Brittney Ball on Gatsby, building and using learning resources and more

This week after the short hiatus, we're back talking with an amazing self taught software engineer from Charlotte, North Carolina -- The awesome Brittney Ball!

Quick show notes


Bryan Robinson 0:07

Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of That's My JAMstack podcast where we profile amazing people working in this awesome JAMstack community. This week after the short hiatus, we're back talking with an amazing self taught software engineer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Everyone please welcome to the show the awesome Brittany Ball.

Bryan Robinson 0:28

Brittany, thanks for joining us on That's My JAMstack today. How are you doing?

Brittney Ball 0:34

I'm doing great. How are you doing today?

Bryan Robinson 0:35

I'm doing well, doing well!

Bryan Robinson 0:37

So um, I guess first let's start with just an introduction. Tell us a little bit about yourself what you do for work and fun and kind of who you are as a person.

Brittney Ball 0:45

My name is Brittany Ball. I currently am a software engineer at a company in Charlotte, North Carolina called Skookum. They're a digital consulting agency and what I do for fun, I like poetry. So I do a lot of the, you know, open mic nights in Charlotte around Charlotte and I like to visit the different breweries. So that's a hobby of mine too

Bryan Robinson 1:12

You actually go and perform poetry at the open mic night.

Brittney Ball 1:15

No, I don't have that much courage, but I like to listen to others before

Bryan Robinson 1:20

I was ready to be like, so like, impressed and just have to like leave the call. Because Wow, that would have been amazing. Cool. So, uh, so kind of what's your specialty in terms of software engineering? Like, what what do you primarily do back in front end?

Brittney Ball 1:36

I'm a front end engineer. I love the design aspect of coding and you know, so I'm more into like, how everything looks and you know, functions on that that aspect.

Bryan Robinson 1:48

Very cool. Very good. Me too. I like if I can't see it. I just I'm not interested in working on it.

Brittney Ball 1:53

Exactly. Yeah.

Bryan Robinson 1:55

Cool. So So obviously, this is a JAMstack podcast. So I guess what what was your entry point into this idea or this methodology or static sites or whatever you like to call it.

Brittney Ball 2:05

I started to do research on Gatsby. And so that was like my entry point. And I really fell in love with how flexible it was. And, you know, the way that you could, you know, stack plugins, and, you know, the theme aspect of Gatsby and, like, Netlify and GraphQL. I just fell in love and like, I'm still, you know, learning, you know, it's so much you can do with it. So like, I'm still learning but I love it.

Bryan Robinson 2:39

Very cool. and are using it personally or is it professional? Or where's that falling?

Brittney Ball 2:44

Right now I'm using it personally to build learning resource that I'm working on. So it's like trial and error, some learning as I know this is something that I'm really passionate about. So

Bryan Robinson 2:58

when you're building the resourcing Casspi, I assume, yes. Very cool and what sort of what sort of plugins are using, so you love that you can, you can kind of stack those plugins together. And I'm very interested in cascades plugin ecosystem.

Brittney Ball 3:10

Um, so I'm using a plugin for that will. And so I have a blog aspect of this websites. I'm using a plugin to bring in our RSS feed. I'm also using a plugin that I actually worked with Jason Lengstorf who works for Gatsby, we built a plugin that would allow you to bring in things using a meetup API. So yeah, I'm using that plugin also. So like, I'm trying to like, it's a lot of things one into this learning resource. And so I'm having to like do a lot of research and if you know, it doesn't plugin, I'm learning to build my own and put it out there for others to use.

Brittney Ball 4:10

Because Gatsby is somewhat new in some, some of the issues I run into. Haven't, you know, they don't have a lot of in the community they don't have a lot of answers for. And so I have found myself going directly to the people that work. There are the people that don't that, you know, the Gatsby theme, and you don't have questions, I go to the person that built it. And as you know, oh, you know, does this have this? No functionality yet, and getting answers straight from the source. So I like that they're really open to reaching out to you and like helping you with that.

Bryan Robinson 4:50

Pretty cool. Yeah, I've actually noticed that too. Like, I run into a bug and there's like, maybe one stack overflow question about it. Like you can't find the answer. Yeah, that's actually something I've heard a few different times about Gatsby Is that like a lot of people in the ecosystem are real friendly, you can reach out to them.

Brittney Ball 5:06

Yeah, they they are really friendly. And I just found out about Spectrum. And so on Spectrum, we have like a really big community and they're all open to answering questions about Gatsby and you know on Twitter if you you know, hashtag Gatsby have a question. So many people will reach out to you and like try to help you solve the issue.

Bryan Robinson 5:29

So So what would be fair to say that Gatsby is kind of your jam in the JAMstack?

Brittney Ball 5:33

Yes, it is. It is really is like I'm really falling in love with it. And like I really want to, you know, create something major with Gatsby. Yeah, I really love it.

Bryan Robinson 5:42

I really enjoyed the fact that so like, I'm a static site guy, I've been using like Jekyll and 11ty, but I love that like Gatsby is the this thing that's kind of beyond that, right? Like it's static sites, but then it's like a static app builder. Almost like you can do so much with it.

Brittney Ball 5:58

You do so much. Like I've been talking to like others and then like, I don't know about Gatsby aesthetics, I'm like, but it's like, so much more than just a static site. Like, it's so much you can do with it and like, just so awesome.

Bryan Robinson 6:13

So the stuff you've been doing with it, have you been doing, like the full, like, single page application aspects of it? Or are you doing server side rendering with it or you actually kind of combining both of those?

