Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hip + Urban Girl of the Week: Breanna Hughes

Wendy and I built our little website on blogger. We had no idea what we were doing when we first started and when the coding goes crazy on the back end - we lose our sh*t. 

The last time I crashed the site, we took off to get manicures, drank neon blue martinis and pretended nothing was wrong. Because we didn't have the first clue on what the hell we could do anyway!

We'll be moving our platform over to Wordpress soon, but we both wished we knew how to do our own html coding. Which is why we have fallen in love with what Breanna Hughes and her team at Ladies Learning Code are doing for hip + urban girls across Canada.

This week we chat with Breanna who works full-time as a Product Manager at Xtreme Labs and also had the time to become the  Co-Founder of HackerYou and Content at Ladies Learning Code

Tell us about your job!

By day I help companies with their mobile strategy, from brainstorming ideas and new features for their mobile apps or mobile websites to mapping out the design and making sure it gets built with the person using it in mind! 

By night, and weekends, I work with three other amazing ladies at an awesome not-for-profit called Ladies Learning Code. We host workshops in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa for women who are interested in learning how to program computers, but don't know where to start. They are beginner friendly, social and hands on, and we try to provide an non-intimidating learning environment in which beginners feel safe asking questions and never feel stupid.

I also co-founded with the Ladies Learning Code team another initiative called HackerYou, which offers a variety of three month, full day and night courses on many different subjects that vary from learning programming, accounting, excel, or design to name a few. All with a slight tech focus, of course.

How did you end up with a career in tech?

I was always really into tech as a child, thanks to my friend's father. By the age of 10 I had started my own online business selling Canadian chocolate bars to the US. I taught myself how to build websites, and had a blog before blogging was even called blogging, and Geocities and Angelfire were the hottest hosting services in town.

You must fly all over the place for work. What are your travel essentials?

A carry on suitcase is a must! I never check luggage. Also my lululemon pants that mask as slightly dressier pants are key for long flights. It's important to look professional, but still comfortable. And of course my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air. 

Tell us more about your involvement with LLC!

I work with all the workshop leads on developing the content for each workshop. You'll also see my face at many of the workshops helping set up, putting out food and doing anything that needs to get done.

Any events coming up soon?

We have a Hack Day coming up on November 3rd, where people can come with their websites, blogs or any projects they are working on and have full access to our mentors to ask them questions, and get personalized help for their initiatives. We also have our ever popular Wordpress workshop on November 10th. To hear more about other events, check out: www.ladieslearningcode.com/events and join our mailing list! 

What did you study in College/University? Is there anything you would do differently or advise others about?

I took one year of computer science at University of Toronto, and found the learning style really wasn't for me so I switched to Information Technology Management at Ryerson. I loved the collaborative learning and group work, so it was a much better fit. If I could do things differently, I would have still taken more programming languages so I could diversify the languages I learned and become a stronger programmer. I know some now, but not enough to build out my own ideas fully.

What is your typical day like?

I'll head to work at 9 AM, and eat breakfast at work at Xtreme Labs because we have catered breakfast every morning. I spend a lot of my time during the day running around between meetings, visiting clients, working with design and developers, or researching other mobile apps and looking at the latest tech trends.

At 6 PM, I'm usually off to a Ladies Learning Code meeting or at one of our HackerYou workshops. If I have a free night, I'm usually at a concert or at the Keg having dinner with my boyfriend. Yeah. I eat there an abnormal amount.

Where do you like to hangout in Toronto?  

The Keg is my go-to when I just want a guaranteed good, comfy meal. But I love to eat out and try new restaurants. Terroni is always great, and I love Woodlot. I recently tried Bestellen for the first time, and was really impressed. So tasty.

For bars, I'm always out in the Dundas and Ossington area. It depends on what night it is, but I go where the crowd goes. The Drake Hotel always holds a place in my heart because I used to live across the street. Same with Beaconsfield.

Who inspires you?

Definitely Heather Payne, Melissa Crnic, and Laura Plant, my fellow Ladies Learning Code team members. We are an awesome team, and have such a unique relationship. We just get each other, and work seamlessly. I learn different things from each of them. 

Also, my sisters Maya Medeiros and Ashley Hughes. They have helped form me into who I am today, and while I always kind of feel like I'm living in their shadow (as the youngest of three siblings commonly do), I hope I make them feel proud.
       
What would you tell your 20 year-old self?

CHILL OUT. CHILL CHILL CHILL OUT. I'm not talking about becoming lazy or doing less (as I'm doing much much more), but I used to get so stressed out over the smallest things. Boys who wouldn't call, student debt, friends, clothes, weight, everything in my life. I would get myself worked up about the smallest things all the time. I think it was my need and love for excitement, but life is exciting enough without all the unnecessary stress!

What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls out there trying to figure out what they want to do?

DO NOT BE BORED. If you feel bored, change something. Boredom is one of the worst things, EVER. Don't be afraid to try new things and shake things up a bit. That's one of my favourite things about our Ladies Learning Code workshops, we are exposing people to new things all the time. Getting them out of their comfort zone, but easing them into it. 

Learn more about Breanna here:

Web: www.unbrelievable.com
Tweet: www.twitter.com/unbrelievable
Facebook: www.facebook.com/breannahughes





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