Chicks that Rip: Elise Worthy, LivingSocial

05 Sep 2012

Our own Jessica Allen interviews LivingSocial engineer and Hungry Academy graduate Elise Worthy about the program, learning Rails and living in Washington DC.

  • 0:00 All about Elise
  • 1:45 How Elise got into technology marketing
  • 3:20 How to market to developers
  • 4:45 Getting into Hungry Academy
  • 6:15 A typical Hungry Academy day
  • 8:20 Finding a good way to learn Rails
  • 10:30 Avoiding burnout
  • 13:30 Elise's new role at LivingSocial

Elise's website: http://bebrandworthy.com/ Elise on Twitter: https://twitter.com/eliseworthy

Links: Hungry Academy: http://hungryacademy.com/ JumpstartLab: http://jumpstartlab.com/ Rails Hotline: http://rails.pockethotline.com/ PeepCode: https://peepcode.com/ RailsCasts: http://railscasts.com/ jQuery: http://jquery.com/ D3: http://d3js.org/

Jessica Allen: Hi, welcome to Cloud Out Loud. I’m Jessica Allen and I’m here with Elise Worthy. So how are you Elise?

Elise Worthy: I’m doing quite well, how are you Jessica?

Jessica Allen: I’m doing good. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Elise Worthy: Sure. I am a developer at LivingSocial. I recently graduated from the Hungry Academy program that was out of their D.C. office and before that I was a marketing consultant, I actually still own a marketing consultancy for Rails focused companies. And I actually have a business background, I have a MBA too so I’m just kind of all over the place but I’m really excited about my future as a developer.

Jessica Allen: Cool. I noticed that you got your MBA at UCSD?

Elise Worthy: Yeah.

Jessica Allen: And I got my Bachelor’s there.

Elise Worthy: Nice.

Jessica Allen: Yeah, yeah. How did you like it?

Elise Worthy: I love UC San Diego, a lot of people say that you must not have gotten much work done, it’s like right on the coast, it’s so beautiful. And I was like well, two years inside; it was nice when I walked outside. But yeah, I think UC San Diego is beautiful and I love that it’s a research university, I thought that really contributed to my Master’s program.

Jessica Allen: Cool. Yeah, I felt the same – I don’t know. I felt like I went to the beach maybe like three times so like I know it was right there but –

Elise Worthy: Yeah, what was your degree in?

Jessica Allen: It was the interdisciplinary computing in the arts.

Elise Worthy: Awesome.

Jessica Allen: So it was kind of a new major when I start – yeah, it was cool. Anyways, so how did you get into marketing and I guess kinda specifically how’d you get into technology marketing?

Elise Worthy: Yeah, so I’ve always been a nerd like I’ll throw that out there first and foremost but my first real opportunity to do that was when I was in San Diego actually I worked for the corporate marketing department of Sony Electronics.

Jessica Allen: Okay.

Elise Worthy: And I found like I went to a lot of their trade shows and I found that I just really loved geeking out about the technical specs of all the things that we were showing. So Sony Electronics at that time was like TVs, laptops, it didn’t involve any of the games yet and – so they would bring these like super nerdy people to like talk about all the specs and like I would just sit there at the conferences and shoot the shit with them and it was really fun so I think that kinda kicked it off.

Jessica Allen: Cool. And then so when you went on to found Brandworthy, your consultancy, what kind of inspired you to do that?

Elise Worthy: So I love the Rails community a lot and they’re a lot of startups in the community that don’t really need a full-time marketing person but don’t have a lot of marketing background so their technical founders need a little extra help so I was able to get with the people that I really like working with and just help them on their marketing.

Jessica Allen: Yeah. And at Cascadia or RubyConf you gave a great talk about kinda dev marketing and you were very aware of the fact that many devs kind of roll their eyes when they think about like the marketing department. Why do you think that is?

Elise Worthy: So I think marketing has been traditionally pitched as something like very soft and very you know, you can’t get metrics and you can’t – it’s all touchy feely stuff and the way that I look at marketing is like absolute, that’s not the case. I love statistics, I love marketing statistics and that’s data driven marketing has really been my focus and my expertise so that is where marketing gets exciting for nerds I think.

