Every minute of extra software building outside of work will pay off exponentially

Lanre Adeoye
3 min read
Remote Religion is a series which shines a spotlight into the life of a remote tech worker in Africa. We explore the promise and perils of remote work and how to navigate career transition.
In this edition of Remote Religion, we spoke with Clara van Staden, a Blockchain Engineer at Snowfork. She shares tips about how software developers can level up in their careers and how community could impact the web3 ecosystem in Africa.

Hi Clara, Please tell me about yourself?

My name is Clara van Staden. I live in Pretoria, South Africa with my husband and our little boy. I love reading, playing games, travelling (although that has been hamstrung a little by COVID-19 and having a small child) and creating things. I am a software developer. I also love drawing and painting. Software and art are both creative pursuits, which is what I gravitate towards.

How did you get started as a software developer?

My parents had an old PC in our living room as I was growing up. When I was about 5 years old I started playing Disney Interactive games on it, and just fell in love with the computer. Creating software seemed like a natural profession because I enjoy problem-solving and computers. Fortunately, I was aware of software as a career path because my uncle was also a dev.

What has been the most challenging part about your journey to becoming a software developer

Completing a university degree in Information Technology was very challenging. There were many moments where everything just felt too foreign, too hard and I wanted to quit. I am glad I stuck through it because it does count for something.

Starting out as a developer was also challenging. You don't realize how much you don't know. Sometimes when you get stuck on a problem, it feels like you will never be able to solve it. I think as you gain experience, you build confidence in your ability to solve problems, and that really helps. I have also been fortunate to have good teammates that could help me when I got stuck - it makes all the difference.

What keeps you motivated when you feel overwhelmed?

The best thing for me to feel motivated is just to get the thing done. The "thing" is usually something important that I've been putting off for a while (eat the frog!). It is often counterintuitive because you feel like you need motivation to get started, but motivation often comes from accomplishing things.

How did you navigate your transition into blockchain development?

Last year, when I first started my new job as a blockchain engineer, I struggled to see where I should even start to build what I was supposed to build. I was tasked to investigate what changes the Ethereum Merge will require on our blockchain bridge from Ethereum to Polkadot.

Not being very familiar with blockchain concepts, reading up at first made no sense. At times, I felt panicked that I wouldn't be able to complete what was expected of me. But, I took it one small step at a time and tried to block out these thoughts. This proved to be a good strategy.

What is your advice to people who aspire to become software developers?

Every minute of extra software building outside of work will pay off exponentially. If your situation allows it, spend a few minutes every day building something in a new language, framework, whatever. You'll be surprised to see how much it will help you in your career. You'll see patterns easier and solve problems easier.

Keep a blog (technical how-to's, insights into your field) and aim to publish an article every now and then - it's one of those small things that really impresses future employers. It also proves that you can communicate clearly and is a low-time, high-return investment.

How do you think that the StackShift dWeb fellowship could impact the web3 ecosystem in Africa.

It has been interesting to hear what people are working on in the web3 ecosystem! I think the fellowship has the possibility to bring like-minded individuals who are enthusiastic about web3 and Africa together to work on projects and create a community that furthers the cause of web3.

Let’s talk about your art - what have you been working on?

I have been drawing and painting since I was very young, sometimes a little aimlessly and sporadically. A year ago I started a more focused project - drawing a 100 pets using colour pencils, under hashtag #a100furryfriends. Each drawing is a miniature artwork, only about 6cm high. Apart from that, I enjoy the occasional watercolour and playing around with digital art.

Thanks for the insights, Clara. How can people find you?

I am on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/clara-van-staden/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/ClaraVanStaden  ) and Instagram - mostly for my art (https://www.instagram.com/clara.create/)

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