Ashley Long

How many years have you been in tech?

4.5 years

Tell me about your background. What were your early years like?

Growing up, I was pretty artistic. I liked drawing and later developed an interest in design. I had aspirations to become an architect because I loved sketching floor-plans and building houses using those super cheesy 3D home building programs. But I had assumed that a career in architecture would require excellence in math, and math was always one of the more challenging subjects for me in school. So those dreams kind of fell by the wayside.

After my mom signed us up for AOL in the late ‘90s, I pretty quickly found myself building simple websites. I would sketch out website layouts and then use an online site builder like Yahoo! Geocities to put them together. I lived for it at the time. There was no real coding involved at that point, but I dove into learning HTML and CSS in high school and began building more things with code (mostly fan sites for different TV shows and artists that I liked). Once I got to college, I majored in Visual Communications. It was kind of the catch-all degree for people who liked to design things. It involved a lot of studio art, art history and was fairly print design oriented, but my main area of interest was still the web. I took up building interactive experiences in Flash (RIP) and built websites for various campus organizations. I wasn’t super certain where I’d end up, but I knew I wanted to keep building things and tinkering around on the web and see where it would take me.

What was your first job like?

My first job out of college was at CBS Radio, where I worked as a web administrator for their two FM stations, Y98 and KEZK. I also assisted with During college, I had worked on-air at the campus radio station and had a side interest in radio (shout-out to that 2-month period after graduation where I thought I would maybe try to become a voice-over actor, LOL!). At the radio stations, I was responsible for creating and curating music and entertainment-related content on the radio station websites, managing our online contesting platform, designing and developing web graphics and digital ads for on-air campaigns as well as providing additional design support for various station collateral (coffee mugs, van wraps, billboards, you name it.). This job was a perfect blend of my interests at the time as it combined the web, radio and design into one position. After a while though, I decided I wanted to get back into building sites and not just maintaining them, which led me to my current job.

What is your current role?

I currently work as a front-end web developer at FleishmanHillard in downtown St. Louis. My main responsibilities there include building responsive, standards-compliant sites, assisting with maintenance for AT&T’s various English and Spanish-language online properties, and trying to keep up with what’s happening in this fast-paced field.

What are you learning right now?

I’m currently working on strengthening my core JavaScript skills and learning to build apps in React.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

At FleishmanHillard, one of my proudest accomplishments was building VF Corporation’s 2014 online annual report. I put in a lot of hard work and had to push myself to develop that site to the design specs by the deliverable date. In the end, it turned out really nicely and I’m proud to have it in my portfolio. I have also revamped AT&T’s Spanish-language site (twice) and built a rebranding website for Monsanto. For these projects, I was given a lot of responsibility and I think I handled them very competently given my level of experience at the time.

What advice do you wish someone had given to you? What advice would you give to others starting out?

Whatever it is you think you might have an interest in trying, you might as well give it a shot. You might find something new worth pursuing professionally, or at the very least pick up a new hobby. Try sketching it. Try building it. Try debugging it. And don’t assume that you aren’t smart enough to do that thing that you maybe thought you wanted to do but were kind of intimidated by — it turns out that you don’t have to be a math wizard to be an architect (one of my neighbors is an architect and shared this little fun fact with me recently). There are a lot of different ways to be an architect, just as there are a lot of different ways to be a developer or a human. No one way is the best or most obvious way. So don’t get super hung up on thinking so.

What are you currently struggling with?

Finding time to do things that make me happy and spark my curiosity while also carving out the time to broaden my skills and stay professionally relevant. It’s easy to fall into that trap of believing that if you aren’t constantly eating, sleeping and breathing code then you aren’t a good developer. Or that if you haven’t yet picked up X, Y, Z trendy dev tool, then you’re not serious about your job. And especially in front-end web development, you can quickly lose sight of what’s important when there are new tools and frameworks seemingly popping up every month and each of them has about a million dependencies. Sometimes I’ll get so irritated that I’ll just stare at my screen and think “…What am I doing and why?”. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s really not necessary to attend every dev event, follow every blog or read every tutorial. I’d drive myself insane if I tried to, plus I wouldn’t be a very happy person.

What are your hobbies?

I have lately enjoyed hiking in Colorado with my boyfriend, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, taking walks in Tower Grove park, quality snuggles with my cat, tacos, watching Japanese reality TV shows on Netflix, vacuuming my apartment, browsing psychology and philosophy articles on and reading books about risky endeavors that scare me like climbing 8,000 meter mountains in the Himalayas and slot canyoning in the American southwest. I’d like to do more traveling and become a better cook (does anyone have any good tips for meal planning?). Really, I’m discovering new hobbies as I go along.

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