#218 Christina Hastenrath came to development via forensics and biotech
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Christina Hastenrath 0:00
Helping other people you know, also other women under stake. Help them understand that. Sometimes it's good to take the leap, you know, like, be brave, like do it, life will push you when it can. And if you're brave, and you jump with like, this can be a great, great thing. Like I'm so much happier now that I wasn't any of any of my other jobs.
Tim Bourguignon 0:27
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey to podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building your own this episode 218, I received Christina hasna. Christina study the cell and molecular biology and went on to do a master's degree in crime and forensic sciences at the University College in London. She then started a career in biotech. And that's where she fell in love weeks with coding. And to be honest, the rest of her bio reveals way too much details about her story. So I'll stop right there. And like you, I want to hear from her directly. So Christina, welcome to ft.
Christina Hastenrath 1:15
Hi, thank you for having me.
Tim Bourguignon 1:20
There, your German accent came a little bit out, it wasn't there. But we'll come back to that maybe in a minute. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests, then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. So Christina, as you know, the show exists to help listeners understand what your story looked like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your taking? Dive drink?
Christina Hastenrath 2:20
That was an interesting question. And if I think about like the typical like backup my childhood, I always grew up with computers in the house, although old windows 9598 I had like a big block computer on my on my desk as a kid. But I never was a computer nerd I was always interested in actually an animal behavior I. So my interest was always to observe and think about why do they do things. So the like, why behind things was always my interest. So for me, it was always clear that I wanted to study biology from like a very young age. And when I finished high school in West Germany, I went to England, because I wanted to brush up my English. And I really loved that. And I decided to go to university, then to bachelor's degree in biology. And so when I realized that animal behavior wasn't really what I was looking for, it was more granular than that. So because I now had classes going into DNA and microbiology, and I was like this is this is where it's getting interesting. So I actually switched and more of a biochemistry degree going into cell and DNA direction, and really in it and in England is actually great because the English universities allow you to actually do that to become really focused throughout throughout your bachelor's degree. And then I finished that, and I wanted to do a master's. And because I was very interested in the DNA side of things, I then thought, oh, maybe a study and like crime science will be interesting, because I really loved all those shows as crime shows. It looks really cool all the gadgets they use. I was a big, big CSI Miami fan. With Horatio like, this is awesome. I want to be a crime and forensic scientists. But it was a very, very expensive master. So it was cost back then and costs 10 10,000 pounds and coming out of a bachelor degree I did not have the funds so back then the the currency conversion from Australian dollars to Euro was really excellent or two pounds, so I thought I could do one A year where I could work and travel in Australia and save up for my master's degree. So I did. So I packed my bag. And I flew to Australia, and I did a month of travel. And then I settled in Melbourne, got a job there and worked for the rest of the year. Every minute I could stay a night I was working in mango, I was working for ox ox store and like retail selling clothes saved up. The 10 grand said to my mum, mom here I have I have the 10 Grand Can you please help me with rent? And she said, yeah, you you know, you've worked very hard. And I was lucky that she could help me with rent and some food. And I applied for the crime and forensic master's degree that had 15 open spaces and 250 applicants or something, and I got it. Thanks. And I moved to London. And I got really interested in air marks that, you know, people who break in two places, I want to say people, I guess people, like bad agents, like break into places, what happens oftentimes is that they will live their hat to like listen at a window or listen at the door, and they will leave an earmark. And earmarks actually are very distinguishable almost like almost like a fingerprint. So you can also infer the height of a person because they will only like, slightly bend down. So like lift the head slightly bent down so you get an idea of how tall the person is. And my interest was in for how long? Can you extract DNA out of an AirPrint after it has been left outside a window or door? And also in the lab? And that was my master thesis. It was no one
Tim Bourguignon 7:05
you can't do that. Yeah, that never saw never seen that in CSI Miami.
Christina Hastenrath 7:12
Also, you know, a lot of the things that they have don't actually exist yet. That's all like it's very sci fi ish. It's like completely like blew my mind just like what do you mean TV is not real.
