LaToya Allen is an integral part of Big Cartel’s engineering team. She’s also the perfect example of using our remote work culture for a good cause.
We love side projects here. As big fans of LaToya’s passion project, SheNomads, we had to know more about how it began and what she’s learned from it. Started in February of 2016, SheNomads has built a strong community based around travel and education, by hosting retreats, classes, and more.
How would you describe SheNomads? What inspired you to start it?
SheNomads is a space for underrepresented folks in tech, and allies, who want to work remotely.
Last year I took a job at Big Cartel, a remote company. Have you heard of it? One of the reasons I took the position was because I knew I could travel while working. The problem was I didn’t know how to find great flight deals, how to pack for a month long trip, or what the best cities for that lifestyle would be. So, I started a podcast! Since then it’s evolved into a space of mentorship and remote education.
There are so many facets to SheNomads. Can you fill us in on all the different things you do? Did you set out with intentions to encompass all these different elements or was it simply the natural progression of things?
It’s always been a natural progression. I pay attention to what folks in the community ask for, and then I figure out a way to get it for them. For example, we have this thing called Office Hours, which meets twice a week. On Wednesdays, our sponsors bring in industry experts to answer questions about working in tech, wellness, and remote work. On Saturdays, women in tech teach classes and workshops online. We did a test run with an intro to Python class, and it was really popular, so we decided to keep going.
What’s been your favorite part of the project? How has it changed how you work?
The people. I get to meet folks with different perspectives on life, travel, and working in tech.
The people I’ve met taught me how to better blend work with activities. In a weird way, I think it made me a better programmer. For example, when I was in Lisbon, Portugal, I met fantastic group of people at Surf Office who mixed work with surfing and exploring the city. Looking back I should have been a bit more like them in that way. Surf Office has a coworking space - it’s great to work from. But I should have brought my laptop to the beach and took surfing lessons during my breaks like the rest of the crew did. Since then I’ve been being more active on my breaks - going to local museums and meeting up with other locals who work from home.
You travel quite a bit - what are some favorite places you’ve visited recently? What about these places stood out to you?
Lisbon, Oslo, and Tel Aviv.
I felt a sense of community, kindness, and curiosity in each location that I do not experience in the United States. No one seemed to mind that I didn’t speak their language. People asked me very specific questions about what it’s like to be a woman, and a black woman, in the US. They couldn’t understand why we in the US don’t take care of our own. Why health care is so expensive, why education is so expensive, and why our prisons are still so full, why our version of feminism is so behind. They also seemed to have a better sense of US history, and the impact that the US has on the rest of the world, than we do in the States.
What does a day traveling and working remotely look like for you?
If I’m working in the same time zone, nothing changes. If I’m six to eight hours ahead, I’ll play tourist for a few hours before I start work. I noticed this made me a better developer, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps the constant stimulation of new art, food, and music? Maybe I should start going to art museums before work.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is obviously of utmost important to you. How do you personally find that balance in your own life?
I sacrifice a lot. I’ve missed birthdays, and dinners with friends, and family events. I think before you help anyone else, you have to make sure you are taking good care of yourself. Also working at a remote company helps - when other folks are heading to work in the city, I’m dancing around my apartment, doing yoga, or going to the gym.
How can folks get involved with the SheNomads community?
They can contact me through SheNomads.com. I’m always excited when anyone wants to get involved, so please don’t be shy!
What’s got you most excited about the future?
It’s a tie between expanding on the idea of remote education and living abroad again. I’m excited about helping people connect with mentors to help build their skill set. I’m also excited to travel more. When you travel, every day is different. You never know what who you’ll meet, what you’ll learn, or what experiences you’ll have.
Between coding for Big Cartel and managing SheNomads, you can find LaToya planning her next trip and searching for the best vegan restaurants. Connect with the SheNomads community on Instagram or Twitter to follow their travels, and maybe take a class or two!