TSW #16: Aet Toose

24 March 2014


Tell us something about yourself or how would you describe yourself with 5 sentences?
I’m almost intolerably opinionated and loud, the term ‘as political as a Russian tank’ has been used in reference to me more than once. I’m incredibly demanding of both myself and others, sometimes to a fault. I enjoy working with dogs and hunting. I am a project-based person, meaning I must constantly have a new project to work on, a goal to meet or promise to fulfill. I enjoy and loathe people with equal passion, which makes working in tech very fitting for me.

How did you discover and first become engaged in technology?
My mother had a computer at work in the early 90s and brought home one of the discarded ones from the office. I spent a lot of my time as a preteen playing Civilization II and Prehistoric on it. Later I got into more serious gaming as well as writing in some online communities and started building basic websites for people to earn a bit of spending cash.
I wasn’t sure that I would go into IT at all, even at the end of high school. For a long time I thought I would get a law degree, but gave up on that as I felt I was a bit too frank to do a good job at it. Then I wanted to become a Civil Engineer with my second option being IT (I was an avid World of Warcraft gamer back then and all of my friends worked in IT, so it seemed like a good idea). I finally chose IT because of something my parents said to me. My grandfather told this to my mother when she was trying to decide what to study. He told her, “Don’t go somewhere where you’ll be a mediocre engineer, go somewhere where you can be somebody.”. At the end of the day I felt I could do more in IT than in engineering and I’m glad I made that decision.

What are your current projects related to technology?
I tend to get involved deeply in my work projects as far as tech goes and my passion projects often turn into work as well. Currently I’m working on a Ruby on Rails web service as a tech lead/web development architect for Navionics that allows users to update their naval cartography chips. It’s an interesting project as we’re trying to cobble together information from a lot of sources while at the same time upgrading a woefully out of date backend.
This project has also expanded my horizons quite a bit. Working in safe, well-managed Swedish-based IT corporations leaves you dazed and confused when you enter a tech environment that is not quite as advanced as we’re used to in Estonia. If you get the chance I urge everyone to get out of your comfort zone and work abroad or at least on projects that are vastly different from what your norm is. You never learn to appreciate what you had before you’re in a situation where the same kind of tools and knowledge is not available. It’s an uphill battle trying to bring what you consider ‘normal’ into a different situation, but I think it’s a lesson that’s better learned sooner rather than later.
I also occasionally consult for Elion on their web development through my own company, Hooligan, and am hoping to do more consulting work soon.

What is the biggest problem you have ever come across with technology?
Technology is rarely the issue, the problem is firmly rooted in the people behind it. For me the biggest and by far the most frustrating issue has been getting people to figure out what they actually want and then breaking it into manageable pieces. Anything can be accomplished with enough time and resources (money!) but people responsible for envisioning requirements rarely have an idea as to what they’re trying to solve or achieve. Molding these vague desires into something functional and useful has always been the biggest challenge for me.

What would be your message to newbie female tech makers to give them a heads up or encouragement?
Tech isn’t hard or scary. If you have a solid head on your shoulders and logic doesn’t scare you (why should it!) then odds are very good that you’ll have more flexibility and opportunities in IT than you would anywhere else.
Most people who go to college know nothing about programming languages, IDEs, development models or database structures. A big chunk of the stuff you need to know will be taught in college and you’ll be given the tools and capability to find and learn the rest.

What are the top 5 apps you can’t live without?
On a daily basis I use Skype for work and socializing and Plex for general amusement. Dropbox helps me manage my ever-increasing list of ‘things’ that need to be available on all possible gadgets (laptops, PCs, phone, tablet, etc). I’m a big fan of f.lux for keeping my eyes happy during long working days at the computer. Last but not least if I didn’t have a really loud alarm clock on my phone I doubt I’d get anything done, ever.

What or who inspires or has inspired you the most?
I’ve gotten my inspiration from colleagues and friends, whose success and aspirations constantly push me to do better, learn more and go further. I also enjoy competing with myself and have found that I can often surprise myself if I just focus my energy and attention on something for long enough.
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