Frontend Developer at WeTransfer
Valerie
Fuchs

Valerie Fuchs is a Software Developer at WeTransfer and Snacksplainer at Cafe Robot, the first non-awkward Computer Club.

Amsterdam, Netherlands • August 5, 2022

What led you into design?

I wouldn’t really call myself a designer but I do have a deep love for colours, typography and fun aesthetics. My mum worked as a print designer for an art publisher, and in my childhood we did a lot of drawing and arts & craft at home.

I also remember browsing through her art collection books and being fascinated by Leonardo da Vinci and the old classics. At the same time as loving my parent’s comic collection featuring Asterix & Obelix, Lucky Luke or “Les Frustrés” by Claire Bretecher. Humour & weirdness are very important elements for whatever I create. I think that comic books also impacted my personal illustration style.

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On the left you see an old & scruffy film poster I made for my university. On the right you see my very first creative coding sketch with p5.js.

After getting introduced to Creative Coding with p5.js in 2017, I started creating visuals with code which opened another world for me. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to pass on my passion and started hosting my own creative coding classes with my project called “Cafe Robot, the first non-awkward Computer Club”. Most of my teaching material is food related, which is why I call what I do "snacksplaining".

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More creative coding sketches. You can find the animated versions here and here.

What does a typical day look like?

If I can pull myself out of bed early, I start most of my days with going to the gym. I never used to work out much, but during Covid it helped me a lot to stay sane and introduce structure to my days.

I don’t really enjoy working from home, so I try to go into the WeTransfer office often. After arriving at the office, I check for team updates on Slack. As our team is distributed in Europe and the US, we are working across different time zones and chat in an async manner. 

Some people might not know this, but WeTransfer runs a couple of different software products that help streamline the creative workflow process. I am part of a team that works on a product called "Portals & Reviews". Usually I pick up building a new feature or optimize existing functionality, so I have the luxury to dive into work and focus on coding for most of the remaining day. If I need to clarify design, copy or UX requirements, I am catching up with my team members.

After wrapping up my work day, I close the computer and disconnect by taking a walk, watching an episode of a trashy German daily soap and meeting friends.

What's your workstation setup?

WeTransfer office in Amsterdam
WeTransfer office in Amsterdam
WeTransfer office in Amsterdam
WeTransfer office in Amsterdam

Where do you go to get inspired?

Since lock-down, I picked up reading more books again. Both for literature and movies, I have a thing for science-fiction and anything strange & weird, which catapults me into new worlds and territories. I usually don't research or read up much in advance because I enjoy the surprise or "wtf" element.

A film that inspired me recently was “Met Mes”, by Dutch director Sam de Jong. I loved the look and feel of it, and it definitely hit a spot, featuring bright neon colours and crazy styles.

And, of course, Instagram is still a big resource where I find great typography, colour schemes and graphic design inspiration—for example the surreal wax-style characters by fromm.vince as well as the 2D party flyers by ric808_.

Met Mes
"Met Mes"
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Credits: @fromm.vince (left) and @ric808_ (right)

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

A product I look at daily is my PC3SV Braun Radio by Dieter Rams. I absolutely adore the simplicity of its design, and it also has a very special story. My granddad purchased this radio from his first salary, and my grandma gifted it to me a couple of years ago. Every time I look at it, I feel reminded of my family and the fact that great design is timeless.

My grandparents Braun Radio
My grandparents Braun Radio

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

My platform femalefreelancedevelopers.com, which lists 50+ talented ladies from across the world and aims to get more cool people into cool projects by cool companies. I started it because I often get asked to recommend specifically female freelance developers and, for the longest time, had nobody to refer.

Since its launch in 2020 the site still gets a nice amount of organic traffic, which I am immensely proud of! I don’t do any advertising, so it’s completely based on word of mouth. We also are connected through a Slack channel where we pass on job opportunities we can’t personally take on, which is my version of a “boys club” that supports each other.

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What design challenges do you face at your company?

One aspect I love about working at WeTransfer and in my team is how user-centric we are. We have a Slack channel which immediately shows any survey filled in by our users and gives us instant feedback and inspiration for new features.

Though this input is very valuable, it can sometimes be challenging for me as an Engineer to disconnect from asks for the future and focus on my current work. I’d love to build everything anybody asks for right away!

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

I am going to turn this into advice for anyone who wants to get into coding and web development:

Create visibility for yourself, early.
Even if you are just getting started, I recommend sharing your work and starting to document your journey. I know it’s hard to share things that aren’t perfect, but in my experience, people really like witnessing a story instead of only seeing the end result. I also think our industry needs more honesty about the hard work, failures, and process behind the polished solution we usually end up posting online. We need more #failspiration!

Be patient and kind to yourself.
Learning how to code is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. There will always be someone who “gets” things faster than you, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to teach that person something else. The job of a web developer is fundamentally about hitting your head against a wall until either your head or the wall gives up. And never feel ashamed of needing to google something because it’s a part of this profession to constantly keep learning.

You don’t need to be on top of the ladder to help someone up the first step.
I almost simultaneously started teaching with Cafe Robot after shifting my professional path to web development in my early thirties. Teaching while being a student myself was an incredibly valuable experience for me, as it enabled me to truly cement my fundamentals. I believe it is a great skill to explain something complex in easy words, and you can start practising it from your first day of code.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I recently launched my new project Tech Imposters Anonymous, a platform for reading and sharing people's secret confessions. My ambition with the site was to create a more transparent and supportive mindset around productivity in tech and to embrace “failspiration”. We are no “10x” Developers, no “Ninjas” and no “Rockstars”. We are Human Beings who screw things up and who sometimes question if we are good enough.

Tech Imposters Anonymous

If you are looking to source female freelance developers, have a look at my list over at femalefreelancedevelopers.com. Feel free to submit your details, should you be interested in getting listed.

Oh, and if you want to learn more about Cafe Robot, you can find more information on cafe-robot.co or via instagram.com/madame_robot.

interview