Coffee Catch Ups: Jess Budd
Updated: Jan 29
Digital Producer at HBF (https://www.hbf.com.au/), Freelance Web Accessibility Consultant & Front-end Developer
WEB : https://jessbudd.com/
TWITTER : https://twitter.com/jessbudd4
MEET UP : https://twitter.com/fendersperth (meetup that Jess co-organises in Perth)
I was very fortunate to catch up with Jess Budd this week (via skype from her hometown of Perth) before she headed off on a whirlwind speaking tour of Australia. Jess was about to fly to Sydney where she will not only be doing her first ever tech conference presentation – she will be doing 3 in 3 weeks!
Jess is a passionate advocate for web accessibility and we spoke about her new found interest in presenting, her career to date, as well as her advice for new graduates and those thinking about doing their first tech conference.
For those travelling to Perth, where are the best local coffee shops - and what are you drinking today?
I’m one of those rare people that don’t like coffee, but I love a good hot chocolate!
I often indulge in a hot chocolate from The Roastery, but my coffee-loving friends recommend Lowdown in the Perth CBD for their brew.
You are speaking at several tech events this year – how did that come about?
Well actually, I have blog post on this! (https://jessbudd.com/posts/the-year-i-became-conference-speaker/)
I have several friends that are conference speakers and had been encouraging me to give public speaking a try for a while. As someone who’s been too shy to speak up in meetings in the past, it definitely wasn’t something I thought I could do. But a few months ago I decided to put my hat in the ring and see what happens. As it turns out, I was accepted to speak at 3 events! I’ll be speaking at Laracon in Sydney this week, Google Dev Fest in Melbourne next weekend, and DDD Adelaide will be my third conference talk.
One of my motivations for pursuing conference speaking is the opportunity to attend great tech events on a very limited budget. Many conferences will cover speaker travel and accommodation, which can be a significant cost from Perth, on top of the conference ticket itself.
What made you decide to submit a talk for DDD Adelaide specifically?
I’ve attended the last three Perth DDD’s and they’ve been such fantastic events – well run, interesting topics, great people and a welcoming, inclusive environment. I’m confident DDD Adelaide will be the same – but I also want bragging rights that I was at the very first one!
What advice would you give to aspiring tech conference speakers?
Let people know you’re interested in getting into speaking. I’ve been blown away by the amazing support that’s been offered to me, not only from my speaking mentors and friends (@Mandy_Kerr, @Amys_Kapers, @stringy, @sandysandy), but also from people on twitter I’ve never even met in real life.
This one is for the other presenters at DDD Adelaide - what do you do to ensure you are prepared and ready on the day for your talk?
No idea yet - ask me after Laracon and DevFest and I might have an answer for you!
Let’s shift focus to you, can you tell me about your own career path into the tech industry?
I was a late starter to the tech industry. Out of high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I went to TAFE and tried a few different things. I ended up in a government traineeship dealing with land administration and worked my way up to a senior role over a number years.
I'd always been interested in technology, design and the web as hobbies, but it took a while for me to realise those interests could become a career!
In 2016 I started learning web development from online courses, got involved in the local web community and shortly after switched careers and began working in front-end development and web accessibility.
What is your favourite thing about being a Digital Producer?
Being a Digital Producer at HBF is like a wonderful mish-mash of lots of different positions! I get to combine front-end development, web accessibility, UX/UI design, SEO and analytics all in one role. I'm a bit of a Jill-of-all-trades by nature, so the opportunity to use my broad range of skills and knowledge every day keeps me motivated and having fun. I'm also fortunate to work with an incredible team!
What are you most excited about when it comes to the future direction of your field?
I'm really excited to see how the advancement of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and augmented/virtual reality, particularly in consumer electronics, intersects with accessibility. Technology released and refined in the past 5 years has made enormous impacts on people living with disabilities, and I'm keen to see how this continues to progress.
What career advice would you give someone leaving school now?
Try lots of different things and don’t commit to one career path too soon. Technology is such a broad field with so many different disciplines, you might discover a passion or strength in an area you weren't expecting or even knew existed!
Also, get involved with the tech community as early as possible. Try all the meetups! I know in Perth our web community is so welcoming and you meet the most amazing people, but engaging with the community also ensures you keep up with the latest trends in technology, local events, and career opportunities.
How do you think tech jobs will change over the next decade?
I think there will be less demand for web developers in Australia as the adoption of drag'n'drop website builders increase and the quality of cheaper, overseas talent improves. I expect to see an increased demand for roles in cyber security, cloud services and data analytics/visualisation.
Can you tell us a little about your talk “Making React Apps Accessible: It's easier than you think” at DDD?
So this talk is to share what some of the fundamental issues are and how to address them. Attendees will come away with some quick accessibility wins they can implement in their work and side projects.
What are the key takeaways from your talk?
The key takeaway is that making your websites and apps more accessible is probably easier than you think! And that designing and developing digital products with accessibility in mind benefits everyone, not only people with disabilities.
Where can people go to learn more about Accessibility?
Websites like The A11y Project (https://a11yproject.com/checklist/) and WebAIM (https://webaim.org/) are good resources for people getting started. Microsoft also has a great booklet on inclusive design https://www.microsoft.com/design/inclusive/.
The official Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/) is very thorough technically, but unfortunately not an easy read.
If you have the opportunity to attend a one or half day course on accessibility that’s a really great way to cover the basics. Google also has a free online accessibility course available.
Which talk (OTHER THAN YOUR OWN!) are you most looking forward to at DDD Adelaide?
There are a lot of really great talks on the DDD agenda, but the two I’m particularly looking forward to are Dan Harris’s Origin of CSS and Scott Cabot’s Accessibility in Gaming.
Jess is presenting at DDD Adelaide is on 23 November 2019 at MOD. Tickets are available now at www.dddadelaide.com/tickets
Encode Talent (www.encodetalent.com.au) is proud to be the coffee cart sponsor of this event.