TBT: Ashley Hebler
Throwback Thursday – To commemorate the 10th year of SXTXState, each Thursday we’ll be featuring past participants in the project. Check back each Thursday until SXSW to find out what SXTXState alumni remember from their time with the project and what they are up to now.
Ashley Hebler graduated in the Summer of 2012 from Texas State University with her Master’s in Mass Communication with a focus in New Media, which was her favorite part of graduate school. Ashley is currently a web developer for Cox Media Group and also teaches Web Design and Publishing at Texas State University.
I reached out to Ashley for a Q&A to see what she her life has been up to after being apart of the SXTXState program.
I’ve been working in development for about five years now. While attending grad school, I worked for an online insurance broker applying what I learned in my Online Media class at Texas State to my daily tasks at work. After graduating, I worked for Volusion, an e-commerce company similar to Shopify and Squarespace where I joined a team of twelve or so Front-End Developers and created HTML/CSS/JS templates for the design services department. Most recently, I joined the Fans 1st Media team, which operates like a mini-startup within Cox Media Group helping the company stay on the forefront of digital content and the changing landscape of media.
Could you tell me about some of your current work you do at Cox Media and how you got started there?
I landed the job at CMG (Cox Media Group) thanks to Cindy Royal and the power of networking. Cindy was friends with Tim Lott, VP of Disruptive Innovation at CMG and he mentioned to her he was heading up a team for a innovation group in Austin and looking for developers. It turned out to be just the role I was looking for, and I couldn’t be happier working as a Web Developer there now. Currently, I work mostly in WordPress building out plugins, admin features and front-end enhancements to our robust theme platform. I also work with our data scientist building tools for our editors to access to use data to drive content decisions and social media strategy. Two of our most popular sites right now are Rare.us and Clarkdeals.com.
How was life after college before you began your current position?
After graduating, applying for jobs was very intimidating. I knew I had the base skillset, but I wasn’t sure I quite had the web development chops based on most of the job requirements I read. It took a handful of interviews and a few whiteboard tests (writing out code on a whiteboard in front of a panel of interviewers sans code editor tools) before I was offered a position. My former manager at Volusion told me he knew I didn’t have the experience, but my education at Texas State is what got me in the door.
If you could have done anything different in college what would you have done?
Any tips for the SXTXState team for SXSW?
My advice for the SXTXState team is to tweet like you’ve never tweeted before. I think Twitter is great way to stay engaged in the panel you’re watching, make professional contacts, which could lead to great interviews, and if nothing else give you a running log of your day after you’re too exhausted to remember everything that happened. Also, don’t dwell too much on missed events or get caught up in FOMO. There is so much going on during SXSW, you’re probably going to miss something spectacular, but you could stumble upon something else equally amazing the next day.
What is the number one thing you would have done differently during the project?
I think I would have been better organized and done more planning in advance. That includes everything from making sure I had a power source for my devices at all times to having an impressive professional website up and running in the event that I met someone looking to hire.
Do you have any memories that stick out to you from your time on the project?
I remember my general sentiment after my first day of attending the conference was, “I found my people.” I had never been surrounded by so many people who cared about tech and innovation as much as I did. With that said I distinctly remember sitting in a panel about CSS specs and feeling like the material was so over my head. I did interviews with a few of the panelists anyhow and still follow them on Twitter to this day. The subject material of that panel is something I now work with every day at my job and it’s funny to look back and think about how confused I was then and how much I’ve had to learn since then.
Do you have any silly memories from that time?
One of the strangest parts about SXSW is all the crazy guerrilla marketing that takes place. The advertising nerd in me loves it, to be honest. I was walking outside the convention center and I see this zombie staggering it’s way up to me – makeup and costume head to toe. As it turns out, it was a promo for AMC’s The Walking Dead, but it was so realistic I had a moment of telling myself, “Wait no, zombies aren’t real.”
Do you have any networking tips to share with us?
I think the best networking happens organically. Most of the time the industry people you meet are traveling alone and are more than willing to strike up a conversation. Talk to the people next to you in panels or in line for lunch. There’s a chance that they’re short with you or in a hurry and that’s fine. On the other hand, they could be the perfect contact for you in your future endeavors and all it took was you breaking the ice with some commentary on the best tacos in Austin.
Any tips for first-time SXSW goers?
My number one SX tip is to have a solid plan before you arrive every day. Know your hour by hour schedule before you reach the convention center and always have a backup panel to attend close to the location of your first choice in the event that the first choice panel isn’t quite what you thought. Also make sure you’re fueled up with sleep and food each day. These are exciting, but long days and your body should be ready to handle that exertion each day.