Making Stuff is Fun: Tammy Butow Q&A

by Lisy Kane

Melbournian Tammy Butow‘s list of extra-curricular activities makes me exhausted – I wonder how she manages to juggle it all.  When she’s not working the nine-to-five in mobile application development and design at NAB, she co-runs Girl Geek Melbourne and moonlights as web designer for Chucking a Mosh, ambassador for The Fetch and a screen caster at Code School while also completing her masters. With this all on the go, Tammy is doing great things around getting people – particularly women – involved in technology.

First up Tammy, can you tell us a little bit about what your busy week usually includes?
I work as a Digital Strategist and I also do a few side projects such as Girl Geek Dinners Melbourne, Making Stuff is Fun and Chucking a Mosh. Over the past few weeks, I have been travelling around Australia presenting talks on social media and creating apps. Earlier this week, I went for a drive to Mt Eliza and spoke at Year 9 assembly – I was talking about what it’s like to work in technology and also presenting a prize to a Year 9 student. She designed a great app for shopping and won a competition I helped organise as part of Go Girl Go For IT. I spent the rest of the day working from home and then I had some friends over for dinner.

What got you into the world of technology?

When I was 11, I found a book about the Internet for kids. It was so amazing to me. From that time until now, I’ve been building websites and mobile apps on the Internet. I took all the IT subjects I could at school and studied IT at university.

You have been running tech workshops for girls including the upcoming DIY CSS workshop. What makes these events successful?
I’ve been using a lot of my experiences from when I studied my Bachelor of Education/Bachelor of Information Technology double degree. I taught at four high schools across Victoria and that experience helped me think about how you can make learning fun and engaging.

What kinds of people attend these events?
We have such a wide variety of women coming to these events: we have a Head of Digital, programmers, designers, bloggers, artists, entrepreneurs and more. Everyone that comes is interested in technology. We invite both beginners and more advanced women to come along to the workshops. Women with experience participate as mentors, which is awesome.

Your passion for getting women involved in technology is a clear motivator for you – how do you think Australian employers are going at achieving equity and diversity in the workplace?
Having accessible role models is really important.

Who do you look up to as an inspirational female in technology?
Pamela Fox – she was working at Google’s Sydney office for a few years and organised a number of amazing workshops for women interested in learning about technology. She’s now working at Coursera. She’s on Twitter, too – @pamelafox.

With all of these projects on top of your job and personal life, how do you keep motivated?
I don’t believe that you need to be motivated to work on projects. Being engaged in what you do is much more important. I stay engaged by working on projects and initiatives that enable me to help others.

On top of everything, you’re also making a book called “Making Stuff is Fun”. What is your goal for this once it’s created?
It’s going to be part of an interactive kit that we will be using as part of the DIY Web Workshops. It will also be made available to purchase online. I’m really into in making learning fun and interesting, so this will be very different to your usual technical book.

If you weren’t involved in technology, what career path do you think you’d be heading in?
I recently watched the documentary Miss Representation. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful. We need more women working in media.

Final question: if you had infinite budget and resources, describe a project you would love to run. Think big!
I’d like to be able to get a Making Stuff Is Fun bus and travel around the world with the DIY Web Workshops. Empowering women and girls is a priority for me.

Thanks Tammy!

by Lisy Kane

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