So @georgiagemo , you grew up with an interest in writing, but at some point added coding to your skillset. How did that happen?
Tough to say – both loves started so young! My dad’s a developer who worked overseas, so I grew up typing letters to him on the DOS computer in the book under the stairs and when we joined him in the Middle East I got my first computer at age 7 & quickly fell in love with Encyclopedia Britannia & various PC games (from Disney to Doom II) then one day Dad came home with a copy of Dragon Dictate so I taught my computer my voice (fun!) and in grade 3, sitting around the story time rug…
…I remember being utterly transfixed by the other teacher touch-typing away. I was so captivated my parents bought me “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing” & I became obsessed! At some point I discovered you could customize the MS Word autocorrect and started pretending I was having full conversations with my machine and delighted in spooking my teachers with it. Long story longer, in grade 4-5 “IT class” we were introduced to Logo the programming turtle and I never looked back!
By age 11 I was teaching myself HTML and later php (shoutout to the kind strangers in random message rooms who helped point me in right direction!) so I could make my websites, as I was hugely into online fandoms & fan fiction. Naturally I took the nerdiest tech classes I could find in high school and for my final project I built a database for the drama dept costume hire system (a pen & paper situation until then) which I’m told is still in use 20 years later, though not sure if that’s true! 😅🤣
After graduation I took dual degree at uni – Bachelors in Journalism & Computer Science – because why pick one when you can do both?! I guess for me storytelling and software engineering go hand in hand, they tickle similar parts of my soul and I don’t think I could ever choose one over the other! 🤩
Interesting, they both started early
Suuuuper early!!! This is partly why you’ll often find me arguing *for* more young people including kids to be exploring things like the metaverse (believe you me the 12yo Georgia had some very sassy words with any adult who tried telling her she shouldn’t be “playing in so many games” or “wasting time on the internet” 😜) because for me the freedom to experiment with all this uncharted territory was absolutely thrilling and turns out the head start served me very well in the end!
How does the combination of writing and dev impact the work you do today?
Ooh I have so many examples of how writing & dev intertwine in my work life – like how I was the defacto documentations person at every new dev job lol – or how I stood out when I first started freelancing as a web dev/designer because I could create all the copy & ghostwrite for their blog too.
IMO the most interesting overlap though is how good I became at “getting into peoples brains” (something authors practice a lot!) – turns out that knowing both how computers think and how people think…
… means I can predict what we need to build next (and what the user will do wrong with it haha) well and I also make a great mediator between the dev team and management, or the technical SME and the business customer.
Nowadays though, I’m mostly channeling this combo into amplifying marginalised voices online. (For context: along the way I took a sidestep into the world of pole dancing (where I had dreams of writing custom industry software (which was *sorely needed*) but ended up running a…
…chain of studios in Australia instead) which is where my passion for “marketing on the edge” began). I do this by teaching small biz owners how to automate their workflows, leverage gen AI, fix their wonky websites, interpret data, write better ad headlines, or whatever else needs doing to get their message out into the world in a bigger better way! I’m also doing a lot of prompt engineering lately – that’s a fun spot for me where strategic thinking meets tech savvy meets comms skills too!
Sticking with “marketing on the edge”, what do you mean by “the edge”?
The edge, to me, is the “borderline” where we bend the rules but don’t quite break them! 🤭 My clients are people challenging norms & fighting stigma (a depression clinic that specializes in ketamine & psilocybin therapy, a couples intimacy coach, a cannabis bakery, a sex ed documentarian…) I like to support people on the fringe of society since that’s where we push boundaries and create change! Plus I have a soft spot for all things weird & wonderful as I was always the odd one out growing up 😉
Big tech gets so much focus, but what are some common problems a developer can solve for small businesses?
GREAT question!! One of my fave things to do is to integrate their backends if they’re doing manual data entry to keep various systems in sync – the look on their face when they can automagically do it with a click of a button never gets old! It’s common for a small business to grown in a “Frankenstein” fashion where they just keep bolting the next thing on as they grow, so if you like problem solving, decluttering and/or systems design you could be their unicorn!
I’ve also found demand for bespoke scripting as they don’t have volume to justify full scale solutions, or their needs change so rapidly they want someone who can be agile & keep tweaking. I’ve built some cute custom addons for Google docs/sheets for this kind of thing. I freelance but there’s in-house opportunities too where the multi-passionate really shine! If you have a background in a certain niche, plus solve technical trouble, you can pretty much create your own job title wherever you go!
This is fantastic because small businesses don’t have time to get all the tech aligned, sometimes they don’t even know it can be aligned.
Exactly! Even simply consulting on that is really beneficial for them. There was a time where my modus operandi was basically getting myself seen by the owner or manager of a place where I was a customer (volunteering at their fundraisers or open days is good for this) and showing off helpful little things I could do for them. This worked well because I already knew their pain points intimately, having experienced the clunkiness firsthand & they could see how genuinely excited I was to help too!
What advice would you have for a developer considering going freelance or starting a small dev shop?
Get a business mentor STAT! Someone a few steps ahead of you on the same path you want to take. You don’t need to fork out lots of $$$ as you can always join small group coaching programs instead of going 1:1 & you can find niche specific support too (there’s many thriving web dev agency owner programs for example). At first you will have all the steam but that wont last forever and the value of having someone who can guide you with the non-tech stuff (like marketing, sales, legal etc) is huge.
Also don’t be afraid to delegate! My mistake was that I had so many practical skills I could do all the ops stuff myself & didn’t “need” help with my own website, or social, or spreadsheets, or automations, or… but this is a TRAP! Start outsourcing early with small things like your invoices, social media graphics, or bookkeeping where you can, because soon you might find yourself wanting some help with your sales calls, or customer service, and those hiring/firing muscles take time to grow!
How can people find you elsewhere online?
If you’re reading this and anything I said here resonated with you, I’d love to be thriends!
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