It's increasingly entertaining to look back and see how music has always played a part in my journey as a software engineer. Over the years since that Compaq found a home in the living room of my grandparents' house, I taught myself the tricks of the trade—everything from PHP to Javascript. To this day I wake up wanting to learn more and more because coding is an ever-evolving skill. Also if anyone needs a fansite for their favorite band—I'm your girl.

3) Where has coding taken you in life? What STEM accomplishments are you proudest of?

Coding has enhanced my life in many ways—I've met so many incredible people because of software engineering, and I've had experiences that others could only dream of. I've been able to work on some pretty cool projects, such as films and innovative products. I'm actually proudest of my tenacity to push through in this field because it is a boy's club and with that, I've encountered some less-than supportive leaders in my professional time as a software engineer. I'm actually a pretty sensitive person, so although I felt really let down in some situations when leaders would disrespect me, my stubbornness took over and I've made it a point to prove them wrong and keep on trucking a lot in an industry that made it difficult. I've seen some change in STEM over the years, but there is still a lot of work to be done to make inclusion a real and accessible thing. I'm lucky to now work with a team that makes equality one of its priorities: ToneDen is probably the first company I've been at where I've felt seen and heard in a very big way.

As for recent accomplishments, I'm really proud of the Women in Tech and Music event Melanie and I threw in August of this year. The energy of that event was incredibly empowering.

4) Tell me about Inspirer. It's pretty incredible to found a magazine and find distribution.

Inspirer came about in interesting fashion. Back in 2015, I saw a need in the publishing space for a magazine that gave women in music the opportunity to speak their truths unfiltered. Initially, Inspirer was meant to be a personal project, something I could distract myself with after work when I needed a creative outlet and a break from coding. I've long had a desire to write—although I'm not professionally trained, I've always excelled in language arts throughout my academic journey. At the time Inspirer was being developed, media had become a landscape for clickbait and gossip mills. Because of this shift in focus in periodicals, all the real stories, the heart-wrenching journeys and the achievements of women in music, got buried under all the noise. Inspirer's mission was to highlight those stories that got lost in the shuffle.

Inspirer went from a blog to a digital magazine, to a print magazine with a four-year deal with a popular circulator on the East Coast. Much like most decisions in my life, I  impulsively sent an issue of Inspirer with Sheryl Crow on the cover to our circulator back in late 2016, I quickly forgot about my action because I try not to obsess about things out of my control. A week later I received an email from the VP of the circulator offering Inspirer the contract. It was a really amazing and overwhelming moment—amazing because Inspirer's team literally consisted of girls in their bedrooms writing for peanuts because they believed in the platform and overwhelming because no one on the team, including myself, knew how to run a magazine that was going to be available in every Barnes & Noble in the United States and Canada. Inspirer has seen some pretty amazing achievements—one of our curated videos went viral, a video that focused on the lack of women inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which in turn had the RRHOF contacting me telling me to quit highlighting the startling omissions. Of course, Inspirer's team took this as a challenge and our next print issue included women that should be inducted—coincidentally, a few have been inducted post-series. I think Inspirer has done a lot of good in the mediascape, and I've been very thankful to have a team of talented women fighting the good fight with me.

5) What does the intersection of coding and music look like in your daily life?

Currently, it's a sweet, exhilarating marriage of both. I spend my days coding at ToneDen but what I'm developing helps users in the live events field, where there's a big emphasis on music. While coding I spend a decent amount of time listening to new artists on Spotify to help with problem-solving while I'm coding a new feature or trying to figure out a bug. It's pretty fun to be a part of a team that spends their weekends going to music festivals and concerts; I feel as though my obsession with everything music has only expanded because of this amazing job.

6) You've long been passionate about advancing opportunities for girls and women. What plans do you have to continue developing those opportunities in the future?

Right now I'm trying to find a way to uplift women in STEM and music via social media. A couple of months ago I started a series on Instagram called #WomenYouShouldKnow in STEM and Music. My series highlights women in both fields via Instagram stories; I'm lucky to have formed a huge following over the years on the platform, and I'd like to use that engagement to shine a light on an underrepresented community. I find that a lot of attention in the STEM space goes to women with a high-following count, so I'm on a mission to crack that algorithm and make sure every woman—from scientists to engineers to songwriters and so forth—has a chance at being discovered for her work, not how many likes or followers she has.

Beyond that, I'm advocating for more events focused on boosting women in STEM, as well as attempting to join the boards of non-profits that focus on similar messaging to enact change that way, too. I'd also like to break into the conference landscape and give keynotes on the importance of inclusion in tech.

7) What are you most excited about in your work at ToneDen?  

Every sprint I've worked on thus far in my time at ToneDen has been really exciting for me, not only because I get to work on a product I believe in but also because the team I work with every day is full of amazing, talented, smart people. It's incredible to be able to work every day around music-lovers on a product that has helped so many people in the marketing arena; I talk to people on support a lot about how ToneDen has changed the game for them. I'm really thrilled to be working on incredible features that I know our users will love, and I'm equally as thrilled to be learning and evolving my skills as a software engineer with the help of an exceptional team. I can't wait to see what the future holds for me and my team here with ToneDen!

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