Tim Bourguignon 7:25
You ruined this URI for me. Thank you. Sorry. Sorry, I took you on.
Christina Hastenrath 7:30
So anyway, that like that, like project was awesome. And I completed my master's within eight months, because I was doing the research, I was studying for my exams, writing my thesis all at the same time. And I completed a master's in eight months. And I decided to go into biotech and not stay in the fields. Because the like, it all looks really, really cool. But the emotional pressure of actually working on actual crime cases is huge. Like, if you make a mistake, some bad people could be walking free, right. And I just felt that for me, I was not able to, to actually separate work, and private life like I could never just leave that at work and go home and be happy. You know, if like something like that happened, we had a couple of cases where that I brought up examples. And I just decided that for myself, that wasn't the right way to go in my life. So I went and got a job in biotech. And I was working for a company, they sold a system to do end products, testing. So what that means is that all products you buy on the shelf, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food, after they leave the production sites and go onto the trucks to go to the shops, they need to do a last microbial test. And the the normal way of testing takes like five days on average, there's like differences between all the different industries. But the system that the biotech company sold that I have, that I was working for cut that down to two to three days. What that meant is that companies could get their products out faster, they could clear their warehouses, they could produce more they. So that whole Schpeel and so that that was a that was a hardware and a software component both and we were rolling out this update, and I was pretty new in the company and I was responsible just for Germany and then someone left and then they made me responsible for half of Europe basically so I was traveling all the time, which was I thought it was awesome was really great. And then they were they were giving us this update. But labs they don't work with the newest MacBook right? These labs they have very, very old computers. And I ran into one computer that had a had Windows NT on it. And I even I didn't even know what Windows NT was.
Tim Bourguignon 10:13
Okay? Let's see that every day.
Christina Hastenrath 10:16
Right? They all stuff, right. And this update had to support all all all systems, and it wasn't working. So I was like, at the client, and I was like, I'm gonna get this to work. And slowly, slowly, I somehow figured out how to roll out this update on all the different systems to support my clients, and I was writing documentation, I was giving it to our global team, you know, I was training all of them at some point, I became the software update person to
Tim Bourguignon 10:49
go to write one, but
Christina Hastenrath 10:54
Tim Bourguignon 17:14
Yeah. How did your mentor help you find what was right for you? Which program was right for you? How did she do that?
Christina Hastenrath 17:22
So she asked me, first of all, she basically wanted to find out if I was actually interested more in data science, because of my science background. And because I worked with data my whole life, basically, like my university, and in my first two jobs, and or, or if it was really like, coding building websites, and for me was this new building websites, figuring out problems, being creative, also seeing what changes like the same thing that I'd said earlier? To me, it's interesting to see how things behave and why, you know, this is always an interest of mine. And so we figured out that front end would probably be the best way to go. And General Assembly had a lot of focus on the front end. So she said that that's probably the best way the best one, because they all they all have their own focus. And I think that right now, they have changed it a little bit. I don't know, I'm not into the curriculum that was in 2018, or 2019, or 2019. So yeah, she basically asked me a lot of questions and helped me find out if it was more like really data driven, or if it was more creative, front end driven kind of thing.
Tim Bourguignon 18:49
I see. I see. I find it always a hard question to to ask, really, what suits my style, what suits what I need, because all those boot camps have flavors are different. They do things a bit differently. And and during the FiVER, when I'm sure there's a boot camp for everyone. But but not all boot camps will suit every every profile. And so finding the right one is really setting you up for success. And there's no recipe that I know of. I'm still coaching.
