Sometimes we forget the humans behind the tech in our ever busy world. DSF is fortunate enough to know some incredible tech leaders across the world and has the privilege of hearing them present at our events. That being said, our Speaker Spotlight sets the stage to get to know our speakers on a more personal level and connect them with our growing community. Read the mini interview below!

A bit about Carly:

Carly is a Senior Developer Advocate at Elastic, based in London, UK. Before joining Elastic in 2022, she spent over 10 years working as a software engineer, scrum master, and engineering leader at a large investment bank. She is a UI developer who occasionally dabbles in writing backend services, a speaker, and a regular blogger.

How did you start out in your tech career?

My first step into tech was through my degree. I studied Software Engineering at the University of Glasgow and it showed me I love building software and learning about technology. But it also meant I was graded on an internship as part of my degree and encouraged me to apply and get an internship in an investment bank. That was the first step to getting a graduate position as a software engineer, which then led me to hold various roles such as scrum master, engineering manager, team lead and now developer advocate.

Moving into Developer Relations where I am now required me to have practical experience in building software, as well as a public profile of writing and speaking at conferences and online. It was important for me to engage in developer communities and get involved in events to build a portfolio and experience in public speaking to show what I can do to advocate for technology and help the community with building cool apps to solve challenging problems.

What are the signs of success in your field?

Success has differed depending on what role I’ve held. As a software engineer feedback from users on how amazing features were and how they used them to optimise business flows was how I was able to process through the industry and move to promoted positions and interesting projects.

As an advocate, others sharing my content and opportunities to speak and write for me are a sign that I’m doing well. As are the messages I get from developers saying thank you for helping them solve a particular issue with a software framework. Those are very satisfying and always make it worth it.

What is the best and worst thing about your job role?

I love how I get to meet and chat with so many wonderful people, and can continually learn from them as well as from the pet projects I get to build and the content I get to write.

One challenge in my role is handling busy conference periods can be difficult. Juggling regular responsibilities such as answering developer questions and writing content with travel can be quite draining. It also means you flip between extremes of working alone and speaking to lots of people at conferences which means you need to be mindful of your own social battery and workload limits.

What can you advise someone just starting out to be successful?

Be curious. When you start the amount of change in the space in terms of new frameworks, technology and techniques can make it feel impossible to keep up. Be comfortable asking questions (even those you think are dumb, because they’re not) and be confident in tinkering with tech and chatting to developers in the community to keep learning.

How do you switch off?

Switching off is something I struggle with. Many of the roles I’ve held are those where there’s a lot to do, and even working 24 hours a day you couldn’t tackle everything.

I love cooking, reading, photography, drinking tea, and spending time with my husband and young son. Doing those things is how I decompress.

What advice would you give your younger self?

It’s ok to say no. Sometimes opportunities appear that you feel by instinct don’t fit for you. Or that you don’t feel comfortable saying no to that stretch deliverable. Trust your instincts to say no, or raise concerns when you have them to improve the state of the software you build and the career experiences you have as you progress.

What is next for you?

I’m excited to be continuing as an advocate, learning new tech and speaking and writing about it. I hope that my future is filled with new opportunities to grow and develop myself, continue to lead as a technologist and pay it forward by mentoring and growing others too.
I have a huge backlist of technologies and topics I want to explore, such as building my own machine learning model and tinkering with various new web technologies.

If you could do another job now, what would you do? Why?

I would love someday to write a book and share more knowledge with others. I don’t have a topic in mind yet, but I’m sure as I progress something within the areas I’m passionate about will appear!

What are your top 5 predictions in tech for the next 10 years?

AI and techniques such as LLMs and machine learning will continue to evolve and become ubiquitous in the applications we use just as mobile devices have become essential to our lives over the last 10 years. I expect this to extend to VR as well. All of these technologies have great benefits and also potential ethics challenges that also need to be met with changes in legislation across the world too.

I also wonder if the way we interact with technology will evolve over the next 10 years too. Perhaps keyboards and voice will be replaced by neural connections so we can think about our questions and content rather than type or speak, making for a more accessible technical world for all. Who knows!

Watch Carly’s session at the DSF Summer School here.

Thank you to all our wonderful speakers for taking part in our Speaker Spotlight!

Want to become a DSF Speaker? Apply here!