J-Space met with Lee Soo Jin, a freelance developer who has an attractive short hair style and toned skin that seem to have taken in the hot sunlight of July. She majored in composition and started her career as a planner and now building her first year as a developer. She seems ambitious and free at her first impression but rather she was prudent and thorough about herself.
J-Space Was there a reason why you wanted to try out Remote Work in Jeju?
Soo-Jin Lee I’ve never been to Jeju before and have not travel long enough. So I was interested in the place Jeju; that was my first reason. And secondly, I have never tried out Remote Work. I tried Remote Work outside the office while participating a project while living in Seoul, but since I met the project members too often, it was same as working together. It was just outside of the ‘office’. So this time, I wanted to try to completely get away from the geographical boundary.
I’ve used to work for two and a half year before. I worked all the time in the same office from 10 am to 7 pm with colleges and would always gather in the morning and share how works are proceeding every day. I was in a development team and the developers’ dream was being a digital nomad. But there was this question ‘Would that work?’ and for me, I thought it wouldn’t. Because since you are outside, you need to use messenger when there is a conflict or disagreement with the team. It is better to discuss face-to-face. This idea was important to me so I wanted to try out and experiment myself in Jeju.
<Lee Soo Jin with Hareubang of Jeju>
J-Space I thought you are born to be a remote worker because you insist to have a written interview (laughs) so I thought you do not like to meet face-to-face.
Soo-Jin Lee I have just finished my office life so the way how the remote work works is unfamiliar to me. Leaving my job itself was a challenge and leaving a workspace called office honestly was uneasy. Working in a co-working space seems free and pictures like a rose pink ambience but on the other hand I was afraid on not having an office, teammates, and not belong to anywhere. If this lifestyle suits me, I’ll maintain this style. It may not suit me well then; I’ll either go back to the office or find what suits me well.
J-Space There are some difficulties when working as a remote worker for a freelance developer: to get a work, to secure trust, and to finish work on time. These may work for a mid-senior developer but not much in a case for young people.
Soo-Jin Lee Yes, the project I am working on now was introduced by somebody else. I’m making a web site needed for a startup company. I need to constantly communicate and check the login records. They need to know what kind of certain work I am doing from the time I started till I end. So it might be difficult to plan things out for those who are new or does not have a work experience. Since there is no outside force, you need to have the ability to manage your own lifestyle. If managing is difficult, you would have a hard time. And there are difficulties in working in a space where no one can see because it is based on a trust. I need to continue sharing what I’m doing, how far I’ve worked, how long it will take for me to work on this, and when the final deadline is, so that other people can work as well.
J-Space How long have you been working as a freelancer?
Soo-Jin Lee I entered the company as a planner and later changed my career to a developer while working in the company. So my working year is just one year. When I graduated from college and joined the company, there are not many positions that a planner can do. As the business plan changed, there was no connection at work due to a frequent movement of departments. And so I worked on operations rather than planning and fell into a habitual behavior. The platform I was responsible for was not a service that the company wanted to operate enthusiastically.
And then, I really envied the developers who feel the fun in implementing functions and developing every day. I started out on the same line with them but after a year or two, my developer colleges have reached to an area where I could not reach out. Their skills are growing so fast because they do like the job they are doing and are working hard. Their performance and results were good but I was just at the same place. I got so much stress so I decided to change my career by studying and going to a lot of study groups with the interest in development.
J-Space Was that the start of Django Girls?
Soo-Jin Lee Yes, I first started programming with Python. The work at that time was about making an online software education platform. Anyway, I needed to have knowledge in development so I studied Python and then started Django Girls community at the same time. Luckily at that time, I had a lot of time (laughs), I studied and translated all tutorials, and had a capacity to prepare a Django workshop. I really received so much help from the Django Girls community. I also met with good people and got a lot of technical help form them. There was no workshop in our country that provides an experience for women who are interested in technology to come and create a website through programming.
<Lee Soo Jin when she was hosting a Django Girls project>
J-Space Could you introduce us more about the Django Girls project?
Soo-Jin Lee Django Girls is a nonprofit and a community established in 2014 to provide and support opportunities for women to practice programming. It started from Ola Sitarska and Ola Sendecka from Poland who met at Python and a sensed a problem “Why is it so hard to find female developers like us at conferences?” Previously a workshop for women who were new to coding was held by the Rails Girls community. So they also produced Python and Django tutorials in a similar form and released them as an open source. It has now been translated into 15 languages and 380 workshops have been held in 77 countries around the world over the last three years and more than 30,000 women have started programming.
I was studying Python with my American friend, Rachel in the summer of 2015 and learned about the framework and Django Girls tutorial through a developer who was my mentor. Rachel recommended me to hold a Django Girls workshop. I started first with Django Girls workshop with Django Girls Seoul community in Korea by translating Django Girls tutorials with the volunteer coaches. Django Girls workshop is something like a party package.
Anyone even without any experience on workshop can host it as there is a workshop and a coaching manual prepared. Also, you do not need to prepare all items needed – banner, poster, name tag, sponsorship emails – for the workshop as it is all open to the public. There is even a manner instruction on how to deal with women developers (Laughs). For example, in the tutorial, women have an imposter syndrome wherein they tend to underestimate themselves even though they are actually doing well so there is an advice for us to compliment them. Therefore, all processes to hold a workshop is in a manual so anyone can apply. One interesting thing is that when you apply for the “Party Package”, workshop supplies such as balloons, badges, and stickers are shipped internationally. This is because there is really a place where it is hard to host a workshop. That’s why you can even receive the party package in areas where you cannot purchase those supplies. Rachel, who started Django Girls Seoul with me, is now working as a Django developer in the United States and a member of the Django Foundation, being recognized by her contributions to the Django community.
J-Space What kind of work do you want to do in the future?
J-Space But I think you are fairly trying hard to do so.
Soo-Jin Lee I’ve been patient. (Laughs) Dostoevskii said the most terrible punishment for all humans is to make people “do worthless things for a lifetime”. I had a hard time feeling that I am doing something useless for myself while working in a company. It was the worst torture that somebody was making me not to develop. One day I fainted in ten minutes as I got into the bus going to work. This was due to lethargy. When I look at myself in front of my desk, I saw a person who cannot do anything. There is no worse punishment than not being able to grow. I changed my mind right after that day thinking that I have been under so much stressed.
J-Space Did you release your stress in running?
Soo-Jin Lee Yes. You could start a workout when you have an inner peace. I couldn’t exercise when I was having inner struggles. I started running while preparing to resign and began running since last December and consistently 3~4 times a week now. You can run anywhere with just one sneakers.
<Lee Soo Jin running along the coastal road of Jeju>
J-Space You are just like the ‘Run Hany(Korean Animation about young runner)'.
Soo-Jin Lee It is frustrating to sit down looking at a monitor everyday but when you are running with the enthusiastic people, all of your stresses are gone. After receiving positive energies and being supporting to each other, I gained confidence that I can also do it. You would feel lonely when working alone but I could gain comfort through community activities. When it your first time in running, start running around your neighborhood that is near to your house as much as possible. You’ll find some hidden places you didn’t know and find some newly opened stores and feels like you are travelling.
Soo-Jin Lee, an enthusiastic female developer who likes running gave us a positive energy from one place to another in the J-Space. If you are interested in opening a Django Girls workshop in Jeju, why don’t you join with Soo-Jin?
Contact of Soo-Jin Lee