Christina Hastenrath 19:17
True, Joe? Yes, yes, yes, very, very true. I mean, some also have like exam types, but I actually didn't want to go to a bootcamp that had exams because that seemed like college to me. And what General Assembly did was that they gave us tasks or like homework. And then after that, we would all sit down and go through the code like a normal code review, like people reviewing your PR, right and then talking about it. And what I liked about that is that I learned how to work as an engineer, you know, so or have A peek into what it is like to work as an engineer and not be at college again, because I did that. And I didn't want to do that I wanted to come out and be prepared to go to an engineering team because now no one gives me an exam to like
Tim Bourguignon 20:18
two hours is going to be entirely and nobody will use it anymore. Please get a grade eight, where there's still some some so I really liked this, this this very hands on approach sticking to as much as the reality can be, but that where there's some differences and stuff that you realize, after the fact that oh, okay, we did differently back then was maybe a bit a bit sweetened, or it was a bit a bit sweetened. That's the best word I can come up with. It was made a bit easier just for the sake of learning. And in reality, it's a bit different. Whereas and stuff like this,
Christina Hastenrath 20:54
yes. So I don't think that it's sweetened. Because they just Firehose information at you. Like I was the it was really, really intense, I would, I would get up at 7am to like, read all the material, then I will go to the full time boot camp from nine to five it was then afterwards, I would meet with their mentors as well, there are people who help us with homework and just go through the day and then go back home and do some more reading until 10pm. So for three months, I did not see anyone and on weekends, I would like hack away at my own things, you know, so I was really hyper focused. And the thing was boot camps is that your NIC get out of it, whatever you put in. So they will, they will give you all the resources, they will give you support and everything. But if you don't do the work, you will not get anything out of it in a job setting is actually very similar. Like I'm still like researching a lot, you know, watching videos, but I have more time. Like it's not like you do react this week. You do Python next week. You do Angular that week, you know, it's like, so it's not like week to week, you have time to level
Tim Bourguignon 22:13
not waking up at seven and working into nine and then doing your nine to five and then meeting until 10 In the evening. Sometimes you wait, you shouldn't do that. But yeah, that's okay. Yeah,
Christina Hastenrath 22:28
that is yeah, it's it's really intense. I really had an intense time and it was great. I've never, yeah, but I really I now I prefer working.
Tim Bourguignon 22:42
Okay, you picked this, this, this this bootcamp with the assumption that doing something creative is seeing the things change. And so this this front end might be the right the right place to be. Now in retrospect, was that the right decision? Yes. Yes. I liked it. You said right away.
Christina Hastenrath 23:01
Yes. Yes. It was definitely.
Tim Bourguignon 23:05
Because you did you dip your toes into byton. And probably a little bit of back end and winking a little bit to feed into your friend. Did you then really veer into front end and really stick to those guns? Or you tried as well? How do you handle all this?
Christina Hastenrath 24:07
So the bootcamp was full stack. So we had some, you know, we had like the backend, connecting everything with API's, the server, the front end, I have like work with projects with that. And the front end, I think starting out for me was easier to learn to code than in the backend just because you see what's actually happening. And also starting out a career from a bootcamp in a back end team, I think as for me, would have been much harder than going on to a front end team and then exploring more so our team is very small, which is great because in the past three years, I have explored a lot of different things. I've dabbled in DevOps, you know, built this and that, not just the front end, so But it got me and got me into a place where I can explore a lot of different things. And that is basically what I love. Like I love front end. But I also love exploring other places.
Tim Bourguignon 25:10
Like you said, the beginning, observe and understand why I think this way. Yeah. But we're putting things ahead that you didn't explain us how you you found the job you are in now how this applying works, how coming out of a boot camp and coming into an industry you're new to or pretty much new to in a country you're new to? Obviously not language you're new to but that could have been horrible. How did that all go?
