Meet the CSSconf EU Speakers: Rachel Andrew
Rachel Andrew is a web developer, speaker, writer and Managing Director over at edgeofmyseat.com where she works on the CMS Perch. She has authored books on CSS and web design, and has published two books this year: The Profitable Side Project Handbook and CSS3 Layout Modules, 2nd edition
Over the last few years Rachel has spoken at a number of conferences on subjects ranging from responsible use of CSS, to providing technical support, to launching a product business.
And as Rachel is also a CSS Grid Layout module superfan, this is what she’ll talk about at this year’s CSSConf EU. It’s the layout method she’s been waiting for ever since she started dabbling in CSS for layout in the late 90s. Having tracked development of the module from the early days of the IE10 implementation, she is very excited to see it come to life in Chrome. In her talk about “CSS Grid Layout” Rachel will show you how Grid Layout works, and explain why you should become a fan of Grid Layout, too.
When she’s not writing code or writing about code, she can often be found down the gym, out running or at a dance class. She’s an ex-dancer and singer and has been working at theatres in the past. Now she runs half marathons and enjoys combining fitness with geekery by using a variety of GPS and data recording devices to track her progress.
Hi Rachel! Besides being busy giving presenting at conferences, what are you working on these days?
Most of my work day-to-day is on our product, Perch. The company is just myself and my husband Drew McLellan. Drew owns Perch Core – I deal with a lot of other stuff. That involves operations – working on our servers and infrastructure; writing documentation; developing our marketing and support websites; helping customers; dealing with business issues such as the accounts; finding freelancers to work on projects. There is always too much to do!
In addition to Perch I do a lot of writing. I have self-published two books this year and am working on a third which will cover how to create e-books using CSS.
What is an upcoming CSS feature that you can’t wait to see widely supported by browsers?
Given the subject of my talk this is an easy one – Grid Layout! It feels to me like the first real fit for purpose layout method we have had and I’m a real fan of the spec.
Have you been to Berlin before, and what are you looking forward to the most?
I love Berlin! It’s my favourite city. There is a great tech scene in Berlin which means I am often over speaking at a conference. It’s really nice as each time I come I become more familiar with the city and how to get around, and I have favourite places to visit. I also have a mission while I am here. My husband and daughter love Ritter Sport chocolate and in the UK we can only get a couple of flavours. So I will have to make a quick dash to the Ritter Sport shop to stock up!
If you did not work in the web, what else would be your profession?
That frequently changes as I have lots of interests but I think at the moment it would probably be in the fitness industry. If I’m not at my desk I’m usually out running or in the gym. I’d quite like to do personal training qualifications at some point, just as a side thing.
Do you remember the first project you wrote CSS for? Is it still online?
I remember right in the early days, taking a site that I had built using font tags – pre-CSS – and changing it to use CSS for the fonts. It seemed amazing to be able to change the font styling in one place, the stylesheet, and not have to search and replace through hundreds of documents to change a colour. That was how we promoted CSS to people back then, talking about all those times when the site is done and the client decides to change all the links from green to orange. We were mostly building static sites back then as well, by hand, just huge collections of HTML pages and so it was a real gamechanger.
What do you like most about giving talks at conferences?
It starts conversations. I’m something of an introvert and don’t tend to be someone who would go and hunt people out and start a conversation about something like Grid Layout. However once I’ve been on stage presenting on a thing, people feel happy to come and tell me their thoughts. It starts a conversation either in person or via email that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I was presenting on Grid at Frontend Conference in Zurich a week or so ago, and afterwards lots of people were interested in my little examples of what Grid can do.
This made me realise that putting those tests and examples online would be as valuable as showing people big layouts. So my little site Grid by Example was born – as a direct result of those conversations with people after my talk.
If you could teach someone new to CSS one thing, what would that be?
Don’t get distracted by all the stuff that people will tell you that you need to learn. Learn HTML, learn CSS. Once you have a good knowledge of those you’ll find that your workflow could be streamlined by pre-processors, frameworks and tools. However starting out with those things is just layering complexity onto the core languages we work with. Learn the core languages first and you’ll then have a basis for understanding how the other things work.
You can follow @rachelandrew on Twitter and learn more about Rachel on her website.