Pixel Perfect | WTR 36

Pixel Perfect | WTR 36

Tiffany is a UX front end developer and makes things look pretty! She hates photoshop and the term “Pixel Perfect” though so don’t get her confused with being a designer!

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ANGELA: This is Women’s Tech Radio.
PAIGE: A show on the Jupiter Broadcasting Network, interviewing interesting women in technology. Exploring their roles and how they’re successful in technology careers. I’m Paige.
ANGELA: And I’m Angela.
PAIGE: So, Angela, today we’re joined by Tiffany. She is a UX developer and she goes into the differences between developer and designer, front end and back end, and all this really interesting industry industry kind of separation that has happened over the years and why it’s important. And we also get into a fantastic conversation about board games.
ANGELA: And before we get into the interview, if you’re interesting in supporting this show, if you’re listening to it week after week and you’re finding this content really awesome, which we do — we have a really good time every time we record and we always get something new from every single episode. It’s really awesome. You can go over to patreaon.com/today and that supports the whole network, but also, specifically Womens’ Tech Radio. And you can donate as little as $3,00 a month or whatever you’re comfortable with. And it’s a monthly basis, automatically comes out.
PAIGE: Yep. And we get started with our interview today by asking Tiffany what she’s up to these days.
TIFFANY: Right now, in the tech field, well I primarily identify as a UX developer. So, as i tell people that don’t really know what that mean, I make things look pretty. So, I prefer, and really more of a front end developer but I spend a lot of time on design teams and whatnot. So I actually also have a design eye. Some people mistake me for a designer. I hate PhotoShop, I hate design. But yeah. And right now I’m actually freelance and I’ve been freelance since November. I’m doing a whole bunch of hodgepodge jobs including some YouTube channel stuff, so day-to-day for me is just really random, because it just really depends on what contracts I have going and if I’m filing anything for YouTube or anything like that. My everyday is not a typical day.
ANGELA: Well, that’s awesome. I like that.
TIFFANY: It is. Yeah. It’s also really confusing.
ANGELA: Yeah. Especially when you don’t get Google SMS anymore.
TIFFANY: Yeah. Darn you Google. My life was made by that. Made or break.
ANGELA: Yeah. I guess you’ll have to maybe research another calendar app something; right?
TIFFANY: Yeah. Something like that.
ANGELA: Or write something to-
PAIGE: Yeah, so for our folks, because this going to go in the future. Google just turned of SMS alerts for calendaring, which I think I lame, because i used the crap out of the feature.
TIFFANY: Uh-huh.
PAIGE: But, we’ll figure it out. So, what is, if you don’t identify as a designer, what do you think is the difference between a UX developer and a designer?
TIFFANY: A UX developer is somebody who when they look at a screen and they look at — essentially, like what need to be done, they think about it in terms of code. Like, they think, oh I need to do this. I need to adjust this padding, this margin, etcetera, etcetera. UX developer is more of a, it’s the designer side. And then a designer, specifically a UX designer is usually, um, their partner in crime, if you’re lucky enough to have a UX designer and a UX developer. And they think of things in terms of actual pixels and the modification of actual PhotoSHop files and stuff like that. So, they don’t really code. So they’re dealing mostly in various visual software editing tools to get mock ups or interaction designs, which is a big one. And UX developers work with them to have those designs come to life, and also, UX developers, because they work so closely and always really have an eye for that kind of stuff, UX developers also are really awesome because we usually have an idea of what a goodish sense of design or interaction would be. And we focus primarily on user interaction when we code things, not always necessarily what’s the best way to code something from like an efficiency standpoint of your code, which gets some really good UX developers can write super efficient super awesome code that is also very user interactive and great for the user. But it’s like this, it’s like the unicorn balance effect of that kind of stuff.
PAIGE: So, like any other developer, you’re probably not an efficiency expert unless you’re an efficiency expert?
TIFFANY: Yeah. But I am a front end developer expert. So, I — like, it’s really, there is a phrase that we use, and people have kind of stopped using it in resumes and interviews, but it’s pixel perfect. And I feel that most UX developers, while we hate the term pixel perfect, it’s true. I can look at mocks, I can look at mock ups or specs or I can just look at a webpage and I can be like, oh, that’s four pixels, it needs to be two pixels. Or something like that. Or, oh, that’s five pixels and it needs to be six pixels. So it’s just like, usually we’re very visual and UX developers, all the ones I”ve met, really do actually want to be pixel perfect. Which, I hate that phrase, but it’s true.
