The Detroit tech scene is filled with passionate, inspirational individuals who are eager to re-develop Detroit. The city has become a huge technology hub for many tech enthusiasts and innovators.
That being said, Brightwing has created Developing Detroit: An interview-based blog to spotlight individuals who drive technology in the city. Discover motivations, advice, and opportunities, straight from the source of Detroit innovation.
Our first Developing Detroit interview is with Amber Conville, a Software Engineer who prides herself on helping other software community amateurs & professionals in-and-around Detroit.
Coder | Tech Group Organizer | Detroit Software Community Activist
What’s your favorite part about your involvement on the tech scene?
I think my favorite part is that once you organize the event, a bunch of like-minded people get together & learn something new. It’s always nice to hear people say, “This is really cool. I feel really inspired to work on this.”
Where does your inspiration to code, and collaborate with other tech professionals, stem from?
I just really like coding. I’ve always liked puzzles, and I eventually got into coding just for fun. I’ve had coding jobs for about 7 years now. It’s great.
Have you faced any challenges in your programming/software development career? If so, how have you dealt with these challenges?
I’ve been pretty lucky in the jobs that I’ve had so far. I’ve liked them a lot and they’ve had a lot of good mentorship opportunities.
What advice do you have for women who are looking to become a programmer/tech professional?
I would say join user-groups and networking groups that are dedicated to women in code. Even if you’re intimidated and don’t fully comprehend what somebody is talking about, you’ll pick up little bits of information and you’ll meet other people who can help you. It can seem daunting at first, but that’s how you do it.
We’ve noticed that you’ve had a lot of involvement in Metro-Detroit’s tech-scene and software community.
What is it about Detroit that makes for a great tech environment?
Well Southeast Michigan has had a pretty amazing tech community anyways for a long time. It just seemed natural that if I wanted a group to exist, I would just make one. Lots of people who organize things are perfectly willing to help you do that here. I love it. Everybody is really excited about Detroit and about the software community. It’s perfect.
What’s your vision for Detroit programmers in 5-10 years from now?
Most people are hoping Detroit turns into a Silicon Valley, but I’m really not. I’m hoping that Detroit just keeps doing what it’s doing now. I think Detroit being a software city is awesome. I also think that we need lots of other industries here like art and science-type industries. I’m sure there’s a facet for software in all of those things.
What advice do you have for young tech enthusiasts that are looking to join the software community in Metro-Detroit?
Get out into the world. There’s a million meetups and user-groups. There’s a ton of people who are passionate about learning, teaching, and mentorship.
What kind of resources does the software community in Metro-Detroit have?
There’s a lot of people who want to help. I would suggest going to tech conferences too. 1DevDay – which has a lot of hard talks, is just one day where you can learn a lot, and there’s not a lot of commitment. TechWeek, SelfConference, and Grand Circus are also great resources for the software community.
Are there any tech startups in Detroit that really stand out to you? If so, which ones?
I haven’t been paying too much to the startup scene. I’m a little biased since I used to work at Detroit Labs, but they are a really great company and they’re doing a lot of great things with their apprenticeship program. They hired about 30 people last year who had no coding background, and most of them are developers now.
What are the perks about working in Detroit?
There’s a lot of really great food – I like that a lot! It’s also a great place to learn, grow, and do something new and exciting.
Tech professionals have a lot of opportunities and options these days.
What do you look for in an employer?
I work at a company called Test Double and it has all the things I want. It’s small and everybody is on the same page as far as what they want for the company, including the founders. It’s also remote, so I don’t have to leave my house if I don’t want to. Test Double is just really good at investing in their employees. They’re also committed to helping with personal and professional goals outside of work. That’s the kind of relationship that makes for a good company.
What are you passionate about and where do you want to take your career?
I really like organizing things that can give opportunities to people that might not have had them anyway. I like to help make things easy, discoverable, and safe to learn.
What advice do you have for developers looking for work?
Developers are in demand. Walk outside basically (laughs). But honestly, using your network is the best way to do it. If you don’t know any developers or software connections, start making connections at meetups and user-groups. Also, I suggest looking for programs like the apprenticeship with Detroit Labs.
You’ve organized one of the first Ruby user-groups in Detroit.
What inspired you to create the Detroit.rb user-group?
This group actually used to exist. It hadn’t met in over a year before I took it over. I started doing Ruby on Rails with my job now and I really wanted to go somewhere to beef up my skills.
What are some of the major advantages you see with this programming language?
Rails is dead easy for doing most things that you need to do on the web. That really makes it easy for people to get into programming without too much overhead. When you’re starting you can be like BOOM.. I now have a website that has a database, can save things, and looks nice if you put CSS on it. That’s a pretty huge step when you’re new to programming.
What advice do you have for programmers looking to learn Ruby?
There’s some really good resources like Rails for Zombies, which is a stupid fun little thing that will teach you how to start working in Rails, and therefore Ruby. I think Why the Lucky Stiff guy is still out there too, which teaches you how to write Ruby with cartoon foxes and silliness.
When you’re not programming, what do you like to do in your free time?
Play a lot of videogames (laughs)
Is there anyone or anything you idolize in the software community?
I have a lot of people that I look up to – it’s A LOT of people. Mostly, it’s the people that I’ve worked that have taught me how to program, and to those who mentored me through tough situations and rough teams. I also look up to the people who taught me how to do user-groups and conferences.
Which 3 words best describe the Detroit Tech community?
Passionate | Ambitious | Vibrant
Interested in being featured or have questions about the Developing Detroit series? Contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org