Brittney Ball 6:24

Um, it's a little combination of both. So I'm using like, Netlify. So yeah, it's a combination. So I'm trying to, you know, this is like my first Gatsby site, so it's like trial and error, figuring it out on what to do and what I like and what you know, after this, I think I'm going to build something else in Gatsby like to just keep building until I figure out what works best for me.

Bryan Robinson 6:54

I get that that first and then second and third and fourth. And especially when you have side projects. Once you start from really hard to stop?

Brittney Ball 7:01

Yes, yes, yes, I have like my GitHub, I have so many different ones. Yeah.

Bryan Robinson 7:07

About that. Right. So before you kind of discovered Gatsby, and for you maybe got into this whole static site world, were you wanting to do side projects? And was it harder before you kind of discover this stuff?

Brittney Ball 7:21

Yeah, it was. Yeah, it was a lot harder to like. So before, I was just working with like, another JavaScript. And so like, that was harder because it took a lot of more work. And we had to, like, you know, do a lot of the building yourself. Whereas the Gatsby, you can bring in a starter, and it's already like, pre configured for you. And if you add in things and functionality and like, you know, plugins, and it's, you know, it was easier for me to learn and, you know, I say break things and, you know, fix them, you know, So yeah, I think like, I recommend Gatsby to like anyone that you know, starting out and they want to learn something like Gatsby is so, like, easy. It's like really simple to learn.

Bryan Robinson 8:15

And so coming in coming into this kind of world did you do you have much experience with back end technology or view just has brought in okay, because I got a little bit of experience and I hate it I hate back end stuff.

Brittney Ball 8:27

Yeah, yeah, I had a little bit like starting out. I don't know if you know, but I'm completely self taught. So like I taught myself web development using YouTube. Yeah, and so I had to figure out a back end and front end and not like it was the line was kind of blurred for me. You know, which was front and back end, but I learned quickly the difference because front end is like so much more like a Filling to me.

Bryan Robinson 9:03

And it gives you that quick feedback loop to like you you do something, you see it, it works. It's great. Or you do something you see it. It's horrible. You fix it. Yeah. So you mentioned learning on YouTube, but what were some of like your big resources? Or was it just random videos that you would find by googling?

Brittney Ball 9:20

Yeah, random, random searches. So that's when that's before like Free Code Camp. And a lot of you know, the things that they have now to learn on. They weren't around back then. And so it's all like me, like you, YouTube being, you know, JavaScript and seeing what videos we had and like which ones were you know, the thing about learning on YouTube. A lot of people don't teach the same and they don't break it down so that newer engineers or you know, someone that wants to break into the end industry can understand. And that's where I want to help. Because I know the things that struggle with, you know, trying to learn. And so like, I want to be that voice or others that, you know, I want to break it down so they can understand and not use a lot of big terminology. You know, it kind of confuses so like, that's one of the struggles I face when I was learning on YouTube.

Bryan Robinson 10:24

Definitely. And sometimes the definitions don't mean what people expect them to mean to that. That was like my first five years learning I was mostly self taught like with a couple mentors, and like they would say something and I searched for it and it actually meant something different and yeah, exciting.

Bryan Robinson 10:43

so so you're using Gatsby you're enjoying it, I assume. So you talked about how much you love it. What what's going to kind of keep you in this obviously you're maybe not using it professionally right now. But what's going to keep you playing in the jam sack working with a jam tech what makes you like what gives you the Love.

Brittney Ball 11:02

Um, they're always coming out with something new, some kind of improvement and so like, you know, because it's new or like, it's always something new to learn, like, and I heard, you know, they're doing something different themes now, you know. And so like, I'm just excited to learn what's new Gatsby? What you know what exciting thing I can do with it now you know, so they're always coming out with new ways to use it and so that's really exciting for me.

Bryan Robinson 11:30

What Yeah, what's that new thing? Let me let me use that new thing

Brittney Ball 11:33

that had no time to get boring because it's always something Oh, guess what you can do what gets me now like,

Bryan Robinson 11:40

all right, so so you know I don't want to keep you too long. Keep it nice and short. But I do want to know what was your actual jam right now? Where do you jam and how to where you listening to dancing to? I don't know.

Brittney Ball 11:52

So I have fallen in love with Lizzo, I love her. And I love everything about She stands for as far as like, women empowerment and you know, loving yourself and, you know, so I really, really adore this. Oh, you know, that's my jam, especially when I'm coding. Like, she just gets me pumped and excited and you know, proud to be a woman and like, I just love her

Bryan Robinson 12:17

Very cool. And is there a sort of a thing you'd like to promote that you're working on anything that you want to share to the world? Um hmm.

Brittney Ball 12:28

I am currently starting my own chapter of Tech By Choice. So it's a nonprofit that, you know, empowers women and anyone that, you know, classifies themselves as a woman. It empowers them and helps them on their journey throughout tech. So it's free, free, free to low costs, courses and classes and like you know, mentorship and you know, that kind of, you know, You're not alone in this.

Bryan Robinson 13:03

Is that local to where you are?

Brittney Ball 13:06

It's actually based out of California. But my chapter will be the first chapter outside of California.

Bryan Robinson 13:16

Well, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. And letting us get to know you a little bit better. And I hope you keep doing some amazing stuff. And I'm going to be on the lookout for Tech By Choice. That's for sure.

Brittney Ball 13:27

Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. Yeah, no problem. And we'll see you on the internet.

Brittney Ball 13:32

Yes. Awesome. Thank you.

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