About Roche Janken:
Roche Janken is a Senior Software Engineer at Uber on the Privacy Engineering team, and has been there for almost 5 years now. Roche attended Dev Bootcamp in 2015, became an Apprentice Software Engineer and a Software Engineer at Uber in 2016. Roche had a 10 year career as a professional modern dancer before her transition into tech. Coding and dance feel similar for Roche, and exploring the creative process with a new collection of tools brings her so much joy. Roche’s story helps us see that the persistence and determination to create better and better craft is a transferable skill across dance and software, and likely many other professions too. During her years as a professional modern dancer, Roche also held side hustles as a bookkeeper, a yoga instructor, and a project manager. She studied Dance at the University of Michigan. Roche loves Great British Bake Off, a competitive game of Scrabble, and gardening in her yard in Oakland with her dogs and her wife.
Topics & Keywords:
privacy engineering ● promotion ● modern dance ● ballet ● Dev Bootcamp ● feminism ● change ● identity ● transition ● creativity ● creative process ● LBGTQ+ community ● toothbrush test ● racial equity ● coding ● programming ● socializing at work ● exercising at work ● quarantine ● COVID-19 pandemic ● tools ● systems ● habits
“I can definitely thank my extremely loving and feminist mom for supporting me in dance. I don't know any dancers who have the ideal dance body, I was too short for ballet. I just kept on doing ballet because it was something that I got a lot of joy from, and she gave me so much support in that. When I wanted to quit dance, when I was like 13, she was like, just give it a little more time, and then I danced for many years as a professional. So thanks, mom.”
“I haven't done a lot of dancing, even in an amateur for funsies way since then because it is still just really sad. There's something about moving that brings the sadness right to the surface.”
“It's funny. I think that people frequently think that dance is not very mental and then people think that coding is not very creative. I think that coding is extremely creative because you're basically imagining your way into solving business problems.”
“The problem is there and you're trying to make a solution and you keep on building and tweaking and shaping, and that's so much like dance, you have this idea and you want to bring the form to it, it's not quite right yet, and you want to change it a little bit and you're like studying it and you're thinking about it critically and making changes. Knowing my creative process from all my years in dance, knowing how not to psych myself out - is huge for me as I'm writing code.”
“One thing I do notice though, is that, when I do want social interaction, which is, every day... not a total hermit... I find that I am the one reaching out more often. My colleagues, who at this moment, all on my team are fellas, they aren't as reach out-y as I am. So I have to be like, "hey, want to go get lunch?" And I try not to drive myself crazy wondering why does nobody ever ask me to go get lunch? Oh, it's probably because they're just going to eat lunch at their desk with their code. Unless I ask them, maybe they're scared of me or they're not interested or whatever. I'm just like, whatever. I'm just going to ask if I want to hang out with the person I'm gonna find a person and hang out with them. Oh, and then you asked about being physical and I just don't. I just ride my bike and sit at my desk all day and occasionally do handstands in the bathroom.”
“Let's see, I got married. I got a second dog. I haven't changed jobs. I got promoted. And hey, and then I spent 11 months in my house. How's that?”
“What are you thinking about while you're brushing your teeth? Are you thinking about an engineering problem? Are you thinking about people’s problems? That can be a way to understand where your heart is. I just thought it was neat.”
“You've got to get your tool set up because if you want to have this creative process where you're writing code and you're in the flow, you don't all of a sudden want to have to be dealing with all this cumbersome, copy pasting or trying to figure out where your windows are or where your tabs are. Coding is annoying sometimes. So when you can control things and make them less annoying, ya know, take the opportunity.”
“What I take away from your story, having seen a part of your journey is you following this kind of maybe a whisper or like a quiet curiosity that was present for you. As you mentioned, having fear about whether or not it would pay off in the long term, and then now seeing you I'm like, Oh my God, it paid off so much in the long term. She was like, so passionate and interested in what you're doing for, now what has turned into five years and you're still at it. I think a lot of folks, myself included, have this fear of if I just follow the thing that's quiet or if I invest in a curiosity that I have, is that a risk and is it going to pay off? I can say from my own coding journey, since we last chatted, like the only thing I wish is that I did it sooner. Even if I don't find myself in a software engineering job right now, or came back from my sabbatical during a pandemic, like not ideal circumstances at all, I don't regret it. I want to impart that upon the folks who might be listening, because that's the thing that so many other people struggle with, that seems to be just so beautifully represented in your story and then how you're moving forward.” - Kamrin Klauschie, Host
“Totally agree. There's so much of interest in the world of technology. Regardless of kind of your angle, whether you want to write code or whether, it's more about the product or, you want to work for the government and think about technology policy, there's just so much there. There's so much that's interesting. I wish I had known. Like you said, I'm not going to say, I wish I had done it sooner, but I wish I had really had a sense of how interesting it was when I was younger. Cause there's just so much cool stuff that's happening.”
“Amen. I remember doing HTML and CSS on Myspace and I still find myself doing that exact same stuff that I used to do when I was a teenager. I'm still interested in it. Some things stay fascinating throughout our lives.” - Kamrin Klauschie, Host
“I have been in a working group within Uber to advance racial equity. There's actually, as you would hope, been like a ton of energy in that direction. There's like a engineering effort, there's a product effort, there's a safety and security effort, a lot of efforts that I'm not even naming. A lot of smart people, passionate people trying to move the needle. I'm working with other people in the trust and safety org. We have a lot of really interesting perspectives. People from the US, people from abroad, people like me who are like total lefties, ex- law enforcement, ex-military... we're like all sitting down at the table, thinking about how to protect Black lives and make trust and security a better place for people of color to be.”
“I would tell my Dev Bootcamp self that I am going to enjoy this even more than I thought I was. Not just like the work itself, but also the people that I meet, I have met. I thought that I was going to enter a new phase of my life, surrounded by people who I didn't connect with on like a social or emotional level, but that has proven not to be the case. I think the stereotype has not been my lived experience, which is great. I've met really wonderful people who I really enjoy. I would make sure that my past self knew that cause I was definitely pretty nervous about that as I was coming into tech.”
Audiograms: Coming Soon!
Transcripts: Transcripts from Roche’s episodes can be found here (2018) and here (2021).
Getting Started: Roche’s How It Started episode from 2018 can be found here. Roche’s How Its Going episode from 2021 can be found here.