Jessica Allen: And I guess what are the main challenges for – that marketing faces when they’re marketing to developers?

Elise Worthy: Gosh, I think there’s – so a lot of developers, at least the ones that I’ve worked with are – their target audience are people like themselves. They think that they can just handle it themselves but I think there’s a lot of information that traditional old school marketing can help them with in refining their product and refining their offerings but – yeah, I think – I think developers think that they have a handle on it but.

Jessica Allen: I guess let’s talk about Hungry Academy and you’re – I think you’re part, is it the first Hungry Academy alumni group for LivingSocial and how did you first hear about Hungry Academy?

Elise Worthy: So I actually find out a pretty unconventional way. Jeff Casimir of JumpstartLab was one of my clients. So I heard of it; he was going to be doing it and I was like this is amazing, sorry I can’t work with you. But – and he says well, you know I can’t really like guarantee you a spot, you’re just gonna have to apply like everybody else. And so I was really scared and really bummed out.

Jessica Allen: Well, what was that whole application process like?

Elise Worthy: It was really crazy. So they – they opened their window and it was a pretty short window and it was right over the holiday break in December. And so I just spent like two days doing my application and it included a video and then a 30 word limit explanation of a hard, technical topic in your field. So I chose like inventory planning and I wrote everything on inventory planning, it took me way too long but it was – after that it was just kind of like submitting and waiting for, I don’t know, at least a couple of weeks to hear back whether I got an interview or not.

Jessica Allen: Oh, my gosh. So after you got in and got started, I know you moved to D.C., how – what was like a typical day like when you were in Hungry Academy?

Elise Worthy: Oh, man. So Jeff was – so Jeff was the lead instructor.

Jessica Allen: Okay.

Elise Worthy: Jeff is super funny in that like he’s very rigid about some things so like we would start our day exactly at 9:00 a.m. and if you were late you got locked outside.

Jessica Allen: Oh, my gosh! Did you ever get locked outside?

Elise Worthy: Yeah, I think somehow I did and then – yeah, so I – I got a lot of flak for that but anyway, yeah, so I’m not really a morning person so that was really interesting too. But there were a couple hours of class time every day, a lot of project work time with groups and then on Fridays we had an open source time period.

Jessica Allen: Okay. What was the open source time devoted to?

Elise Worthy: Open source Fridays, everybody would work on different things. Some of the – some of my favorite things were – I wrote a really basic tutorial on APIs and that was really fun because I like toned it back to like an absolute beginner level so yeah, people – people wrote tutorials, people contributed. I think somebody got something accepted into Ruby core. It just kinda varied. We also spent some time on the Rails hotline too but usually it was people just calling in trolling me.

Jessica Allen: Maybe you could explain what the Rails Hotline is?

Elise Worthy: Yeah. So Rails Hotline – gosh, I don’t know the URL but you can probably just Google for it – is something where operators just stand by and take Rails questions. And so if you like have a problem on something and you just want like someone to bounce ideas off of Rails hotline is like a really good opportunity to do that. I think people also just called and like asked about Hungry Academy too.

Jessica Allen: Okay.

Elise Worthy: Yeah, but I think it’s a really great resource.

Jessica Allen: So what ended up being the most effective way for you to learn Rails?

Elise Worthy: Just a lot of practice I think. Jeff and Matt Yoho were definitely like the best instructors I can think of for giving us the foundation and then letting us go off on our own and work on projects. I think the time when I really got it was when I worked on an independent project where I just focused on core Rails concepts and that was when it really clicked for me so just repeated practice and just like trying the same things over and over again because over time you get better.

Jessica Allen: And what did you find was the most difficult thing to learn?

Elise Worthy: I don’t know. I’m working on JavaScript right now, that’s pretty challenging. Gosh, I don’t know, it changes.

Jessica Allen: Well, what then – what did you find maybe was like most enjoyable?

