Welcome Chiara! What was your first interaction with code?
My first interaction was when I was 11 or 12. I'm an internet baby so I grew up with Angelfire, GeoCities and had my little community of other young internet geeks at the time. I got exposure to basic HTML then. But I let that go and it wasn’t until my late 20s that I picked it back up again.
Did you study computer science or take related courses in university?
I was taking humanities. I was learning about psychology and sociology which taught me a lot of good skills like critical thinking, but I always assumed that computer science was for men. That was the vibe in the early 2000’s.
And right around that time, my brother who’s 5 years younger than me - decided to skip college and go straight into a career which I felt was a really wise decision. He went into video game development and quickly started to earn a great living. I was working in restaurants at the time, and he asked me: Why aren’t you coding? You’ve been playing around with code all your life - why don’t you jump in?
So I took a part-time course to test the waters again - and I felt reborn. I immediately enrolled in an amazing Toronto based bootcamp called Juno and I got hired within 2 days of graduating.
What was the bootcamp experience like?
It was amazing. The CEO, Heather Payne became my mentor, and so many of my former teachers are high up at Shopify and classmates are very successful in other roles.
Tell me about that first job after the bootcamp: What did you go into?
I started at a marketing agency, I was the email developer. And at the time, HTML email was very hard and taught me a lot of logic. I spent every night working until 11pm, and after a year I was ready for the next challenge.
I met with the CEO who couldn’t give me a raise and felt like I wasn’t ready to go into freelance. I recently remembered that because it did hurt to hear that at the time - and I’m sure it fueled more fire in me to go out and become a successful freelance developer.
But I was fortunate to receive a month's worth of pay - and then I found a job within a week. I had met someone from the bootcamp who worked on a Shopify App - and a large portion of their work was actually services-led. They were listed on the Shopify expert directory and received tones of requests every day. I took those on basically single-handedly, and with little Shopify experience. And that’s what’s gotten me to where I’m at today!
So when did you officially go full-time freelance?
This was in 2018. I picked up some local jobs for places like Toronto tourism or a roast coffee company. And then Richard from Storetasker reached out to me - and the rest is history!
Looking back - Are you happy with your pivot into freelance?
Well for one - I don't call myself a freelancer anymore. Nothing wrong with the word, but it feels a little “young”. I call myself a business owner - which is really what best describes where I’m at.
But I feel so empowered by my job. I'm motivated. I love Storetasker so much, it's given me the flexibility that I needed and I genuinely hope it lasts forever.
So happy to hear that - We’re so lucky to have you with us. What are your thoughts on building a mini-agency? I’m really not interested in that. I do want to expand horizontally and have people I can point to for social media strategy, design etc - but I’m not interested in expanding vertically with other devs on my books.
Any cool brands you’ve recently worked with on Storetasker that you want to give a shout out to?
I wanna give a shout out to a brand called Spärkel. I haven't completed the project yet, but they're from Toronto, and I’ve been fixing a lot of past issues but also introducing them to Shopify 2.0 and it’s going to be a beautiful site when it's done. So big shout out to them!
One last question: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a young freelancer?
Get a mentor. If you don't have access to a mentor, then find someone that you look up to, someone that has the same aspirations or the same drive and then talk to them. That’s been a huge help for me.