tldr: I’m joining glitch as a full stack engineer on the community team 🎉 Glitch is a community where everyone can create the best stuff on the web without needing to know how webpack works.
After leaving Nava PBC in October, I took a few months off to recharge and think about my career and where my passion fits best. I left after being the engineering lead on two incredible projects: shipping an entirely new front end to healthcare.gov during open enrollment 🙏🏼, and handing off work that will help Vermonters get easier access to benefits online.
In my job search I was looking for somewhere that checked these boxes:
Mission oriented: I can’t abandon my need to make the world a better place. This can come in a lot of flavors and didn’t need to be directly related to government.
Diversity: It’s important to me (especially when building tools) that the team I’m on represents the people we’re serving.
Individual contributor work: At nava I was a manager and team lead for almost two years! It was an incredible experience and I learned a lot about people, building products and a team. My manager Alicia Liu gave me the advice that I should try to transition back and forth between management and IC to make myself stronger at both, and that makes sense to me.
Experienced leadership: I’m ready to go somewhere that has a leadership team that has experienced all of the ups and downs of running a startup. After years of being a manager on a tumultuous team, I’m ready to go somewhere that I can learn.
For those without a formal programming background (I was 14 when I started!) you learn by experimentation. I started programming with Neopets pet profiles and livejournal layouts (I wanted to make my livejournal layout ✨extra gay✨ and I needed CSS to do that).
I built a Harry Potter fan site entirely with html, that had an intricate user login system that involved me giving everyone who signed up a “key” (that I made up and emailed to them) that they had to input in forms that would send me an email. There were tasks on the site like ‘Complete potions’ would send me an email that looked like:
ACTION: Complete Potions
And after school every day I’d go through and update the entire site to reflect those actions, which could take HOURS. Running Hogwarts isn’t easy!
At this point I was playing a lot of Neopets, and wanted to know how they made it so dynamic. The pages ended with .phtml, so after a little bit of research I picked up a “how to PHP” book. After reading a little, I figured the best way to learn is to do, right?
I created Subeta, a virtual pet site, a take on Neopets that was more community oriented. I spent weeks building out a user registration system, forums, all from really terrible PHP tutorials all over the internet.
Instead of draconian moderation rules, you could be whoever you want! And have cute pets.
I opened Subeta from my middle school computer lab, and in months I had thousands of players making things I couldn’t have imagined with the base that I gave them. My player base was mostly young, queer and female identifying. Over time we grew this into a huge community and I worked on the website every night after school. I had to pay for hosting, so I added paid account features and started getting quarters in the mail from kids all over the country. I hired illustrators over paypal, developed dozens of characters (with many of the originals characters being based on me, embarassing to look back on today!), locations and holidays built on the lore. We made characters that represented our broad player base — all colors, all genders, all sizes, all sexualities. We didn’t shy away from having lesbian characters get married on the site, disabled characters, or discussing trans issues.
Subeta in 2005
Growing up building on LJ/Myspace, I knew that Subeta needed the ability to customize and create the site to fit the players own needs. That meant a lot of early work on XSS, filtering and sanitizing input so that users could put up CSS and html. They can even add custom CSS to the site to style the entire thing however they want, years before browser addons came out to make that possible.
So I’ve spent my professional life so far building communities that help people build their creativity, and Glitch makes perfect sense as a natural progression. Empowering others learn and build? Check! Learning new skills? Check! Can somehow fit in my passion for government in a way that helps other people, check!
Glitch helps folks get coding without having to worry about build tools, dev environments, servers and all the other details that take away the fun from making things. I’ve already started moving over projects that I’ve built while working at Code for America and nava that have complicated build steps that no one should have to learn in order to get something on the internet. I’m going to keep building government related projects and releasing them on glitch, and hopefully can persuade others do the same 🤞🏼.
Everything that Glitch as a company does shows that it really cares about making it easy to build, but more importantly easy to share and build on top of. The employee handbook is not only transparent and available for anyone, it can be remixed to fit your company and values.
The glitch community site itself (what I’ll be working on 💻) can be remixed and modified. My
code will be available for every glitch user to see, and that’s really exciting!
Suggested glitch projects on homepage
What I’m most excited about is being surprised every day looking at what this incredible community creates, and hopefully how my team can enable that creativity 💖.
I’ll be starting at Glitch on March 4th, and hope to see you building on it 😉.