ANGELA: That’s too bad, because I think that would make a great title for the episode. I feel like I need to ask you if that’s okay.
TIFFANY: Yeah, no. That’s fine. You can do that.
ANGELA: Okay. Maybe I’ll put it in the description. Like, even though hates the term, find out what pixel perfect is.
TIFFANY: The only reason I hate it is because, for years there when people realized that front end developers existed and needed to be a thing, so there was this transition seven years ago in the industry. I loved and worked out in Silicon Valley and there was this transition where they started realizing that having a software engineer does not necessarily mean that they can do every — they’re not full stack. You have front end software engineers and you have back end software engineers. Especially as more companies started developing products that were web based, like web apps and that kind of stuff, because the technology space between being good at making the front end of a web app is very different from being good at making the back end of a web app, because there’s just so many languages and concepts involved. And efficiency for both ends of those scale. And so, a lot of companies started posted job listings and one of the requirements was attention to detail, pixel perfect. And it just became this buzz word in the industry and if you were talking with somebody and they were like yeah I’m pixel perfect, like 90 percent of the time they weren’t and it was just really frustrating, because it was a buzzword and everybody used.
ANGELA: Right. And it just kind of became vague, it sounds like.
TIFFANY: Yeah. There’s this great — have you seen the nailed it meme?
ANGELA: Yes. With the, was it with the kid, little baby fist?
TIFFANY: Well, no, so the one — there was one that went around with Cookie Monster cupcakes.
PAIGE: Yes, with the bad, the Pinterest fails.
TIFFANY: Yes. So, and it’s a thing-
ANGELA: Oh, right.
TIFFANY: Yeah, yeah, yeah, where there’s like really beautiful something crafty and then somebody tries to make it and it’s like this horrible version..
ANGELA: Yes.
PAIGE: Nailed it.
TIFFANY: We started doing that in the company that I worked at. The large mega corp that I’ve (unintelligible).
ANGELA: Sure.
TIFFANY: We started doing that to developers. Like, we would do the nailed it where we would have the mock up and then we would have like what they made. And we would do, like nailed it.
PAIGE: That’s awesome.
ANGELA: That’s great. I just did a Pinterest fail on Monday with my kids. It was some sort of a flour and salt dough mix and then you put pebbles in it to make a design and my butterfly did not look like a butterfly and none of them look good. The pebbles were too big and it cracked. It was just bad.
PAIGE: Yeah, Pinterest, it’s like a whole other rabbit hole of doom.
ANGELA: I know. Well, I didn’t go to — I don’t go to Pinterest. I make a point not to, because I’ll get sucked in. My friend did. It was a play date.
PAIGE: So youre friend is attempting to make you a Pinterest addict?
ANGELA: We jointly failed. No, I just let her do it. That’s funny though. That is great. Now, did that, was that good for comradery and — I’m sure it kind of framed the culture, but it wasn’t making fun of people that worked there was it?
TIFFANY: No, it wasn’t. It just started making fun of software development. It was-
ANGELA: Okay.
TIFFANY: Specifically we were on — I was on a design team and we fought tooth and nail to get some front end developers hired, because at the time I was on the design team and I was the rapid prototyper. So they would mock up some crazy ideas and then it was my job to just quickly make something that looked and they could click around. So there was a lot of fake Javascript connecting to empty calls. Lots of static text just being loaded in to pretend it was a database. But I was there rapid prototype maker and we really struggled. We’re like, our — my rapid markups of their stuff, proof of concepts would look like the specs and then the actual product when it went over to enginnering always looked really bad. So my boss made those nailed it meme jokes for a presentation with the higher ups who convinced them finally to hire front end engineers.
ANGELA: Nice.
PAIGE: Okay. The fact that you got memes in a corporate presentation in attempt to actually get headcount, that’s impressive.