Elise Worthy: I actually really liked building my own API. I used the Rails API; I think Santiago Pastorino made it. It’s like a – just a smaller thing that you can use just for building JSON APIs in Rails and like I test drove it, it was really clean and I had a really good time. So I think just like building really elegant data structures is the thing that I really liked doing.

Jessica Allen: Cool. So how did you feel about living in D.C.?

Elise Worthy: So I – I’m from Seattle and I’d only lived in Seattle and San Diego before moving to D.C. and I thought I was like a city person and it turns out that like Seattle is like totally backwater. I lived right downtown in D.C. which I think affected my perception as well but yeah, D.C. is very fast and people appear to be very work oriented so that was interesting and different for me. It was a little too fast for me.

Jessica Allen: Okay. Also burnout is a big issue with developers and what was your take on preventing it from happening to you and kind of what advice could – you could give – could you give others who are at risk?

Elise Worthy: So work life balance is super crucial to me, I think that was – I was a proponent of not working late at Hungry Academy where I know like it’s been talked about a lot, how hard people worked and what long hours people worked at Hungry Academy. And I was actually probably like the slacker of the group. I think I watched people who would spend late nights just banging their heads against something and not really making any progress while others went home and like played Frisbee and cooked dinner and then was like ready to go in the morning. So I think – I think the thing that’s really crucial is just like being very intentional about taking time off, taking time away from the computer and like doing something else. Because hours worked does not equate to more code or better code or more learning even.

Jessica Allen: You were working with Rails developers when you were doing marketing in Seattle and how did your perspective of the community change when you learned – after learning more about coding?

Elise Worthy: I don’t know if it did.

Jessica Allen: Okay.

Elise Worthy: I think the Rails community is really unique in how much people are in involved and how caring everyone is and I still think that’s absolutely true now that I’m writing code.

Jessica Allen: Cool. And I think at Cascadia you mentioned that there’s a lot of online tutorials that are geared at beginners and there’s also sort of these like in depth and more technical tutorials but there’s this gap in between and there’s not kind of those like intermediate sort of steps and I was wondering if you have found any resources for that in between area?

Elise Worthy: No.

Jessica Allen: Okay.

Elise Worthy: Yeah, I guess practice. Yeah, I can’t – I can’t really think of any – I mean PeepCode is always a good resource and RailsCasts are a really good resource for like very – if you need a solution to one specific thing, I don’t know, like email or I don’t know, mailers, or background jobs or anything. RailsCasts is really good for that but overall I think it’s just practice which kind of stinks, like I wish there were more but I don’t know exactly what the answer to that is.

Jessica Allen: Okay. And so what do you do now in your new role at LivingSocial?

Elise Worthy: So I’m really, really excited about my new job at LivingSocial because I am helping with merchant analytics so I am basically combining my background in marketing with – with development so I’m surfacing data about customers and site usage and stuff like that and I can actually programmatically surface that rather than relying on Google analytics and stuff like that.

Jessica Allen: Okay. So what technologies are you using there?

Elise Worthy: So I am not writing a whole lot of Rails or Ruby code right now. A lot of the stuff that I’m doing is with jQuery and also I’m using a graphing framework that sits on top of D3 called Rickshaw that’s really cool to use. I’m really getting into displaying data in different ways and surfacing cool data.

Jessica Allen: Cool. Are you living in Seattle now or did you say you were moving to Portland?

Elise Worthy: I am in Portland, yeah.

Jessica Allen: Okay.

Elise Worthy: There’s a small primarily development office for LivingSocial in Portland and – so yeah, this is a new Northwestern home.

Jessica Allen: Yeah, how do you like it?

Elise Worthy: I like it a lot. I think there a lot of similarities to Seattle but it’s – it’s also different and cool.

Jessica Allen: Okay. Well, that’s it for today’s episode and we’ll see you next time on Cloud Out Loud.

Elise Worthy: Thank you so much Jessica.

Jessica Allen: Thanks Elise.

Elise Worthy: Bye.

Jessica Allen: Bye.