“So, tell us 3 things about yourself!” Yes, it’s a very conventional way to start an interview, but when you ask someone like Inna Gutnik, chances are, you won’t be getting a typical answer. Self-described as multifaceted (her background is in performance arts and dance), logical and a hybrid between a comedian and a philosopher, you quickly realize that she isn’t your conventional web developer.
After discovering she’s been at Stradigi AI for 7 years and is one of the original members, we wanted to take advantage of her wisdom. “What essential skills do you believe any web developer needs to acquire to succeed nowadays?”, she sets her elbows on the table and without blinking responds: “In web, you’ll be presented with a goal, or a project and there will be certain expectations in terms of features, or what it should look like. If you want to be successful, you need to be able to look those expectations, understand in what context it will be used so you can make informed choices.
Be analytical and recognize that different people have different perspectives. You also need to be able to look forward and anticipate change, so you can build your project as efficiently as possible, while hitting your goals. In web development, you’ll realize that there are a million ways to achieve the same solution. Be disciplined in the way you analyze, plan and develop your project, so you can work quickly and deliver quality work. Oh! Also, stay current and never stop learning!”
1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY! HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
Once upon a time, I thought I was going to be a world famous choreographer and dancer and I had a few brushes with fame, which were lovely, but I was never satisfied.
Eventually, I became a manager at a yoga studio and while I was there, I took it upon myself to do all the design (branding, posters) and taught myself how to use certain softwares. After talking with our web developer, I started to realize that I was interested by the prospect of a more structured future, which led me to enroll in a private college and begin my formal education.
I was never one of those people that worked for grades in school, but on that first day, when they taught me the basics, I felt like the sky had opened up. I can only assume it’s the same way priests feel when they realize their calling in life and God speaks to them for the first time. *laughs* I had found my calling. I understood everything so completely and it was really fun. Programming is by far the most creative thing I’ve ever done.
2. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT STRADIGI AI?
I am the lead web developer. A big part of what I do is analysis, which entails choosing the technologies that are going to be applied to our projects based on the best fit, as well as the analysis of future projects. I also lead my team of developers. I try to strike a balance between being a resource when things are difficult and a source of motivation. I also help keep them on track and guide them when they’re making decisions in their individual projects. Finally, I am a lawmaker. I may not have written them down yet, but ask anyone on my team and they’ll be able to cite a few of them to you.
(Popular laws in Inna’s circle: “There shall be no website that does not use SASS as its base for CSS” and “Thou shalt never hard code anything in the application.”)
3. HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO LEAD A TEAM? DOES IT FEEL LIKE THE RIGHT FIT FOR YOU?
I like to create connections and since I’ve always taken a managerial role in almost every part of my life, it made sense. I want things to be done well and often times when they don’t, it can be traced back to poor communication. In the tech industry, people tend to have naturally skittish personalities and avoid conversations they deem confrontational, but those conversations need to happen, or nothing gets done. Since I don’t have that fear, it’s a natural fit for me.
4. YOU’RE A FULL-STACK WEB DEVELOPER, WHICH MEANS YOU CAN WORK ON THE FRONT AND BACK-END OF A WEBSITE. CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORKFLOW WHEN YOU CREATE SOMETHING FROM SCRATCH?
It’s so fun! I love when I get to work from scratch. The first phase is analysis, where I review the designs and look at the interconnectivity of all the different elements that outline the website or application (pages, widgets, objects) and how the user is supposed to interact with them. All this becomes a virtual 3D map in my mind where I can shoot from perspective to perspective (think Minority Report) and workshop every use case I can think of.
Once I do that, I can approach the second phase, which is the structure of the project. This is where I create the motherboard and plan the outline.
The next phase is execution and I start to create the frame, run my tests to make sure there are no issues and also, depending on the project, I might have to add special elements (animation, interactivity), which I’m not always familiar with. Often, I have to get into an experimental zone and work out the aspects of the projects that require a bit more research and development.
The last phase is esthetics. Although very important to the user, I do this last and think about the devices that will be using the product and how I can adapt it to make it work for everyone.
(Note: the building process for a web application (from scratch) can take between 1 week to a year!)
5. WHAT MAKES THE WEB TEAM AT STRADIGI AI UNIQUE?
There is a healthy level of humility in our team that allows everyone to be really good developers. We’re like a little egalitarian ecosystem. Egos prevent you from working in a team and we don’t have room for that. We work together in order to be supportive, efficient and successful in our projects. We can also admit that we don’t know everything. This allows us to share information and constantly evolve and improve our expertise. Our team of full-stack web developers is resourceful and motivated and they have the ability to go out and look for solutions whenever they encounter a problem. That type of initiative is so important.
6. HAVE YOU FOUND THAT IT IS DIFFICULT FOR FEMALE DEVELOPERS TO FIND THEIR PLACE IN THE TECH COMMUNITY?
Right now, the tech community is still heavily dominated by men. I do think it’s more challenging for female developers to find their place, but I’ve had less of an issue with it because of the type of personality I have.
I think every wave of change has been led by people with thick skin and fearless personalities. I’ve noticed some change thanks to awareness, but I think the best way to remedy inequality is through self-advocacy, visibility and opportunity. It comes down to whether or not you care that you’re the only woman standing in a room…and you shouldn’t!
7. IF YOU COULD SWITCH PLACES WITH SOMEONE FOR A DAY – REAL OR FICTIONAL, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She kicks butt! Yes, she’s a hero and fights for the forces of good, but the reason I connect with her is the fact she doesn’t sacrifice her femininity in order to be a warrior. She’s a strong woman who doesn’t feel the need to adapt to the conceptions of what other people think “strong” should look like.
I’m a slayer too though! I don’t slay demons, but I slay bugs.