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Georgie Luhur Cooke — Meet the Mentors

MentorCruise wouldn’t be anything without our amazing mentors. In the ‘Meet the Mentors’ series we talk to the people behind MentorCruise about their experiences and passions. Today, we are talking to Georgie Luhur Cooke, a talented blogger, weightlifter, UI developer and mentor from Australia.

*Georgie is one of our mentors on MentorCruise. Visit her profile now and get mentored by her: *Georgie’s Profile**.

Hey Georgie! Before we get started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi! I’m an introverted, but extremely talkative person, I go to the gym a lot, and every time I go rock climbing I hate giving up. I love travelling and seeing more of the world; nature leaves me breathless, and I love exploring and seeing what other countries and cultures have to offer. It’s hard for me to describe what exactly inspires me, but seeing other people do their best and do amazing things actually motivates me to keep doing better and working on a better version of myself.

I try to live an intentful life, I care a lot about mental health, I’m conscious of clutter and hoarding stuff, and I put a lot of value in experiences rather than things. I love fashion and I tend to go for bright colours in unusual fabrics and styles, and I get a weird joy out of the process of polishing my nails even though I will never be patient enough to wait for the polish to dry.

Over the years, you have worked on several different exciting projects and have collected a lot of experience. How did you get started? How did you get your first job?

What I consider my first “real” job in the field was preceded by a little journey. I’d landed a graphic design/data entry job for Cambridge University Press, working on building the interface for a computer program for teaching children mathematics. I applied through my university after there was a callout, so I don’t think any effort was required on my part, haha.

Not long after that, I was looking for something new towards the end of my bachelor’s degree and I really wanted to see if I could get a job in web development. I had my portfolio set up and my resume ready. I searched on job listing websites and applied for anything that I felt suited me. I wasn’t sure of what to search for, though, and searching for “web development” gave me a lot of really daunting job descriptions that were clearly beyond my skill level.

I remember my mum telling me something about data entry being easy if you’re good at typing, and, feeling rather lost, I typed in things like “data entry” and “graphic design”. I found things I thought I could do, so I applied for dozens of different roles until I got an interview!

Back then, I don’t think I had access to the amount of resources that many university students have today. There were less meetups, not as many communities around technology, and it was more difficult to make connections.

You work at Campaign Monitor now. What do you do there?

In the past I worked on a lot of the front-end of Campaign Monitor’s email builder. Most of the work there involved building new features and working closely with a designer. Currently, though, I am working on our company’s internal design system — a website where we have easily installable components (common building blocks of a website like buttons, icons, and notification banners) and their documentation; copywriting guidelines; and design guidelines, all in the one place. The design system is a living project so it’s regularly updated and iterated on. The goal is to unify the look and feel of our products, and make it easier to update and maintain over time. As the design system evolves, I also have a role in implementing it across different product areas.

You are also an avid speaker and blogger. How did you get started with that?

Blogging came about when I started seventh grade and I shared diary entries with my friends because I didn’t have much to hide and I wanted to share my thoughts with them. I ended up typing them, because at the time, other kids the same age as me were using the internet to research for school assignments, play games, and chat online. Then I discovered you could publish your work online in the form of a blog. That was really how it all started for me. My early posts were just about school, then they became more about pixel art and the internet, and slowly, my blog grew with me like a public diary and a continuously updated collection of stories about my life.

These days I write about anything that interests me and anything that I am passionate about, but most of my posts fit in and around the notion of personal development and always striving to be the best version of myself. I like that I can always look back on what experiences I’ve had in the past. We live in a world where the internet makes experiences so fleeting and easily forgotten, that it helps to have a blog where you can reflect on your achievements and progress.

Getting into speaking was a different story. I really disliked it when I was younger. I thought it had to be about memorising your entire speech, and just trying not to take any weird breaths during the whole thing. I have a very, very different outlook on it now. I did my first talk in front of an audience at work in 2015, after a colleague of mine started an internal speaking program at Campaign Monitor (which we call Bread Talks — spinoff of Ted Talks). I was having all sorts of trouble dragging windows across different screens and trying to not always be looking down and reading from my computer… but the thing is, I was speaking about a topic that I really adore: microdata. That made it so different from the fearful speaking in front of an audience that we all get exposed to in school.

