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CodeNewbie Team

Meet CodeLand Keynote Speaker Helen Hou-Sandí

Gracie Gregory (she/her)
Content Manager @ Forem — Em-dashing my way through life
・3 min read

Over the next few weeks leading up to CodeLand 2021, we'll be sharing mini-interviews with our four keynote speakers so you can get to know them a bit better before hearing their talks!

We hope you enjoy this series and we can't wait to see you at CodeLand 2021 — September 23-24th, all-remote right here on CodeNewbie Community. Create an account if you don't have one already!

Get to know Helen Hou-Sandí...

Pronouns: She/Her
Based in: San José, Costa Rica & New York, New York
Title, Organization: Director of Open Source Initiatives at 10up, Lead Developer for the WordPress open source software project.
CodeLand Keynote: "Musical Lessons for Engineering Teams: Developing a Culture of Feedback Cycles"
Fun fact: Helen has a knack for figuring out what people need to get things done on their websites, including most recently with the relaunch of WhiteHouse.gov for the Biden-Harris Administration.


Q: Why are you excited to speak at CodeLand 2021?

Helen: It's really easy to forget where you started, all the experiences that have shaped you into who you are today, and that those experiences often involve other people sharing their knowledge with you.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about feedback cycles (or lack thereof) in our development practices, and polishing that into a talk is just as much a way for me to practice mindful feedback as it is for me to share what I've learned through my journey from musician to engineer!

Q: What role did community play in the early days of your software development journey?

Helen: Everything about where I am today is because of community. In my case, specifically, the WordPress community — which led me to the broader tech community!

The opportunity to attend low-cost events featuring kind and smart people in the WordPress development space opened my eyes to a whole new world of web development, software engineering, and open source projects that immediately drew me in.

Q: What’s one thing you’d tell yourself on the first day of your software development journey if you could go back in time?

Helen: I always struggle with this question, because everything that's already happened is a part of what has brought me here — and I don't know that I want to change that! Perhaps I'd tell myself that my musical background will turn out to be the thing that keeps me grounded even in my computer work and not a thing to be self-conscious about.

Q: When you’re not writing code, what’s your favorite thing to do?

Helen: Another question I struggle with because I'm always doing a million different things away from the computer, from DIY home improvement to zoning out listening to music! I took a three-month sabbatical last year and only touched the computer to make a little Raspberry Pi-powered jukebox for my kids and file taxes.

A frequent go-to for me is baking; I love that it involves precision work and leads to delicious chemical transformations. I think it's pretty common for software engineers to enjoy hobbies and activities that end in physically tangible output, since so much of what we do day-to-day might be impactful but can't be touched in the same way.

Q: Who or what is a source of inspiration for you in your career?

Helen: Two of my most formative piano teachers: Suzanne Guy and Dr. Jean Barr. They are/were incredible pedagogues who taught me not just how to play the piano but how to hear, listen, learn, and practice my craft on my own, along with the value of being a kind professional with the flexibility to thrive in a fast-changing world. My talk at CodeLand 2021 is dedicated to all the amazing music teachers and professors I've had over the years, but especially those two.


"My talk at CodeLand 2021 is dedicated to all the amazing music teachers and professors I've had over the years."

- Helen Hou-Sandí


You can follow Helen right here on CodeNewbie Community (@helen ) and on Twitter (@helenhousandi ).

Register for CodeLand 2021 to hear Helen's keynote talk: "Musical Lessons for Engineering Teams: Developing a Culture of Feedback Cycles"

>> https://codelandconf.com

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