INTERVIEW WITH ELLEN KöNIG

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Ellen König is a full-time web developer, information junkie and part-time psychology student. She is about to give her career a change of direction and will join Soundcloud as an insight engineer in October. We first met at Mrgn and I saw her speaking at eurucamp a few days later. She was positive and straight to the point, two things I love in a woman, so I did my fan thing and asked her for an interview.

What’s your background?

My background is kind of “classic”: I was a very geeky child, who loved books and learning, and a love for playing with tech also runs in my family.

It was kind of natural for me to study computer science after I got my “Abitur”, even though I also had a lot of competing interests, such as art and natural sciences. The more I learn about IT, the more I love it, as I can feel my ability to make stuff I dream of happen with tech grow with every project I do.

The more I learn about IT, the more I love it

What are other things that define you?

I am a passionate hobby dancer, and I love learning, especially about the human brain and social life. I also love travel and exploring cultures, and have lived in 5 countries in 3 continents over the last 15 years.

Being part of a community and being socially engaged is also one of my strong values, so I have volunteered for different social causes, at the moment my focus is on bringing tech education to beginners, especially women, with Rails Girls and OpenTechSchool.

How did you get involved in business and technology first?

My mom, formerly an art and languages teacher, was taught programming as part of a career change training in the mid-90s, and decided to pass on that knowledge to me. I loved it so much that I kept on, and after finishing high school, decided to study computer science.

It probably also helped a lot that my dad used to be a programmer himself, so I was introduced to computers pretty early in my life, and had a chance to play with them when I was still young.

How is it to work in business and technology as a woman?

Fun, always a bit lonely, and very challenging (in a good way!).

As much as I sometimes feel weird and weirded out in my profession, I would not change it for any other. I really wish there were more women and more diversity in general in tech, but other than that, it is pure heaven.

How would you like the role of women in business and tech to change in the next years? What kind of actions do you think are necessary? Which currently ongoing projects do you think are helping us reach that ideal point?

I am very excited about the currently growing influx of women via informal education into tech (at least in some tech communities), and the attention this topic receives at the moment.

I think that momentum encourages a lot of useful initiatives, that both provide practical opportunities to women who want to be in tech, and also take a more theoretical, analytical approach that help understand the “mystery” of why there are so few women and minorities in the tech community, and what to do about it. Both are very necessary.

What is your advice for girls and women that want to make a career in business and technology?

Believe in your ability to learn anything (including how to deal with a sexist society!), figure out how you actually do learn effectively, and connect to as much community (including women communities, but by no means exclusively) as you can.

And develop as sense of quality and self care – there are lots of fads, ideas, people, technologies etc. that won’t contribute anything to your learning and well-being, don’t waste your time with that.

What’s your current job about? What makes you passionate about it? What are some of the things you are learning thanks to it?

Right now, I am a backend web developer, and have been for the last 3 years full-time. I love building applications for the web, because I love the way the web enables people to connect, inform themselves and do things that they were not able to do before. In a way, building web applications is like shaping the future… a little bit at a time 😉 What I love about programming in general is the way it allows to build stuff from pure imagination, by exploiting the laws of logic… and solving a lot of really fascinating problems along the way.

In a way, building web applications is like shaping the future… a little bit at a time

That said, I will move into a position as insight engineer within the next few weeks, and I am very much looking forward to that new challenge, because I absolutely love discovering new insights by organising and making information more accessible.

I am probably naive and idealistic in a way, but I do believe that voluntary (!) collection and analysis of large quantities of data with a caring, humanistic and ethical approach can help us a lot to understand better how complex human challenges work and design positive interventions that make a difference.

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