TIFFANY: Yeah. And after that they started hiring people who specialized in front end development. That really made a big difference in the product. I think that’s — it’s starting to become more common. So when I went to college in 2005, when I started looking for degree programs, there was nothing that I could find that focused on UX front end development. Everything in computer science was computer science hardcore. There was nothing that specialized in front end and web or anything like that. I think there was one program in some random college on the east coast, and I had never even heard of the college. But now if you went and look for those kind of programs they’re popping up everywhere, because there’s such a demand for those positions.
PAIGE: I mean, even Stanford now has a full track for web and iOS. It’s crazy. That’s good. So where do you make the division between front end design, back end. I mean, I know where I do, but.
TIFFANY: Usually I make the division where anything becomes visual on the screen. So, if anybody — if you’re putting something on the screen, you’re dealing with front end design. Especially with the MVC model. So, model, view, and controller. You can really separate frontend and backend, because you work with backend team really closely to make sure that you’re making the correct connections in the middle area, and then you can focus primarily on the view. And if you need to go into the middle area, you can. But there’s definitely a lot of overlap between that area. That’s where the most code conflict happen, on check in. But I really make the divide. It it modifies a data structure that will eventually appear on the screen in some way, shape, or form, there’s an argument that that could be front end. But if it puts anything on the screen, it’s definitely front end development, in my opinion.
PAIGE: I would agree with that. That’s very cool. So you’re freelancing now. How did you get into freelancing? What are you struggles in freelancing? I’ve definitely met a lot of people who are kind of like not quite happy in a job or they feel like they’d like to try doing their own thing. What are some of the ups and downs for you, since you just started?
TIFFANY: Well, my case is — I don’t — it’s probably something that lot of people can relate to. I graduated from college in 2008 and I had a job before I graduated. I actually graduated early so that I could go and work at this job. And I almost burnt out. I was super close to burning out after three and a half years at this giant corporation, that shall not be named. I had a friend that worked at another larger corporation, not giant, but large, that also shall not be named. He was like, you should come work for us. It’s super awesome. I changed companies and I worked there. It was really awesome for a while and then that large company started to grow into a mega corp, like a very large company and it had a lot of growing pains and they had a lot of headcount reduction either through layoffs or people just leaving because they didn’t like the transition from small to large, or from large to extra large. And so in the three and a half — I was also there for three and a half years, that’s basically my boiling point. In the three and a half years that I was there, I was hired when there was 9,000 — or no, there was like 8,500 employees when I was hired.
ANGELA: Wow.
TIFFANY: When I quit three and a half years later, there was over 20,000 employees and we had a piece of software in the company that somebody made that told you how long you had been — it compared how long you had been at the company with everybody else and according to that script that somebody wrote, I had bene at the company more than 98 percent of the rest of the employees.
ANGELA: Wow. So big turnover.
TIFFANY: Massive turnover and massive influx of new people, which meant that there was just constant turmoil. I was, in my last year of evaluation, the last full calendar year that I was there and I had the employee evaluation thing, I had five different managers.
PAIGE: What?
TIFFANY: And so I was like — and I was in charge of a very large code base and I was working with people in Bulgaria (unintelligible) and so I burned out. I crashed out. They were transitioning, when i was there from FLex to HTML5 and so I was in this weird straddle between Flex and HTML5 and I kept telling myself when they first announced they were going to transition that I would stick around long enough to get my resume padded to be able to add the H5 technology officially and then I would quit. And two years later my fiance was like, when I met you you were talking about how you were going to quit soon and that was a year ago.
PAIGE: And you were like, little did you know, it was a year before that as well.
TIFFANY: Yes, exactly. So I decided, I looked at my finances and I discussed it with my partner and we decided that for my mental stability it would be best if I just quit. So I quit my job and I had a friend that was looking for some design work and web work and basically an everything person at his — he’s trying to kickstart a product, a home automation system and so he needed somebody to do that. So I lucked out in that I quit and then immediately had a contract that could pay all my bills for six months. ANd that contract actually came to an end in May and so now I’m looking for work elsewhere, more contracts elsewhere and I kind of — it’s funny because I kind of just keep like — I have a friend that is very involved in a lot of tech networks in Portland, and she’s probably one of the reasons we moved here, but she keeps throwing things over the fence at me and so I just keep accidently getting these jobs. Where she’s like, oh hey this is this thing and you should do it, and I’m like okay. So I feel really lucky in that regard. I haven’t had to actively search for some stuff. But I also am living very-
ANGELA: Frugal?
