Bettina Shzu-Juraschek – I love that I create the future

Rails Girls Berlin “Wall of Fame”

This a series of interviews with women, that have successfully made their way into coding.
Check out their stories, get inspired!


 

Meet Bettina who got a Bachelor of Arts in art history at age of 17 and found her new profession as a Product Manager after attending a Rails Girls Project Group for a while in order to learn how to programm.

 

I love that I create the future. One of my heroes Alan Kay has said: „The best way to predict the future is to invent it.“

Hi Bettina , can you tell us a bit about yourself and your educational background.
I grew up in Texas and moved to New York City when I was 17 to get my Bachelor of Arts in art history, of all very useful things. I loved looking at beautiful objects and learning about artists, history, and culture through them. I even got a Maitrise (the French equivalent of an Master of Arts) in art history at La Sorbonne in Paris. My American BA was quite catholic compared to German BA’s : I studied science, French, political economy and philosophy, classic literature, and I even had to pass a swim test to graduate, as my school wanted to prepare me for life-long learning and critical thinking–what we in the US call the liberal arts.

How did you get to know about Rails Girls Berlin?
I found out about the very first RG workshop in April 2012 from a friend of Lena Herrmann. I couldn’t attend because the workshop took place on the same day of my wedding! When I found out that there would be a second workshop in May, I made sure that I showed up.

Why did you join the workshop and what was your impression of it afterwards?
At that point I was making some basic HTML webpages within a CMS, so I was curious to learn more about how to build websites.

I couldn’t believe how much we had accomplished in just one day. The generosity and welcoming attitude of my coaches, who were infinitely patient with me, flat-out amazed me. I am still so very grateful to them. Seeing all the many curious / beginner programmers there made me realize that I was not alone.

Had you any previous programming experiences before?
Just some HTML formatting and link setting. Now I know that that’s not really programming, but I thought it was at the time.

How did you continue learning?
At the end of the RG workshop, I told my coach I wanted to continue learning. He suggested forming a study group. I didn’t know what that was, so I asked him what I needed to do to form one. He told me that I needed a group and one or two coaches, so I asked the group with whom I had learned at the workshop (Anja was definitely here, maybe also Carla, Debbie, and Rebecca? not sure anymore) and I asked him to coach us.

At the first study group meeting, we decided to meet every Monday night to build our first web application together–Text to Squares. I had found my tribe, and the rest is history.

What was the biggest obstacle during your learning process?
Making time to code outside of the study group. At this point every extra hour spent coding increased the learning curve dramatically.

When and how did you decide to change your profession?
Before I joined RG, I was already looking to move out of the art world, but the few options I had considered didn’t really fit me well. Because I loved coding with the RubyMonsters, I thought about becoming a developer for a while. I realized, however, that some of my strengths would atrophy in a junior developer role, so I started looking at other roles in the tech world. The next role I considered was SCRUM master. I conducted an informational interview with a SCRUM Master I met at Social Media Week to learn more about her job. While talking to her about the SCRUM process, I learned about the product owner role. As soon as I heard about it, I wanted to learn more. I asked the SCRUM master if I could talk to a product owner to learn more. While meeting with the product owner for a separate informational interview, I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to be a product person because I could grow all my strengths in that role. It’s funny now to think back to that time, because now I consider that product owner a dear colleague!

Where you afraid of that step? If so, how do you think about it in retrospective? Was there a reason to be afraid?
I wasn’t afraid, because programming taught me that I can learn ANYTHING if I know what to Google.

What do you like the most about your new profession?
I love that I never stop learning. Product management is where technology, business, and user experience intersect. There’s always something to learn about emerging technologies, new business models to serve more people better, and humans–we’re always evolving so that the user experience has to evolve too.

I love that I create the future. One of my heroes Alan Kay has said: „The best way to predict the future is to invent it.“

I love that I make things that touch people’s lives every day.

What is your advice to women who want to learn coding?

  • Just start. Even if your mind makes excuses, just show up to a meetup or a workshop.
  • Find a group/buddy to do it with you. I feel like the people with whom I’ve pushed code live are like family. I’ll do anything for them.
  • Don’t read too much about it if that prevents you from starting; the key is to try it. Reading how to ride a bike will never teach you as much as getting on one.

Your extra question from Laura Wadden: How do you deal with the challenges you face?
I ask people who have faced the same challenges how they dealt with it. If I don’t know anyone personally, I find someone who has written a blog post or a book about it and read that. I don’t reinvent the wheel; I ask someone who has done it how they did it and adapt their solution to fit my situation. It’s like StackOverflow for non-programming questions.

We thank Bettina for helping us to inspire more women to get into coding and wish her happy coding. If you want to tell your own story, please get in touch with us.