I hear ya cluckin' big chicken! the nervous rustling of code, tech, and life

Hot Web Chicks in 2019

Part 1 of a 3 part series featuring talented women in web development

Okay calm down, that headline is purposely indelicate; it’s a shameless attempt to rob your attention! The hotness I’m talking about is way more on the nerdy side of things. Over the last 4 months, I’ve been in a sort of learning growth spurt. Being equally overwhelmed and excited about so many new tools and techniques, I forced myself to carve out time to learn about the best new bits of modern web application development. One interesting observation has been that despite the large gender disparity in IT, I’ve been learning some of the coolest stuff from women.

So I thought it would be fun to spotlight my favorite female presenters, lumped into 3 broad skillset categories:

  • Layout and Design, (in this post)
  • JavaScript and Vue.js (coming soon in my next post)
  • Cloud services and HTTP-based API design; REST, microservices, etc. (not started, this will take longer to produce).
This is not an exhaustive list and it’s obviously subjective. If you feel strongly that I left something or someone out (just women though), please let me know.

The Layout and Design Chicks

I’ve been doing web dev for most of the last 20 years and I’ve never seen so many transformative technologies go online in such a short period of time. In the last couple of years, new, powerful and broadly supported specifications are improving things across the entire spectrum of web development. Advances in HTML and CSS are driving an explosion of imaginative design and efficient page layout.

It’s not just about spectacular, eye-catching presentation, applications for business and productivity also stand to benefit in a huge way. The new features baked into modern browsers decrease the complexity of responsive design, so applications that need to work well on both big and little screens are easier to build and support. Also, applications with less source code load faster and are less janky. In business app’s, less CSS generally telegraphs to less JavaScript and therefore fewer bugs; everyone wins!

Here’s an introduction to 2 gals who are teaching and inspiring web developers of all ages and skill level.

  Rachel Andrew

This woman captures the stereotypical, English stiff upper lip as few others can. Picture a slim and easy to look at Winston Churchill pontificating HTML/CSS history and strategy. Okay well, that’s a stretch but some YouTube commenters claim she’s a little on the dry side. I call bollocks on that because she’s awesome! (I sense my British friends cringing).

Being an old fart, I especially like the fact that Rachel can remember doing web development before CSS existed. And just like me, she was a little suspicious at first. Her first-hand knowledge of how HTML and CSS have evolved, and her ongoing contributions to both, garner loads of admirable fans.

Most importantly, and IMHO, she explains modern layout with CSS grid and flexbox better than just about anyone on the planet.

  Jen Simmons

Okay so if you pretend that Rachel Andrew is “Yin”, then Jen Simmons might qualify as “Yang”. That's a crappy analogy but the point is that Jen Simmons' style is way more wavy and whacky. Is it possible that a presenter can be both nerdy and hip? Yes, it is and Jen proves it!

Like Rachel, Jen is extremely knowledgeable about modern layout and explains the concepts in a way that conveys, “Hey, if I can do this, so can you”. She is also awesome at bringing you up to speed with CSS Grid. I especially like her humorous way of knocking the boring and homogeneous norms we can now safely leave in the rear-view mirror. She is great at using live web examples to demonstrate what works, or not, and why. I also like her unique way of being disruptive; you can’t wait to hear her next example of why this thing you’re currently doing looks like crap.

Thanks to these 2 women I now have the confidence to reimagine my tired old Bootstrap-laced, divitis-plagued home page!

Final Thoughts

With respect to young people choosing careers in Information Technology and Computer Science, we must find ways to keep the pipeline full; it's a matter of national security. Our institutions and corporations are being hacked and intellectual property harvested at unprecedented rates. This is occurring while our corporations rush to acquire cheap, H-1B talent from abroad. Maybe US corporations should be forced to pay into an IT education fund with every H-1B visa?

I especially hope that these posts encourage women of all ages to explore careers in software development and computer science. It’s a shame that women, who perhaps are naturally more adept at articulating and teaching, are so underrepresented in these exciting and rewarding high-demand fields.