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October 18, 2010 / TechFemme

Amy Gelfand, Sharp Skirts Developer and Impressive Freelancer

Lately, I’ve been checking out Sharp Skirts, an online Q & A  and forum-based community for women entrepreneurs, pretty regularly.  While looking into who was involved in creating the site I discovered the incredibly talented freelance developer, Amy Gelfand.  I got  to speak with Amy, who developed the Sharp Skirts website, as she took some time out for me while we video-Skyped and chatted about her interesting career path that landed her in web development, where she has built up an extremely impressive portfolio.

TechFemme:  How did you get involved with doing the site design for Sharp Skirts?

Amy Gelfand:  I was networked through to Carla (Thompson, founder of Sharp Skirts) who was looking for a WordPress developer.  We both live in Austin.  We ended up building it on the Joomla platform.

TF:  As a freelancer, what types of projects do you work on?

AG: My main competencies are email marketing, email templates, making websites.

TF: For the websites, do you do development plus UI design?

AG: I’ve found that it’s a good idea to take advantage of other people’s skills and brainpower.  I used to try to do everything but it works out better when I get others involved.

TF: How did you get started in tech?

AG: I majored in English and I only every thought about being a literature professor. I did not start using a computer until my first 9-to-5 job after grad school. That was over 10 years ago, so  even though I got a late start, I have been at it for quite a while.  I was initially a desktop publisher at an engineering firm, and although I did not want to stay in that position, it still yielded so many valuable training opportunities that I was able to leverage into a brilliant second career that it was worthwhile to persevere and squeeze every drop of experience from it that I could while I was there.

TF: How did you go about building your development skills?

AG:  I think the tools and framworks that are available make it possible for anyone smart and motivated to be much more of a developer than they could have been 10 years ago.  It’s easier to learn if you have a job that lets you expand your skills, like I did, but I also took Community College classes in Photoship, Illustrator and basic design.

TF: What are ways we can get more young girls interested in a career in technology?

AG: I’m not sure why they aren’t interested.  Could it be that women aren’t interested in the types of careers they think are available in technology?  Maybe it’s more about marketing different types of tech careers they’ll be interested in?

TF: How would you recommend getting into a career in tech to women interested in doing so?

AG: Look for opportunities to learn within their current companies. Even if you’re not happy in your job there, sometimes it makes sense to do what you don’t want to do in order to yield long term results.

What’s uniquely inspiring about Amy is that she’s largely self-taught.  She didn’t major in Math, Computer Science or  regular Science.  She had an interest, saw an opportunity and worked hard to develop the necessary skills to be a developer  and now she’s a star at it, with references that would make anyone blush and clients all over the world.  Most impressively is one very telling quality about her business – she doesn’t do any advertising.  All her work comes from referrals.  She’s that great.

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