TIFFANY: Yes. My fiance is doing most of the — we’re basically on like a 1.5 income household right now. So, but we’re both fine with that because we own all the fancy technology gadgets we need and use so we don’t need to buy anything new. And Portland is significantly cheaper than the Bay area.
PAIGE: Oh my goodness, right?
TIFFANY: Yeah, so it’s actually kind of funny. Because if we had continued to live in the Bay area I would have had to get another job that was like an actual tech job because the cost of living is just so high. And that was part of the reason we moved to Portland was so that I didn’t have to get a traditional 9:00 to 5:00 tech job, because I’ve worked for three mega corps at this point. Well, two mega corps and a large company that was becoming a mega corp, and I just can’t do it anymore.
ANGELA: What was one of your favorite contracts that you’ve done since you left your most recent mega corp job?
TIFFANY: It actually wasn’t tech involved really at all. It was in — I do some video editing. I very much am into the board gaming community. And when I say that I don’t mean like just playing board games, I also review board games. I play test board games for designers. I”m friends with a lot of people at publishing companies, that kind of stuff. And also, I’m pretty, I’m not active on Kickstarter but I’m aware of the Kickstarter tabletop world and I usually know somebody that — I have two friends right now that are running Kickstarters on tabletop. So I had a contract from a friend where he wanted me to do his Kickstarter videos. And so part of that involved going to PAX South in Texas in January.
ANGELA: Oh darn.
TIFFANY: Yeah. Gosh darn. That was a fun contract because the game that he was making was about — it’s basically you’re doing a mini role playing as the Goonies. You’re four siblings and you’re going on this crazy adventure. And so it’s a coop and it’s storytelling and there’s actual numbers and stats that you can lose even if you can tell the best story in the world. So it was a lot of fun because I would go and my job was to film people playing it and people would just have such a blast telling these stories about how they were running around in the mysterious forest and throwing dung at trolls, and all this other fun stuff. But it was a blast. And then editing all of that footage was also a lot of fun into a video. So that was my most fun contract, but it’s not tech related.
PAIGE: Totally fine. I think that that’s one of the beauties of doing — you know, it kind of is tech related. Video is still technology. But being a freelancer, being a contractor is you kind of get some of that freedom to pick and choose projects to be involved in a lot of things. To be a jack of all trades.
TIFFANY: Yeah. I have a friend — I decided to paint. I brought my fiance in a copy of Imperial Assault, which is a Star Wars dungeon crawling game. And I decided stupidly while he was out of town one weekend I would surprise him and paint all of the miniatures in this game.
PAIGE: Oh wow.
TIFFANY: And there’s about — yeah, there’s about 40 miniatures. And they’re like super detailed Star Wars, like Storm Troopers and Darth Vader and ATSDs and the heroes like Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Luke and all that. And it was stupid and insane, but at the end of it I was able to tell the internet, I was able to tweet about it, because I didn’t tweet while I was going it, because it was a surprise. One of my friends online was like, hey actually can I pay you to paint my set?
ANGELA: Oh my gosh.
TIFFANY: Yeah, so it’s the weird funny thing where it was just like, because I’m freelancing I can just basically do whatever.
PAIGE: You can say, yeah that’s a project I’d like to do.
TIFFANY: Yeah. I can get money for painting miniatures. Which is hilarious to me and a lot of fun, but also makes my carpal tunnel way worse.
PAIGE: Yeah. Righit? Miniature painting is the worse thing for that. Okay, so it sounds like you are super into board games. You review board games? Do you have a YouTube channel or something?
TIFFANY: Yeah. I review board games and my YouTube channel is TheOneTAR. I also am on Twitter as TheOneTAR. I’m very active on Twitter. Most recently, if you go to my channel, most recently I was doing an unpacking series where when we moved we packed all our board games up and then somebody on Twitter was like you should make videos when you unpack them. And so I was like, okay. And then I did. And so I have 24 episodes of me just unpacking a box.
PAIGE: It’s like, re-
ANGELA: Wow.
PAIGE: Re-unboxings.
TIFFANY: Yeah. But people are apparently really into them, because they just want to know what’s in the box.