I grew less nervous, and tried to think of more ideas for things I cared about sharing. I realised it was actually fun. I loved sharing what I thought and having people respect that I had something to talk about. I got addicted to it quickly, looking for many opportunities to speak at meetups and events. When my colleague moved on but wanted to keep Bread Talks going, myself and another colleague actually offered to take on the duties. It’s still going to this day!

I’ve headed towards the more “motivational talks” and telling stories through speaking, although initially I thought I had to always be talking about something technical. But I’ve realised that people value those talks too.

What is your favourite project that you have worked on?

My friend Jane (janepedia.com) commissioned me to design and develop a WordPress theme for her blog. The current design is the third one I’ve created for her and I love that she lets me take most of the creative direction. Despite this, we still iterate over the work I do, and I unashamedly show her works in progress so we can pick up anything she dislikes before it’s too late. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with her. Something I’m quite fond of is that she sent me a music video for the previous theme I designed and developed for her, and said she wanted me to use it for inspiration, and that was about it. Almost every single time I’ve created a WordPress theme for her, I’ve felt insanely jealous because it ended up looking better than my own blog design. Hahaha.

More with working for a company rather than freelancing experience, though, is that I helped work on the first version of the NSW transport website (transportnsw.info) back in 2012. I really enjoyed working with that because transport is something that a lot of the population use every day, and for our state of New South Wales to finally have a nice resource for that purpose was exciting. I’m glad I got to be a part of that.

You live in Sydney, Australia! What — in your opinion — is different about the tech scene there as opposed to the US?

The tech scene in Sydney is not as saturated as in the US. We don’t have a lot of opportunity to work in startups, because there aren’t many. People can be very particular with where they want to work and for what company, and while Sydney has no shortage of opportunities, these don’t seem to appeal to your typical developer in the tech industry because they are not from a startup with recent funding, or they’re not a company with a household name. Some tech giants don’t have an office in Sydney, meaning that it’s common for Sydneysiders to relocate to somewhere like San Francisco to find more interesting opportunities.

There are also significantly less meetups than in the US. Speakers are up-and-coming talent looking to break into the industry — a real homegrown, organic feel. One might even go as far to argue that our meetups are of a lower “quality” because our speakers are not prominent figures in tech. The networks are much smaller, too, I believe, which means that you’ll see the same people many times at various different events.

What advice can you give to young students trying to get started in this space?

My first piece of advice is to talk to people. Talk to people at meetups who are starting out, who have a job in technology, who are studying — anyone who has experience or knowledge about the technical industry. Tech is so broad, and this is a piece of advice I only thought about recently. As a user interface developer, my close friends who are also user interface developers have entirely different career beginnings from me, as well as different experiences. I think it’s important for young students to ask questions and have chats with other people working in different areas of technology so that they can gauge what they might like, and get advice from many different people.

Another suggestion I have is to keep practicing and find a way to play with technology and learn in your spare time (if you have other hobbies though, don’t give them up just for this!). It’s very easy and free to use resources on the internet to learn how to code, so definitely take advantage of that! It definitely doesn’t stop there though — sometimes doing something outside of work or study, that you find fun, helps. They are often called “passion projects”. But believe me, I understand and know the feeling of not being able to find something to do as a passion project. It was not until several months ago that my friends helped me to think of something I could do on the side to learn and develop my skills in JavaScript — a wardrobe inventory app for the clothes I own. Prior to this I had spent several years with no idea of what to do. Don’t despair, because it takes time.

That said, if you enjoy coding, please don’t buy into the popular saying, “Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I love my job, but it doesn’t mean I am not “working”, and it doesn’t mean I don’t call my day job “work”. Don’t work in tech because you love it and think everything will be rainbows and butterflies. Work in tech because you enjoy the work.

Now that you are a mentor — who would you like to mentor? What is your desired mentee like?

I have one mentee right now via MentorCruise. I really appreciate that he did his research and looked at my profile on MentorCruise, as well as look at some of my blog posts. He took the effort to find out more about me to determine whether I was a good fit for him as a mentor. This was such a positive experience and something future mentees looking to apply through MentorCruise should do.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

The trick to stopping sticky notes from curving and rolling up is to hold the pad of notes and pull the note downwards, not peel it off from the corner. You’re welcome.

*Georgie is one of our mentors on MentorCruise. Visit her profile now and get mentored by her: *Georgie’s Profile**.

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