Meet Gique Lily Barrett

Writer & Full-Stack Web Developer

Tell us about your background & how it led you to where you are today.

“Starting around the ages of 7 or 8, I taped pieces of paper together and created sprawling to-do lists about a foot long. They trailed after me when I walked around my family's home. Items on the list included stuff like: Do a jig-saw puzzle. Make a board game. Build a vending machine for Halloween candy. Read a new book. Ask Mom and Dad to read a book aloud. Write a story about a family of giraffes.

As you may notice from my to-do lists, my interests were wildly varied. I loved the power of a good story and thrilled in creating my own worlds, where giraffes could talk and become best friends with their neighboring lions. I also got excited about solving problems, whether it involved fitting two puzzle pieces together or figuring out how to use string, cardboard, and tape to engineer my vending machine. If you'd asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you I wanted to become an astronaut or heart surgeon as well as an author.

When I became intimidated by math and science in middle school, I grew reluctant to make mistakes in class or challenge myself. I decided I wasn't cut out for success in STEM, which put a dent in my astronaut and heart surgeon dreams.

I graduated from Kenyon College, a tiny school in Ohio, with a degree in English literature and creative writing. After returning home to Boston, I worked in an urban high school for a year, assisting the 10th grade English Literature teacher and tutoring students in reading and writing. I also brought my writing skills to jobs in politics and public media. Along the way, trying to gain more skills for a marketing position, I began learning HTML and CSS.

Today, I've rediscovered my passion for solving puzzles and building things. But, this time, I'm not using string or cardboard; I'm using code. After moving on from HTML and CSS to Ruby and JavaScript and committing myself to making a career transition I attended Launch Academy's web development boot camp in Boston. After graduation, they hired me as a full-stack web developer and instructor. I code and teach others to code for a living, and I love it.

And I'm still writing. Two friends and I have founded Wordplay, a weekly creative writing group for Boston locals. Wordplay is three years old and has grown into a strong and vibrant community. We host writing workshops to help our members get feedback on their writing, provide structured writing sessions with fun prompts to get the creative juices flowing, and delight in our fellow writers' accomplishments. One of our longtime members just had his writing honored by the Mayor's Poetry Program at Boston City Hall, where his work will be displayed on the walls of City Hall for 6 months. Very exciting!”

What keeps you passionate about coding and writing?

"Pursuing both coding and writing makes me happy and fulfilled. I enjoy spending my days solving problems with code which often feels much like putting together a jig-saw puzzle or blasting off into space like an astronaut to investigate a broken satellite and spending my evenings writing stories. That balance works really well for me, and I believe my passion for writing makes me a better coder.

One reason why is that, as a writer, I'm able to look at the big picture. When you build a web app, you need to be able to envision the entire structure, from the database to the different pages people see when they look at your site. Outlining a story and figuring out where to introduce your main character's best friend or to make that tornado crash a wedding isn't too different.

My writing background also trained me to drill down into the nitty-gritty details. As a writing tutor in college, I read other people's papers and looked for misplaced commas, misspelled words, and out-of-order paragraphs: things that aren't easily discovered at first glance. As a programmer, I've found that the same attention to detail helps me 'debug' or fix programs that don't run properly. You'd be surprised by how much semi-colons and commas still matter! Just take a look at JavaScript."

What does being a gique mean to you?

"To me, a gique is someone who gets excited about learning new things. A gique doesn't become closed off to an idea or concept when he or she doesn't completely understand it, but instead becomes determined to find out more. A gique believes in listening to others' ideas and collaborating on tough problems. And, finally, a gique embraces the idea that his or her skills and those of others can grow and develop over time."

Any words of wisdom?

"Want to learn to code? Get out into the community and talk to people. Chances are, your city has tons of tech meetups, classes, hackathons, library programs, and other fun events. These are all great ways to connect with potential mentors and study buddies. A support network goes a long way when you're learning something new.

Find projects to tackle. Nothing beats hands-on experience. Set a goal of creating a personal website or building an app that solves a problem in your daily life. Do research. Try and fail, and try again. Ask lots of questions. Google things. Do a silly dance when you make something work. Just do it. 

And, finally, learning to code requires training yourself to think in new ways. It's like learning a language. Figuring out how to use a language's weird rules takes time and patience. My biggest piece of advice: Don't let yourself become intimidated. Don't succumb to imposter syndrome. Believe in yourself. Work hard. Blast off into space to find that broken satellite. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish."

Based in Boston, Launch Academy’s bootcamp takes eager learners with little to no coding experience and gives them the tools to add value to a software engineering team. Launch Academy offers both an on-site, immersive program and an online, subscription-based program. Graduates have gone on to join companies like Fidelity, NPR, and HubSpot.