PAIGE: Yeah.
ANGELA: So what is in the box, usually?
TIFFANY: All of my board games.
ANGELA: Oh, okay.
PAIGE: So they want to see your collection, really.
ANGELA: Right. Okay. So do you pack the box or is it-
TIFFANY: I did pack the box.
PAIGE: Because they moved.
TIFFANY: This was when we moved.
ANGELA: Oh. Oh, okay. I got it. I thought you were like — well I wasn’t sure if you were buying new board games and be like oh what could be in here? Or if you were like putting stuff in there for the show.
TIFFANY: Nope.
ANGELA: Okay, so it’s a result of moving. Got it. That’s great.
TIFFANY: Yeah.
PAIGE: Okay. So I”m a bit of a board game player myself. I’m not huge. I don’t have a YouTube channel, but I’m always interested in co op board games because I find that it’s the best way for me to get people who aren’t board game people to play with me. And a lot of my friends for some reason aren’t board game people. So what should I play?
TIFFANY: Well, what have you played?
PAIGE: Um Pandemic, Zombie Panic, Castle Panic, Forbidden Island, and Forbidden Desert.
TIFFANY: Okay. So if you feel like you’re ready for a level up on your co op experience and you want to go — if you like the zombie stuff there’s a game that’s really popular right now, it’s called Dead of Winter. It’s produced by Plaid Hat games and it’s designed by John Gilmore and Isaac Vegas, I think is his last name. But you are survivors. Every player — it’s kind of this weird — the theme is kind of weird but there’s — the zombie apocalypse has happened so there’s zombies everywhere. And it’s the middle of winter, hence the name of the game. Every player controls a group of survivors and you’re trying to work together to make sure there’s enough food stocked in your little base and also to make sure that no zombies break into the base. And you also can send your survivors out into the town at the various locations to look for things like food or fuel or that kind of stuff. So it’s co op in that regard. And in addition to that, everybody has a secret objective that they are working for. So, for example, your secret objective might be at the end of the game you want there to be five med kits in the base, right? And so those are secrets. So you’re all working together but you’re also trying to accomplish your goal and sometimes you trying to accomplish our secret goal might hinder the survival of the whole group. Because you’re like well my goad needs more med kids, but we actually need more food. Which do I play.
PAIGE: So it’s like coop with secret personal goals?
TIFFANY: Yeah, exactly. And if you want to take it a step up, you can include the saboteur when you deal out the secret goals.
PAIGE: Oh yeah.
TIFFANY: And the sabitor’s secret goal is to accomplish his secret goal and also ensure that the rest of the players don’t win. So it’s usually something like you kill so many survivors and also you get this much food and then you run away. Like that’s your secret goal or something like that. So it’s — the game has a lot — there’s so many components in the game and it can be really overwhelming when you open it up, but there’s a really good teaching series online by Rodney Smith called Watch it Played.
PAIGE: I love those.
TIFFANY: Yeah. He does a really good Watch it Played of how to play it and he also does a game with his son Luke, I believe.
ANGELA: That’s awesome.
TIFFANY: So that’s definitely a level up on your coop.
PAIGE: Very cool. Thank you so much for that recommendation. This has been a fantastic chat. We should totally get together and play some board games.
TIFFANY: Oh, yes.
PAIGE: Maybe we’ll have you back on to talk some more about how all of that ties together and you can tell us how your freelancing is going and we’ll definitely follow along. Oh, and if people want to follow you on Twitter, it’s TheOneTAR?
TIFFANY: That’s right. And it’s spelled out, so T-A-R or, sorry, The and then one is spelled out.
ANGELA: Thank you for listening to this episode of Women’s Tech Radio. Remember, you can contact us by emailing wtr@jupiterbroadcasting.com. There’s a contact form at JupiterBroadcasting.com where you can drop down to Women’s Tech Radio to contact us. Or you can on Twitter. Our handle is heywtr.
PAIGE: You can also find us on iTunes. If you have a minute leave a review and you can check out the show notes at JupiterBroadcasting.com on our page and it will also incluide the transcripts if you have some people who might be interested in the show, but don’t have the time to listen to us, but are fast readers. Thanks so much.

Transcribed by Carrie Cotter | Transcription@cotterville.net

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