It may sound corny, but at LoadSys, our biggest differentiator really is our people. In a recent blog post, we detailed why we hire only U.S.-based developers, and how that helps us find high-quality people and work efficiently as a team. But we don’t simply want to tell you about our team — we want you to get to know the team members, in their own words. As such, we are launching a new blog series entitled “Meet LoadSys,” in which we interview members of our team about their work experience, their thoughts on the industry as a whole and more.
Our first interview is with Kris Dockter, a Madison, Wisconsin-based programmer who has been with us for four years. Please read on to learn about Kris’ journey to becoming a developer, her experience as a woman in technology, and more!
In a predominantly male-dominated role and industry, what do you enjoy most about software development? What sparked your interest in the field?
Delivering quality software is in part about puzzle solving. How can I give the client what they want while producing code that will be easily maintainable by either myself or a co-worker in six months? As a child, not only did I enjoy puzzles, but I had an affinity for organization and doing things the “right” way, even though that often meant a greater time investment. Although I am no longer doing any work in Drupal (a content management system built in PHP), I credit Drupal for sparking my interest in PHP development. After reading documentation, and with no programming skills, I was able to host a Drupal site and do a few customizations on my own. This led to finding local meetup groups. I would come home from those meetups invigorated and ready to learn more. This culminated in a career change and, eventually, my position with LoadSys Consulting.
Have you ran into any challenges being a woman in the field?
I’ve been fortunate all these years to work with both great men and women. I am treated only as an equal and I encourage everyone around me to be transparent and honest with me. I have run into just a few situations along the way, particularly when attending a conference that is mostly men — it’s been assumed I’m the spouse, not the attendee. More recently, I’ve seen a more balanced mix of men and women at these industry conferences, and don’t get the “spouse question” any longer. As a woman, one accomplishment I’m particularly proud of was earning my Zend PHP Certification. Once again, I found myself to be the only woman in the exam room and, upon passing, one of the test administrators congratulated me personally, having not seen many women even choosing to take the exam. Also significant for me was undergoing this process with my male co-workers. I could not let myself fail!
Can you tell us a little more about your background? When did you initially gain an interest in development?
I was fortunate to grow up around computers. I was first introduced to software development as a child, when my parents got my sister and I one of the early Apple II computers. Using the BASIC programming language, I created a simple program for my mother that assisted her with her quilting hobby. She gave me the parameters of what she needed to calculate her fabric requirements and I created a program for her that allowed her to enter a few values and the program computed her final measurement. Fast forward to my college years and this dream was put on hold while I pursued a business degree. Post-college found me working in accounting, where I ultimately grew bored and no longer felt challenged. At this time, PHP was rapidly gaining momentum and content management systems built on PHP were popping up all over the internet. As these drew my interest, I knew I’d have to get serious about programming to really understand the inner workings of these systems. This eventually led to me leave the accounting field and return to school in my late 30s to get an Associate’s degree in PHP development. After three years as a junior developer at a company just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, I discovered LoadSys Consulting, where I have been not only happy, but challenged and fulfilled every day I start working.
What are some of the perks of being a remote worker?
I feel so fortunate to be working at a 100% remote job and can not envision returning to an office. For me, this means complete control over my environment. Sometimes I want music, sometimes I don’t. I need a snack? It’s just a few steps to my kitchen. No more annoying commutes to work. All this means I’m ultimately more productive for the client. If I feel great, it is reflected in my work. Software development is the ideal industry for remote work — happy developers means happy clients.
Can you tell me about one of your most favorite projects and why it stood out to you?
My favorite project continues to be the site I am the primary developer on — PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. The mission of the site is to connect wedding dress buyers and sellers, which I personally find to be an incredibly satisfying concept. I wish I had thought of it! This site has been extremely fun for me to work on and grow with as well. I’ve gotten to improve the code base while delivering the client some great features that she has requested. What further makes working on this project rewarding is that although I am the lead developer, I can count on my co-workers to immediately step in if there is an emergency with the site and manage any server issues that come up. Working for LoadSys is truly a team experience and I look forward to a long and continued relationship with this client.
What excites you about what’s on the horizon when it comes to web technology?
How (if at all) do you connect with women in the industry? Are there any networking opportunities or groups you can join?
I’ve been fortunate that Madison has a number of meetup groups, both based on various development topics and for women in technology. I’ve attended several women in technology meetups where we’ve had a chance to not only swap personal stories but work on our own projects and share ideas. Madison has a strong community of women in technology that I’m proud to be a part of.
Favorite part about living in the Midwest?
Being close to my family and friends. There are places I’ve traveled to in the country where I’ve felt I could live, but ultimately I know I want to stay here to share the holidays with my family and weekend evenings with friends.
What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of work?
My husband and I love traveling, whether it be a flight to a warm destination or just a quick getaway on a Saturday. When we’re at home, we enjoy trying new restaurants in the area, hanging out with friends and family or just sitting with our laptops (he is a developer too!) “tinkering” with code. In the summer you can find us on one of Madison’s many bike trails, and the rest of the year, working out at the local gym.
We hope you enjoyed our first of many employee spotlights. Stay tuned as we continue our “Meet LoadSys” blog series.