From Ball to Code

Chen Huijing started coding in the most unexpected place – a national basketball team. From there, she has never looked back and has even gone on to set up Talk.CSS, Singapore’s only community for anyone and everyone using the programming tool. 

For years, as a national basketball player, Chen Huijing was used to keeping her hands busy, passing, dribbling and shooting balls into hoops. Now she spends her days using her hands on something quite different, tapping away on a keyboard in front of the computer.

The 29-year-old is building her second career, as a front-end engineer designing websites for companies. That’s quite a feat, considering how she taught herself to code from scratch.

Yet her start in coding was entirely serendipitous. Her coach in the Malaysian national basketball team had asked her to help create a website for the basketball association, having mistaken her ability to resolve simple issues on the computer as knowledge of web development.

“I’d just go and try to see [which] websites [have] nice designs, then I’d ‘steal’ their code,” she recalled. “It’s like a Frankenstein patchwork.”


Career switch

One thing led to another, and soon, she was adding content and revamping the website. “So it just went on, learning more and more, and [I realised] that I actually quite enjoyed [coding],” said Ms Chen.

But by then, she also found herself at crossroads – having to choose between basketball and coding. And coding, she concluded, seemed “more feasible as a career”.

Today as a front-end engineer at Deep Labs, a startup that uses cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence for analytics to help enterprise clients develop next-generation capabilities, Ms Chen uses code to create visual elements that web users see and interact with.

She does so mostly using HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS is crucial in the design of web pages, and is what defines the styles on a web page, including its design, layout and variations in display for different devices and screen sizes. In other words, CSS is what makes web pages look pretty.

Yet, CSS remains little known outside the coding community, especially compared with its peer Javascript. And while there is an active local group of CSS coders on the developers’ chatroom and messaging system Slack, none of them had actually come together to form and exchange ideas in an offline community. Hence, led by Ms Chen, the very first CSS meetup for the community took shape in late October 2015.


A meetup for all

Within six hours of planning over Slack, Talk.CSS, a meetup community solely for CSS in Singapore, was formed, complete with a logo, a GitHub organisation, an account on Twitter and the venue set for their very first meetup.

To date, more than 600 people have joined the CSS community on Talk.CSS has also managed to organise a monthly meetup for the community, with an average turnout of 40.

“We get to share knowledge,” Ms Chen explained the importance of having a CSS meetup community in Singapore. “[We] can’t possibly know everything. But if all of us … share, all of us learn something new.

“It is not just for CSS experts. [Even] if you have never coded a line of CSS before, you can join.”

When asked about her goals for Talk.CSS, she said: “We want to encourage more people to speak… For a lot of people, it’s not that they don’t want to share, but they think that what they know is of no use to other people.

“[But] everybody has something valuable to share,” she continued. “The most unexpected person can come up with the most wonderful idea, simply because it is a different perspective.”

Clearly for Ms Chen, sharing can boost our learning and development. After all, she is where she is today because of what her seniors at Deep Labs have shared with her about coding. Sharing can make that difference in someone’s life.



Draft by Isaac Sim Boon Chuan
Edited by Bernice Tang


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