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Inspiring Stories: Victoria Bergquist

As a society we tend to focus on titles and roles, and we forget that behind each title there is a person who has a story to tell. And truly every person’s story is unique.
In honor of International Women's day, we interview inspiring women from the community on the story of how they got into Tech, and where they are today.

In this post, I interview Victoria Bergquist who is based in Oslo, Norway.

Meet Victoria

Victoria Bergquist

My name is Victoria and I'm a Frontend Engineer at Sanity.io. I'm from Oslo, Norway, but only recently moved back to Norway after living abroad for almost 8 years. Alongside work I enjoy being a part of the developer community through Twitter, meetups, events, and conferences. While I'm actually an introvert and often prefer to spend time at home, I find it very rewarding to organise events and spend time helping others around me. That is why I started two meetups in Frankfurt, organise and speak at events and conferences, and volunteer as a Chapter Leader for Vue Vixens, an organisation dedicated to helping women and those who identify as women learn Vue.js.

GitHub: @vicbergquist
Twitter: @vicbergquist
CodePen: @vicbergquist

When did you first become interested in technology and what sparked this interest?

In high school I chose to do vocational studies in media and communication, with classes in design history, advertisement, journalism, photography, and more. We had to keep a blog/portfolio for a lot of our assignments and homework, and that's how I was first introduced to web technology. I struggled a lot to find a theme for my portfolio and blog, so I started looking into the code just for fun. HTML and CSS weren’t completely new to me, because my friend was taking a web design class and had been showing me what they were doing. However, I thought it sounded kind of boring, and instead learned a little about HTML and CSS on my own to customise the theme for my blog/portfolio. I had so much fun doing this and was at it for hours several times a week, but after spending a year in Japan and switching to general studies when I was back in high school in Norway, I went on to study languages and linguistics at university in Australia. I completely stopped coding and didn't touch or think about it for almost 7 years, before I got back to it after finishing university and needed to figure out what to do next!

What education do you have?

I have a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Japanese and German, and electives in linguistics, neuroscience and psychology from The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Describe your way towards your first job in tech; how did you land this job?

I was very happy with my studies and had a great time at university, but had no idea what to do after I graduated, so I tried a few different things. I went to Design School, but dropped out because it was too expensive. Then, because of my interest in coding from high school and languages, I started a Master's Degree in Linguistics and Web Technology. However, I dropped out before the first semester ended. The university just wasn't the right fit for me, so instead I decided to continue learning how to code on my own. I started spending all my time learning web development by completing various projects on freeCodeCamp and getting really into CSS. Eventually I also joined Twitter and began the #100DaysOfCode challenge to accelerate my progress, and began to code every day.

During this time, I was putting in a lot of hard work and applied to various junior roles, but kept getting rejected because of my lack of experience and untraditional background. This was very discouraging, but then out of the blue a company contacted me about a frontend developer role they were hiring for. Apparently they had found me on Stack Overflow and had seen my CSS work on CodePen! I managed to find the job ad they contacted me about and it said that they were looking for a JavaScript developer, which was disappointing. I didn’t want to do JavaScript, so I emailed them back and said I wasn’t interested. I was having so much fun with CSS and instead wanted a job where I could do that. Lucky for me, they told me to disregard the job ad and simply wanted to talk to get to know me.

Victoria Bergquist

I ended up meeting them a week or two later, and the interview lasted quite a while. They wanted me to share my story and what I was passionate about, and said they wanted to hire their first frontend developer with a passion for the craft. Despite my lack of experience, they admired the progress I had made in such a short amount of time and how excited I got when talking about CSS. The day after, on day 87 of #100DaysOfCode, they called me back and offered me the job. Despite having no professional experience, they said they knew I would learn what I needed to learn on the job and thought I'd be a great addition to the team! So I become their first frontend developer, a junior and a lead!

Tell us more about your current job– e.g. what do you like most about your role?

Where to start! I'm really excited about all the things I get to do at Sanity, like building APIs, tooling and working on Sanity Studio, an open-source content editing environment. I also love the fact that I’m able to continuously learn and explore new technologies. Sanity is used as a content backend for so many fun and interesting projects both by us internally and the community, like real-time quizzes and voice assistants, so seeing these things that people make with the product that I'm working on everyday is incredibly motivating and inspiring. It makes it so much fun to go to work!

What does your typical day look like?

My cat usually wakes me up by walking all over my face between 4 and 7 AM, and if that doesn't happen, my other cat wakes me up around the same time singing the song of her people, until someone goes to cuddle her. I quite enjoy being at the office around 8, but I often only go in around lunch in order to spend time with my cats before a day at the office. When at work I enjoy spending time talking with my colleagues. Everyone enjoys sharing what they are working on and the challenges they are facing, which almost makes you feel a part of all the projects at once, and that inspires me every day. In between work, we also play foosball to relax and have fun. I'm currently losing a lot, so I'm playing less than normal these days!

On a typical day I also do a lot of pair-programming with my project partners. Parts of our code base are still very unfamiliar to me, so working closely with someone who knows it better may be the favourite part of my day. Other than that, I also have a few meetings, often with people in San Francisco, before I head home for the day around 4 or 5 PM. But I also often forget to go home when I should, because I'm having such a good time at the office!

What do you do in your free time?

I code more than I should! I enjoy my job, so I struggle to put it away. To distract myself I like to watch TV shows, cook or bake, hang out with my cats, and play board games. Right now I'm doing clicker training with one of my cats, and try my best to stay away from coding and social media for my health and to do things I enjoy. I also organise meetups, however due to moving and health reasons, I haven't been able to do it as much as I'd like, but I'm really excited about starting it again soon!

What advice will you give to women and girls who dream about a career in tech?

There are so many ways into this industry. Don't let anyone tell you that you need to follow one specific one, or that you can't do it with the background you have. Your are what the industry needs in order to be the best it can be, whether that's with a CS degree, or not.
There's no doubt that being a woman in tech is hard, but women from your area and all around the world are there to help you on your journey. To find them, join communities for women in tech, local ones or online. I've met so many incredible women this way, and they have helped me get to where I am today.

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