Meet Jenn Wong, a Self-Taught Web Developer in San Francisco for Zillow

Jennifer Wong is a San Francisco native and self taught web developer. In a former life, she was a civil engineer and is still a registered Engineer in Training (No. EIT 121059) with the California Department of Consumer Affairs. She is a jane of all trades (master of none) and dabbles in art, crafts, and electronics. She loves eating, coding, and sleeping.

Jennifer Wong
Web Developer, Zillow

Jennifer Wong is a San Francisco native and self taught web developer. In a former life, she was a civil engineer and is still a registered Engineer in Training (No. EIT 121059) with the California Department of Consumer Affairs. She is a jane of all trades and dabbles in art, crafts, and electronics. She has 8 months of experience as a web developer.

What’s a Typical Day of a Web Developer?

My entire day essentially consists of coding. Sometimes I sketch quick mockups of the page, widget, or email I’m working on to have a clear picture of what I’ll be building. I also spend a lot of time researching answers to questions, bugs, or best practices so I can continue to code. :)

At HotPads (Zillow), we use Eclipse as our integrated development environment (IDE), SmartGit for our git GUI, and because I’m on the front-end, I often use Firefox developer tools and Chrome developer tools to debug.

How’d You Learn to be a Web Developer?

I absolutely love the workshops taught by Girl Develop It.

Meetup is a great way to connect with fellow burgeoning programmers and Protonight in San Francisco is another great networking/hacking resource. Sublime Text is a great text editor for beginners and I highly recommend learning git and using GitHub to keep a record of the work you’re doing.

Favorite Part of Working in Tech?

My favorite part about my job is that I learn something new everyday. It’s mind-blowing to me that there’s a career that requires you to constantly pick up new ideas and concepts.

Another thing I love about my job is that it combines creativity and design with a technical skill set. I love making things pretty, but I also love nerding out to equations and variables.

What your Advice to Your Younger Self?

Be open-minded about everything (and don’t be afraid to ditch a job)! I used to hate that technology was becoming so prevalent in society and now I work in that industry. If I’d given it more of a chance when I was younger instead of sticking to my guns, I may have discovered my dream career sooner.

Never stop hacking and always ask questions. Once you have the skills to program, don’t ever stop! Keep working on projects big or small, find friends new or old to code with (and ask them questions), and stay motivated.

First Experience in Tech?

When I was about three years old, my father purchased an Apple IIGS for our family, so I was exposed to computers at a very young age. I remember playing educational games like Reader Rabbit and Writer Rabbit and printing out silly achievement certificates that the game awarded.

I have always loved “geeky” things like video games, comics, and The X-Files. Math has always been magical to me.

In college and grad school, I studied civil and mechanical engineering, but quickly became bored with the slow pace of projects as a professional.

I decided that I wanted to break into the tech industry, so I started working as a community specialist at Meetup. From there, I became interested in building websites, so I took an HTML/CSS workshop and made my own site to showcase some of my art projects.

When I started working at RentJuice as a Customer Engagement Manager, I fell in love with our API and one of my coworkers recommended that I learn JavaScript. I took the Girl Develop It weekend workshop and quickly picked it up. About a month later, I worked on a Zillow hack week project with that same coworker and couldn’t stop hacking.

How Did You Get Your Current Job?

I found out that HotPads was hiring a front-end developer, so I cornered the two co-founders and Director of Technology at the Zillow SF office press party to let them know that I was learning to code and interested in the job. They told me to send my portfolio, so a few days later, I sent them links to my portfolio and GitHub account.

About a month after that, I was transitioning from the Customer Operations team of RentJuice to the Technology team of HotPads. RentJuice was acquired by Zillow in mid-2013. Six months later, Zillow acquired HotPads and placed them and RentJuice into the same office.

This was actually never the career I imagined I wanted, but I’m now aiming to become a full-stack developer.

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