Kate Vasey Article By Kate

Meet The Team: Juli Cheng


Following on from my last post where we got more acquainted with our Font Developer, Malcolm. This month I am introducing you to our Web Developer intern Juli Cheng, who joined The Northern Block team in December. Let’s get to know more about her:

Tell us about your job role here at The Northern Block?

Hi I’m Juli and I’m the Web Developer of the team! This means my focus is on the website side of things. I started interning at The Northern Block since January and so far my main role has been researching and developing my skills in the current technologies used on the website.

How have you found the role since joining The Northern Block back in December?

I have found my role very enjoyable because it has allowed me to learn something new everyday which I find exciting! At times, it can be challenging such as learning my first back-end language but also very satisfying when I am able to create something with what I just learnt.

Do you find any difficulties with your job role?

One of the biggest difficulties of the role is being the only web developing person on board so I sometimes feel a bit like a lone wolf. This involves doing a lot of research to find answers. However, there are high levels of satisfaction once I do find the answer myself! Another difficulty would be the amount of constant learning required because technology is always changing so the more you know, the more you realise you don’t! It can always be exciting and nerve-racking discovering a new rabbit hole!

What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely for The Northern Block? 

I think the main disadvantage of working remotely would be the communication. There are situations where you just can’t beat face-to-face communication because you can get instant feedback through body language and facial expressions. There can also sometimes be distractions and a lack of routine when working remotely. As for advantages, there is a lot of freedom and flexibility of where and when to work. And of course being able to work in comfy loungewear is a definite plus!

Originally you studied International Business with Marketing at University, how did you get into the world of web development?

I actually had my first encounter with web development at secondary school in an ICT lesson and I also dabbled in a bit of HTML and CSS when I ran a Tumblr account. However, I would say I seriously got into web development in the year 2017 when I did a web development course a few months after graduating. I thought it was very cool how a few simple lines of code could create something so dynamic on the screen! It felt a bit like magic! From then, I never stopped learning more about it!

For those who may not know, what are the different coding styles and what do they do?

First there is front-end and there is back-end web development. The front-end is what users can see and directly interact with. This is built with HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Think of HTML as the nouns defining the structure of a website, CSS as the adjectives that describes what a website looks like and JavaScript as the verbs that is in charge of actions triggered on a website such as a mouse click. On the other hand, the back-end is more behind-the-scenes dealing with the server-side and is more concerned with content management and security. Compared to front-end, the back-end language used depends on a website as there are many different languages that can be used. For example there is Python, Ruby and PHP which is what The Northern Block uses but there’s also many more!

What is your preferred practise for learning to code?

I find watching videos the best way to learn as I feel like there’s a teacher teaching me. However, I do think there is a danger if you just watch and don’t follow along as it’s very easy to think you understand what you are learning by just watching. This is because you watch and agree as the instructor makes everything work so simply. Therefore, I like to follow along exactly to the instructor as you’d be surprised how quickly you can forget if you don’t! It’s also good practice!

You mention you like to draw, what sort of things do you like to draw? (Maybe even an example?)

I’m pretty much a beginner in drawing so I won’t show anything to save the embarrassment! I usually find drawing tutorials on Pinterest or DeviantArt and go from there. Eyes, hands, spheres and random characters I don’t even know of are just a few things I draw on random pieces of paper. Eventually, I would like to be able to draw my own characters but I don’t want to run before I can walk so I’ll stick with tutorials for now!

Who is an artist whose work you admire most?

Most artists I know are ones I follow on Instagram so I hope it’s okay if I say one those favourites! Her name is @heikala and she uses a lot of watercolour to create her art which is beautiful. I like her work a lot because her style is very relaxed and there’s something about her work that makes it very soothing to look at. Her art style looks a bit like anime so it’s probably another reason why I love it so much!

You are also a big Manga and Anime fan, what are your favourites that you like to both read and watch?

I am indeed! I would say a favourite that I both read and watched would be Nana. It’s a story about two girls having the same name with very different personalities that coincidently ended up living together. I think I enjoyed it a lot because it’s very realistic unlike many other animes I’ve watched that can be overdramatised. It contains drama, comedy and romance but the transitioning is done very well. Although the manga is not finished yet as the author is still on hiatus, I think I finished the manga in about 2 or 3 days as it was so good!

You’ve mentioned you teach a code club at the weekends, can you tell us more about the work you do?

I volunteer at a Code Club every Saturday for 2 hours. My role as a volunteer is to assist the children whenever they are stuck with a coding challenge. I mainly help with Scratch and HTML & CSS, but we also do Python. It’s always a pleasure to help kids who are keen to learn and it makes it worthwhile seeing their faces light up when they build something they are very proud of! There’s actually many Code Clubs running around the UK and I think it’s a great opportunity for young kids to be involved in code because it is fun and it teaches problem solving and logic skills that are needed in the future.

What three pieces of advice about coding would you give to the young children you teach?

First, it’s important to create projects you are interested in as there’s nothing worse than working on something you don’t enjoy. Second, is to pay attention to the details of your code as one little mistake could trigger your program to not work at all! Last, is to be patient as even if your code doesn’t work, you’ll learn a lot from it so don’t worry!

How do you wind down after the working day is over?

I think that varies depending on how tired I am after work! Sometimes, to relax I enjoy watching a good movie, catching up with an anime series, reading, making some doodles or even taking a nap! Other times, when I feel like I still have a few bars of energy left, I might do some exercise or find some resources to improve my coding ability!

What is it you enjoy most about being able to code?

The fact that it’s magical as you can literally create anything you want! The sky’s the limit because if you have an idea, you can create it and that is powerful. You will need to know a few languages and that is the hardest part! Other than that, coding is like solving a puzzle and puzzles are fun!

Thank you for reading and make sure to give a warm welcome to Juli over at @northernblock.

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