Christina Hastenrath 25:42
So I graduated from General Assembly. And I knew that there was the app meetup because I had used it in the Netherlands already to like attend talks to different events. So they had also recommended us from GA to go to some meetups and just network and I go to meetups to network, but also because I'm genuinely interested in meeting people who are in my industry, you know, just meeting different people knowing what's new and knowing what's out there, knowing how other people are doing things, learning some new stuff from talks. I I love it. So I went to maybe two meetups a week after I graduated because I had I had time I was writing endless amounts of applications got almost nowhere like very, very little, I think it's hard starting out and especially in a place where you don't know anyone like you said. So I was going to meetups meeting with people. And there's one meetup that's called node school. That is awesome. It's happening monthly in San Francisco. And after attended two or three times, the organizers came to me like, Do you maybe want to start mentoring and I was like, I'm scared. And they said, Don't be scared, like, it's fine. You know, you just come and if you don't know something, you Googled together, and then you find out and I was like, okay, I can do that. And I'm still mentoring that today. And it's a lot of fun. So definitely recommend doing that. Because you also meet a lot of people and you build a lot of friendships, people come back, you know, you like learn things together. It's it does great, like mentoring and helping and becoming part of the community helps building that network to
Tim Bourguignon 27:33
how does that working with mentoring work? Is it you're coming to every meetup? And people have question and you help them figure that out?
Christina Hastenrath 27:41
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. It can be all all kinds of different things. Yeah. It's just like coming and being there. And being approachable, and then helping Googling and debugging and pet pair programming.
Tim Bourguignon 27:56
Cool. So yeah, that sounds like fun. Yeah,
Christina Hastenrath 27:58
that's great. So then, anyway, just I actually attended a meet up at postman. And I started talking to my manager now. And we like, hit it off, straightaway. We like got along really well. And he said, and he said, you know, we have this, open this like an internship, apprenticeship, contract contractor kind of position for three months. And we would love for you to apply. So it's like, that's awesome. So I applied, and I got it. And then after six weeks, I sent him my resume as an API. I just filled my resume as an API. And they liked it. And they hired me on as a full time employee. And now I'm a software engineer, postman. Awesome.
Tim Bourguignon 28:45
And your resume is still available as an API. And you can Yes, with postman, I tried. Yes, you can. Yes. still available? It's been three years.
Christina Hastenrath 28:56
Yes. Three years. Yeah. I just got promoted two weeks, three weeks ago. Yeah.
Tim Bourguignon 29:02
When by the time this podcast comes out, will be a bit longer. Yeah. It doesn't matter. So how did this these three years go for you? Did you stick to one project? Did you move along? Did you continue exploring ask for more freedom to explore how did the How did you structure this? Or how did you help structure
Christina Hastenrath 29:23
this at first, I was terrified. I had super impostor syndrome. I was constantly feeling like I wasn't doing things fast enough. I was getting somewhere fast enough. And I have a really, really amazing manager and also team who have supported me and made me feel more confident. And at first I was only focused on the tickets I was getting, you know, and I was like, Okay, I'm just gonna get these tickets. And then at some point I started asking, why and can we do this differently and what is actually happening? I'm here and starting to question things and come up with different ways of approaching things. And not just tickets, but projects. So it's just slowly, really slowly started to develop my work from just the tickets that I got. So going more into processes, how things are built, why things are being approached the way they are. And with that, I also started to moving into different things, I moved into AWS did some DevOps, start, we moved on to WordPress, you know, cut the head of it. And now I'm building a component library from scratch, I did the whole architecture or so I felt like it was slowly with my interest, I grew into different areas that our team touched. as I went along, it was organic. And it really came with me. And my team being very supportive and me becoming more confident in asking questions. Of Why
Tim Bourguignon 31:05
did you do something special to make you feel confident of being able to ask
Christina Hastenrath 31:10
I think what is great about our team is that we don't have ego on the team who speaks down to anyone, like we're all very supportive, we all listen to each other. And we're all very respectful of each other. And I think that that creates a safe space in a team for juniors and also for mid level and even some senior people to ask questions openly, and maybe ask a question twice. That's fine. You know, yeah, I think that our manager does a fantastic job at cultivating that culture of having a safe space to grow for for all our team members.
