This week we geek out with Avery Swartz, Founder of Camp Tech to talk about 2 of her favourite things: family and code. Camp Tech's motto is Friendly, Fun, Practical and Professional. I love the concept of teaching a nerdy topic in a cool environment where you don't have to be afraid to ask questions or be embarrassed about making mistakes. Avery's classes are taught by a team of professionals and topics range from Wordpress, Photoshop to SEO for all levels. Check out her interview and see how you can win a free class of your choice!
Tell us more about Camp Tech! How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been an independent web designer for 7 years (I run my own studio). I noticed a
trend about a year and a half ago, where more and more people were asking if I could teach them to build their own website using WordPress. I taught a few WordPress workshops on my own (not under the banner of Camp Tech), and sold out 3 of them. I figured I was on to something, and that was the beginning for Camp Tech. We’ve since added more instructors and classes to the roster, but the WordPress for Beginners workshop is still the most popular.
Are you self taught or did you go to school to learn how to code?
My background is in Fine Arts; I went to theatre school at Ryerson (not for acting – for
behind-the-scenes work). So that’s where my art education and design fundamentals
come from. After working in the Toronto theatre community for 5 years, I went back to
school and took Print and Web Design at Toronto Image Works. I learned the basics of
coding, but the Internet has evolved a lot since I graduated, and code has become more
sophisticated. Most of the code I use today was self-taught (by reading tutorial websites
and industry publications).
What is a typical day like in the life of Avery Swartz?
My days start and end with family – I have a pretty awesome husband and we have an
adorable 2-year old daughter. We all get up around 7am, and it’s total chaos trying to
get everyone out the door. My husband drops our daughter off at daycare on his way
to work, and then by around 8:15am, it’s just me in the house (oh, and the dog). I brew
coffee, and head to my desk (my studio is in one of the bedrooms of our house). Then, from about 8:30 – 4:30, my days are a mix of client meetings, working on web design projects, building websites, thinking of new ideas for Camp Tech, and farting around on Facebook and Twitter. Somewhere in the middle I’ll break for lunch, and take the dog out to play fetch. No matter what I’m doing, I have to stop working at 4:45, because my family will be
home. We have some family time, feed our daughter her dinner, and then it’s bath and
bedtime for her. In the evenings, I’ll either be out at a Camp Tech class, or at a business
event. If I’m home, I try not to work in the evenings (but it happens sometimes).
When you unplug, what do you do for fun?
Travel. I usually go on 2 or 3 trips a year – I’m actually on a plane to San Diego as a
write this! I often travel in the US or Canada, but I’ve been to Europe a few times too. I
LOVE New York and try to visit every year or so. When I’m sticking a little closer to home, I really enjoy hanging out in the city with my family. We take our daughter to parks and playgrounds, museums and restaurants. It’s so fun to play with her, and watch her discover the world and figure things out. I’m a total workaholic, and often don’t “play” enough. My daughter has brought a wonderful balance to my life – she inspires me to slow down, stop taking things so seriously, and goof off. I don’t watch much television, but when I do, I love to watch series. My husband and I watched all 2 seasons of Homeland in about 10 days – we couldn’t stop.
Who inspires you in the tech world?
My all-time tech hero is Tina Roth Eisenberg, aka Swiss Miss. She was an award-winning web designer, but when her children were born, she decided to focus on personal projects instead of client work. Because of that, she launched the Creative Mornings lecture series (which is now in 47 cities around the world, including Toronto), and created her own “designy” temporary tattoo company, Tattly.
I really admire Swiss Miss for a: being a woman in technology (rare), b: being a mother in technology (even more rare), and c: always having a wonderfully positive attitude about the industry and her career. She delivered a keynote speech at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference all about the principles she lives by, and how she hopes to inspire her children through the work she does.
Favourite restaurants and places to shop and hangout in Toronto?
I live and work in Leslieville, so I spend a lot of time in my neighbourhood. When I’m
with my daughter, we love to go to Hideaway Park – it’s a “hidden” park near Queen St
East and Pape. If the weather’s nasty, we go to Lil Bean and Green café and indoor
playground. If I’m out on a date with my husband, we go to Goods and Provisions or the Ceili Cottage. My girlfriends and I love to get cocktails at Hitch – they make a wonderfully delicious Dark n’ Stormy. I’ve been doing some media appearances on TV lately, and whenever I need something nice to wear, I go to Any Direct Flight on Queen St East. They carry gorgeous and interesting clothing by independent designers. I often get compliments on my wardrobe whenever I’m wearing something from there.
What advice do you have for your 20-year old self?
I would love to tell my 20-year old self to relax! To be totally honest, I didn’t really love my 20s. There were so many unknowns – school, career, dating, apartment hunting... it was a lot of fun, but also overwhelming at times. Now that I’m in my mid-30s, I’m much more comfortable in my own skin, and I don’t worry about things as much. I have a thicker skin and a better ability to handle things. I wish I had more of that confidence in my 20s.
Interested in taking one of Camp Tech's classes?
We are giving away a class to one lucky camper! All you have to do is check the description + schedule here and let us know which one you are interested in attending by commenting below. Don't forget to include your name and email or Twitter so we can contact you. This contest closes Sunday, May 26 at 11pm EST. Avery can be found on Twitter @CampTechCo.