Innov8tiv Exclusive Interview W/ Catt Small, a Programmer, Designer & Role Model for Women Pursuing STEM Career
At Innov8tiv, we aspire to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields. One of the ways we do so is by shading more light on the few women who are making ground breaking achievement in the tech-field. Hoping that this will give young girls who are either too afraid, undecided or too caught up in the stigma that the STEM field is a reserve for men: and it’s unbecoming for a lady in tune with her “girlish side”.
The following is our exclusive interview with Catt Small, where she talks about all her achievements, challenges and career climax in the tech world.
Tell us about yourself and the projects you are currently doing.
I’m a Product Designer at SoundCloud and have been working with them for about five months. Before becoming a SoundClouder, I worked with a number of companies at different scales including NASDAQ OMX, Scholastic, Bedrocket Media Ventures, Alexander Interactive, and ParksByNature Network.
I have also been speaking at conferences about UX design, games, and programming, as well as how we can improve the tech and gaming industries.
You have a website called The Catt Suite, you also run Tech Under Thirty, Code Liberation, Brooklyn Gamery, & Buttered Toast Studios. Tell us more about each of these initiatives.
The Catt Suite is where I keep my portfolio work and write about a variety of topics, including tutorials, advice, and life updates. The majority of my posts are most likely records of what I’ve been working on – I prefer to walk the walk and talk about it later, so I usually don’t talk about stuff in the works.
Tech Under Thirty is a free group that meets approximately every other month in New York City. Our aim is to give people with fledgling careers in design and technology fields a chance to branch out amongst their peers. We host all kinds of events; our most recent event was a side project show & tell. Other events we’ve hosted include board game mixers and presentations by industry professionals. In case you’re curious, we don’t actually have an age restriction, so you’re invited to join us!
We organize free classes, workshops, and events, but also open source a lot of our work. For example, people who can’t make it to our classes in person are able to see our presentations and code online – for free. We want to empower women around the world to make the games they’ve always wanted to play.
Brooklyn Gamery and Buttered Toast Studios are two game development companies I’m a part of. We have 2 games in the works – one’s a mobile action game called Prism Shell and the other is a chemistry game called Al the Chemist.
You have accomplished so much, and you started at age 15, what motivated you to start coding?
I started programming at age 12 in order to make digital dress-up dolls. I was anime-crazy at the time (hooray for Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z!) and spent much of my time during and after school drawing fan art. When I learned about KISS dolls, I became really excited and wanted to learn how to make my own. After making one, I noticed all the cool doll makers had websites. So, of course, I made my own.
I later lost interest in programming and design until around my third year of high school. That year, I took a computer graphics class and became heavily interested in designing T-shirts, clothes, bags, and notebooks. One day between classes, I noticed a sign in the hallway advertising a group of young women who were designing for actual clients. After a few emails, I had a “job” with a company called 3iYing (more recently known as Girl Approved). The work I did with 3iYing showed me that design could be a profitable career and helped me to define the direction I wanted to go in as a designer.
You currently offer classes, and you host events, is there a specific target audience that you are trying to reach?
I would say that my general target audience is adults who are interested in art, design, games, and/or technology because they’re at the age where their life choices directly affect the industries I’m in. People who are still in elementary or high school won’t enter the workforce for a while, and I guess you could say I’m impatient. However, I’m looking forward to working with teenagers through my upcoming Code Liberation class – I want to inspire the next generation, too!
As a millennial, what advice would you give to others looking to learn coding?
Don’t be afraid, and don’t give up. Treat code like you would a paintbrush; you might not master it immediately, but with time and practice you’ll improve. Some might learn faster and in different ways than others, but if you are interested in making things with code, you can do it.