Tim Bourguignon 31:53
We spoken twice already about mentorship or mentoring mentors in your life right now. Yes, yes, they are. When you are inside the company,
Christina Hastenrath 32:04
inside and outside, so I do yeah. So I have a regular mentor who is inside the company who is not on my team. I think that that's important. Because inside your team, you do have you do have mentorship, right? Like your manager, mentors, you you have, you have regular one on ones. But it's also helpful to get someone who is not on the team to bounce off ideas from with and I think it's helpful that that person is inside of postman because I don't have to. I don't have to hide anything, I don't have to hide ideas or what's coming next or code, I can even show them some code and say, Look, can I please get a second pair of eyes on it? You know? So, I find that very, very helpful. But I also really enjoy talking to senior people outside of the company, about that's actually been my like, recent thing is like, where am I? Where do I want to go? Like, what is that next level? And what does that next level look like? You know? So like, talking about mindset, talking about architecture, talking about different, different things that are not exactly work related? So I find that very helpful to get insights also from other people in the industry, who are not that postman.
Tim Bourguignon 33:27
How do you how do you network for that? So
Christina Hastenrath 33:30
one of them is one of the organizers from node school that I've been mentioning it for a long time, there's a good friend of mine, and super, super knowledgeable. So I'm super approachable. And I just, you know, I just, you can you can also just ask, you know, hey, I have also other women engineers coming up to me and say, or just ask a question, you know, and I'm always happy to answer I think that there are so many people who are happy to take time, Coffee Chat half an hour, and just talk about things, you know, and just offer them a perspective or an idea or advice. And I am happy to always do that. And I have never had someone tell me, I don't have time for you, you know. So I think sometimes it's just having the guts to ask someone, you know, to just go up to them and say, Hey, like, I've been struggling with this, or I've or you know, I have been maybe thinking about this, about these options. Can I get some advice? You know, and I think there are a lot of people in the industry who will be very happy to help you.
Tim Bourguignon 34:38
I'm so glad to hear you're saying this, what I've observed way too much is people focusing too much on finding the mentor. AND, OR and NOT focusing enough on finding the right question to ask, because it all starts with a question. If you have the right question. Then you will find somebody who is interested with this question and they will say oh, that's an interesting question. I cannot answer maybe, but you should talk to Alice there. And yeah, I would gladly talk to you about this and see what I can do. But it needs the right question. It all starts with a question. And if you come to people and say, Well, do you want to be my mentor? We usually look at you sit and wait. We don't know each other.
Christina Hastenrath 35:20
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it's true. Yeah. Yeah. Also, I feel like, like a mentor doesn't doesn't have to be like a 10 year commitment every week, you meet for two hours, you know, sometimes just getting some guidance throughout the time of your life that can be two, three times stretch over a couple of months can be so beneficial. Already?
Tim Bourguignon 35:42
Did you have the feeling that you have different mentors for different topics or point of views or stakes, and you do go to one for for one thing, and you go to the other for something else, and one month, you're going to be speaking to Allison, and next month is going to be Bob? Because that's more what you need? And then et cetera? Do you have this?
Christina Hastenrath 36:02
I do have? But that's actually a good question. So I do feel like when I have the need that I want to talk about with something, I do feel like, Oh, this is actually a good question for so and so. I don't really, I cannot really answer why it's not. It's not that I have like 100,000 mentors, and I go through a list and I think I have like no, I so I have three people that I really, really trust. And I really, really value that opinion. And, between those are sometimes I come with different questions or with different things, but I cannot really say because they do that or because they do that sometimes there's just a feeling.
Tim Bourguignon 36:49
Okay, I've, at the height of my career, before Corona was all locked down and communication went down the drain, I think was the same time, which were who were completely entirely different persons. They were really what one was a businessman, one was a developer of a younger me. And one was very creative person. And so they really had different profiles, and I could talk to them or I could almost not talk to them about the same subject. And so it was really, it was really interesting to see. Okay, and now now I need a creative sparring partner to to bounce ideas off and see what happens. And so I would go to one of them, or I need somebody who's brutally honest and understands what I'm leaving right now and will really raise a mirror in front of my face and show me what's wrong. And so I would go to another one and less than the other one would be a businessman pretty mature would say, say old who had experienced several Yeah, creasing business being very, very humanistic in his approach, and say, Okay, I'm I'm torn into this capitalistic world right now. I need some advice from him. And I will go to him for that. There's really three different a completely different profiles. And that's been fantastic. It took some time to to really find those persons ask the right question, hook them on with with discussions and find that we have something in common, but I'm really glad to have them along the way. So actually, it reminds me I should I should revive all those connections. Crona has taken a toll on
Christina Hastenrath 38:23
all this. Totally. Yeah. Yeah. It has taken a toll. So
Tim Bourguignon 38:30
I'm sweating. So what's in your future, more learning more understanding why things are the way they are and and happily ever after?
