Carys Mills, School of Journalism '11 , is a Senior Web Developer at Shopify.
This Q&A was conducted when Carys was a senior web developer for Shopify and is now an interactive developer for The Globe and Mail.
What did you originally see yourself doing when you first enrolled in journalism school?
I saw myself working at a newspaper as a reporter when I started at [the university]. In high school, I completed a co-op placement at The Cobourg Daily Star, which influenced me a lot.
How did that vision change as the years went by?
Throughout university, I became increasingly interested in newspapers. I interned at The Windsor Star and The Globe and Mail, as well as working at The Eyeopener. At the time, newspapers felt like the natural place for what I was drawn to: the pace of breaking news and longer-term projects involving freedom of information requests and data.
When did you become interested in web development?
Looking back, I was always interested in aspects of web development, but I didn’t always know what to call it. I liked parts of graphic design in high school, but didn’t feel artistic enough to be a graphic designer. At [the university], we used Dreamweaver to make websites for a class, and I enjoyed that. Later, I saw the potential for stories to come alive online and through data journalism, so I decided to learn how to code. I initially took a few Ladies Learning Code courses and experimented with coding on the side.
How did you arrive at your current position?
After several year-long journalism contracts, I decided to pursue web development seriously. In the fall of 2015, I enrolled in the full-time HackerYou (now Juno College) web development bootcamp program. The jam-packed program taught the basics of front-end development in nine weeks. Shortly after, I worked at The Toronto Star, as a developer working on the ads that appeared in tablet edition Star Touch. Later, I moved on to a position at a small Ottawa company where I could focus more on data visualization. Then in September 2017 I started working at Shopify as a web developer.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I work on the analytics section of Shopify that merchants see when they log in to their shops. I love working with designers and others on my team to come up with new ways to visualize crucial data and make it more understandable.
What is a misconception people have about your job?
A misconception people have about my job is that I sit in a corner all day, coding and not talking to anyone. That happens sometimes, but it’s rare. Most of my job involves collaborating with others, problem solving and a lot more communicating than comes to mind when many people think of a developer.
Can you talk about one your biggest accomplishments?
One of my biggest accomplishments has been changing careers and still being able to work in an area that’s connected to what originally motivated me to learn how to code. Although I’m not currently working in journalism, and miss the industry a lot, I am still working on data visualization. I trust that the skills I’m building now will help me in the future, whether it’s in tech, journalism or a combination of both.
How do you apply what you learned at the university to your current career?
The main two skills from [the university] that I use on a daily basis are the ability to quickly get to the heart of an issue, as if you’re pursuing a story on deadline, and being able to communicate confidently and concisely. They sound like basic skills, but they’re surprisingly rare.
What’s one of your favourite memories from j-school?
Most of my favourite memories involve working late into the night at The Eyeopener with a great crew of editors. Chasing the Maple Leaf Gardens development story was a particularly exciting time at the paper.
Any memorable School of Journalism professors during your time at the university?
I’ll never forget Don Gibb sending us out to complete streeters in one of our first classes.
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
Take advantage of all the opportunities and connections that are available to you at [the university]. For example, if you want to work at a newspaper, write for a campus paper. No matter what you want to do, build connections with your professors and the network of alumni that the school makes available to you.