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Employee Highlight – Meet Laura Jane Watkins

By enorman@objectrocket.com

Posted on: September 15, 2015

In our Employee Highlight series, we will introduce you to various ObjectRocket Team Members and this week we have Laura Jane Watkins!

Laura joined Rackspace Developer Evangelist for our datastores division (ObjectRocket), and has been building applications, documentation, and technical communities for developers ever since. She frequently organizes and speaks at technical meetups, conferences, and hackathons in the Bay Area.

In 2015 she took over as Director of GeekdomSF, Rackspace’s startup incubator, and co-working space. Laura is heavily involved in the SF tech community, is a director of Redis Usergroup Bay Area, LadyNerds SF, and Big Data for Everyone. Her preferred programming language is Python but she also works in Ruby and writes terrible (but improving) C/Obj-C. She is a former STEM teacher and was a 2014 Hackbright engineering fellow.

Q: What is your nickname?

A: Rory

Q: Where are you from?

A: Saratoga, CA

Q: What do you do at ObjectRocket?

A: Developer Evangelist (ObjectRocket) & Director (GeekdomSF)

Q: Your life in one photo:

Q: What would you do if you had a million dollars?

A: Buy a ’56 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop guitar and wail on it from the top of yacht, while I throw grapes to my pet raccoon who’ll catch them in the air like a raccoon version of Air Bud.

Q: If you could be stuck in an elevator with any 3 people, dead or alive, who would they be?

A: Teddy Roosevelt and McGuyver — no need for a 3rd when you have those 2.

Q: How would other people describe you in three words?

A: Tall, verbose, bossy

Q: The best advice I’ve ever gotten was…

A: At my first day as a student teacher (I was a teacher before moving to tech) I came up to my principal with a neurotic binder of lesson plans and minute-by-minute breakdowns of how I’d spend my day and wanted his approval on it all. He didn’t look at any of it and said “You’re a smart girl, you’ll figure it out. It’s why I hired you — you require no managing.” I did figure it out, and I didn’t need any managing, and I also didn’t really doubt myself after that.

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?

A: I was bit by a brown recluse spider on my torso when I was 21 and it was just as heinous as a google image search would lead you to believe. It’s since been sewn up and looks pretty normal.

Q: How did you first learn about ObjectRocket?

A: Ashley McNamara

Q: Before working at ObjectRocket, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

A: I was a middle school teacher, and later an administrator. I’ve suspended and expelled dozens of students, I’ve broken up fist fights, and mediated every kind of 6th grade drama or antics you could imagine.

Q: What are 3 words to describe ObjectRocket?

A: Sarcastic, loyal, welcoming

Q: How do you balance your career at ObjectRocket and family?

A: My family is me and a chubby dog, so in a way, I’m killing it at the family : work ratio. You can give her a chunk of chicken and she’ll forgive pretty much anything. She often doesn’t even know I’ve been gone for a long time or went to a conference, because… dogs can’t tell time (or atleast, mine can’t).

Q: Describe what you were like at age 10.

I was already 5’10”, really pale and very blonde (bordering on albino). I’d tested out of 4th grade and part of 5th, so I went to middle school early for half the day to go to advanced algebra classes with 6th graders – nobody knew who I was or why they let a giant child who was really into ABBA and stickers, come do math with them.

Q: If you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Tequila.

Q: What books are on your bedside table?

Q: If you had to eat one meal, every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Chips — just an endless buffet of chips. Nobody has ever had a chip and thought “wow, that’s awful”; even the worst chip is still pretty good.

Q: If you were an animal what would you be?

A: Raccoon. No question.

Q: If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?

A: Chips.

Q: If your house was burning down, what’s the one non-living thing you would save?

A: Laptop.

Q: Least favorite food?

A: Mayonnaise

Q: What celebrity do people think you look like?

A: Probably Katherine Heigl — as Ashley McNamara put it the very first time I met her, “Do people ever tell you you look like Katherine Heigl? You look like a mean version of Katherine Heigl.”

Q: What else do you do for fun?

A: I do the NYT crossword everyday, which is enjoyable M-Wed but then becomes the thing I’m swearing at on my phone Thurs – Sun (especially Sunday).

Q: What phobias do you have?

A: Mayonnaise.

Q: What would people never guess you do in your role?

A: Pickup trash and dishes… I do it constantly after events and around Geekdom, because we don’t have full time janitorial/facilities people at this office.

Q: What’s the worst thing you did as a kid?

A: One time at a birthday party, I punched a clown in the nose and it started to bleed everywhere — he broke character and screamed at me. I’m not sure which was scarier, that I’d punched the clown or that all the kids then realized clowns aren’t real, they’re just regular men, but with face paint and a wig on. And I didn’t apologize either; I recall my mom making me, but I bit down really hard and refused to open my mouth or talk (so… clearly I was a real treasure of a child). I think I was 6 or 7… and just a total brat.

Q: When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

A: Honestly… probably at a fart. I still really find farts funny, and that’s just… the way that is.

Want to learn more about Laura? Follow her on Twitter or Linkedin.

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