Christina Hastenrath 38:41
Yes. Happily Ever After is good. And my future is, you know, I really love my job. I love that it's so very, like I said, We're a small team, I can dip my toes in all different kinds of areas of coding, and of programming. And so I'm really, really happy there now. And yeah, the future is learning more, there's always so much more to learn. And I this is also what I think like, why I found my career path is because this will never stop, there will always be the next thing this this will not stop. And I enjoy learning. I love figuring out things I love, like diving in, you know, dissecting stuff and building cool projects, and I really, really love it. So, for me, this is this is now going forward and also, you know, helping other people you know, also other women under stake. Help them understand that. Sometimes it's good to take the leap, you know, like be brave, like do it. Life will push you when it can and if you're brave and you jump with like this can be a great, great thing. Like I'm so much happier now. That wasn't any of any of my other jobs?
Tim Bourguignon 40:03
Yeah, that sounds like the advice I wanted to ask you dammit. Oh, sorry. Is there something that couldn't make them be brave? Besides telling them hey, be brave, try it out.
Christina Hastenrath 40:16
Make someone be brave. I don't. So I was never brave until like I said, like, life pushed me like a window opened. And I was like, okay, now's the time. And I think it's you have to recognize, find, find that window and then, you know, you like, hold your breath. And then you'd like jump, like in a pool? And oh, no,
Tim Bourguignon 40:45
no, that's good. That's good. I want to highlight something that what you said before you said, Well, if it doesn't work out, I can still come back to biotech or Yeah, exactly. Crime scene cetera. And that's something that I've seen very often is in this emotional moment of trying to project ourselves in the future, etc, we forget all the things we have already, and we forget how unreal iski a lot of things actually are, they feel risky, but they're not completely. And sometimes you can de risk them with a couple a couple of steps, you can de risk them a lot. And then it's actually not not a problem anymore. And so then you can try and then you can be you can be courageous and try it. Before it's looked like a Montaigne. And after this steps, and you sometimes need somebody to take you through steps. So you realize, oh, I shouldn't do that. And then you can try pinch your nose and jumping the quarter.
Christina Hastenrath 41:41
Yes, very nicely said thank you.
Tim Bourguignon 41:46
Where can people find you online and continue the discussion with you if they wanted or start a discussion with you or need some somebody to bounce ideas off or questions often not want to ask you if you can be that mentor, but really say, Hey, I have a question that will be interesting.
Christina Hastenrath 42:02
Always happy to help. I am on Twitter. My handle is in which is a German name. But it's et T i n ch n. And but my full name. I'm on LinkedIn, that's very bit easier. Christina has in wrath. So I can always reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter. I'm always happy to have a conversation and a coffee chat
Tim Bourguignon 42:24
and a link at both in the show notes. If you didn't get
Christina Hastenrath 42:28
that Twitter handle I yeah, I made it was 2011 or something. And I never changed it.
Tim Bourguignon 42:38
On the youth. I didn't say to your API as well, because it's really it's really funny. Thank you. Looks for postman with this this really cool. And he also on your plate. So anything that you want to plug in before we call it a day?
Christina Hastenrath 42:53
No, no, no, thank you so much for having me. This was this was fun. I really enjoyed our conversation.
Tim Bourguignon 43:00
Likewise, it was my pleasure. And this has been another episode of developer's journey, and we see each other next week. Bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you liked the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep ti m o t h e p or per email info at Dev journey dot info. Talk to you soon.