Be a Champion with Zuzana Kunckova, Founder of Larabelles

Michele chats with Zuzana Kunckova, self-taught developer and founder of Larabelles.

Michele: Hey everyone.

I am so excited to have a guest with
me, Zuzana, she is a programmer at

Titan, which is like the laravel agency.

She is the creator of Larabelles,
which is a community for women non-binary

and trans developers in the larval world.

She's a self-taught developer, a
mom and accessibility advocate.

She is so many things, such an incredible
person, and I'm so excited to have

her with us today, so welcome Zuzana.

Zuzana: Thank you so much for having me.

You make it sound like so great.

Michele: I was looking at your
link for this and I was like,

what can this woman not do?

Like, you're like you are,
so you have a full-time job.

You're a mom of three kids.

You have a bunch of LinkedIn
learning courses that you've created.

Zuzana: Yeah.

Michele: Lara bells, you are
also, you know, uh, like a

fixture of the Laravel community.

You did it, you did a
live coding challenge.

Uh, Laraville online a couple of
months ago, and you started your

career in like import export.

Is that right?

Zuzana: Yeah.

I mean, yeah, it wasn't a D another life.

Yeah, I worked for an international
shipping company when I used to live in

Czech back then, which was interesting
because Czech is a landlocked country,

so we don't actually have any sea and
I was working with a sea shipping,

but yeah, so I did that for few years.

Michele: And then, yeah.

And then you've got a psychology degree.

Zuzana: Yeah.

I mean, then I moved to England.

Then I had my first child, then I had
my second child and that point I started

doing my degree because I thought, I mean,
with the first kid, I was happy to just be

at home and, you know, be with the child.

But then when I had my second one,
I didn't want do just that anymore.

Not that I don't want to say just, because
it was a lot of work, but I needed some

stimulation as well, doing something else
that other than looking after the kids.

So I decided to go to university, which
I did and got my psychology degree.

Michele: And then it was around the time
of your third child that you decided

you wanted another challenge as well.

And you decided to
transition from working in,

Zuzana: At school.

Michele: yeah.

In schools as a psychologist
to being a developer.

So like just take me back
there, uh, to, to 2016.

Zuzana: So, I mean, I,
I wasn't a psychologist.

So the degree that I had,
it was just the beginning.

And I did want to go for the, I was
thinking about doing master's and PhD, but

that was going to be such a long journey
with no, or little money coming in.

So I decided not to.

And actually the reason I decided to
change careers was because I couldn't

find any jobs using my psychology degree.

That would be flexible around my kids.

Like everything was like proper
nine to five in an office.

And I was like, I didn't do this
degree to then leave my kids

at home or with childminders.

So to start, I didn't want to do that.

That's why I looked for that's why when
I was having my third child, I mean, so

I used to work at schools as a special
needs teaching assistant, because that

was to be honest, that was the only
thing I could do around kids because

working at schools would be, it would
mean, that I was working term time only.

And they were understanding
about the kids.

And actually it was the
school that I had my kids at.

So I was working the same school
as my kids were, but I knew that

it wasn't what I wanted to do.

Like, you know, I just happened
to do it because that was what

I could find at that time.

So when I was having my third
child, I decided to take this

time to maternity leave to really
think about what I wanted to do.

I didn't want to just take jobs
like that, where, just, you know,

they happened to come at it.

Like, I wasn't looking to be a
teaching assistant in the first place.

I took that job because it was flexible.

And it was okay at that time.

But when I was having my third child,
I thought, okay, I really want to

sit down and think what I want to do.

Something that can be,
uh, worth doing long-term.

I was fed up switching jobs.

Like I wanted to settle down on
something, something that could

be flexible around the kids.

I just wanted to have it all.

You know, I have my family and
have a job that I like everything.

Michele: So tell me about how, you
switched your career path from thinking

about a PhD to thinking about PHP.

Zuzana: Oh, that's a good one.

Yeah.

Well actually I'm still

thinking

Michele: here all week.

If your waitress.

Zuzana: Very good.

I'm still thinking about PhD.

I think that it will never go away.

I am.

I am what you would
call forever a student.

I just, I love learning and if
it was up to me, my full-time

job would be just studying.

I don't know.

I just like, there's
so much we don't know.

There's so much I can learn.

And yeah, so I still want to go to
school, not full-time, but I would

still like to do either master's or PhD.

So yeah, that's never off the table, but
yeah, I mean, so when I was thinking about

what to do, so let me just say I was never
a technical in any way, shape or form.

I was at best, a very
basic user of a computer.

I knew how to turn it off, turn it
off, you know, the very basic stuff.

My, my husband is a civil
engineer, so I knew press

something wrong, he would fix it.

But other than that, I didn't know
anything about computers, so my search

for a new career started with looking
for things I could do from home.

So actually I genuinely sat down
at my computer and I Googled things

I can do from home and web design
and web development kept coming up.

I mean, I ignored it for a while,
but then I was like, I'm just going

to look into, because it seems to
be like the thing to do flexibly.

And it seems like it seems to be
easy to get started because obviously

I read all these success stories,
like learn development in six

months and, you know, land the job
of your dreams, blah, blah, blah.

So I thought, okay, let's
see if I can do that too.

I didn't, by the way, spoiler, it
took me much longer than six months.

I got there eventually.

Michele: So, what did you use when,
when you were learning how to, how

to code and you also, you were also
on maternity leave at the time, is

Zuzana: So, Yeah.

So, my little one was just born in
January, while he's not little anymore,

but and I think, yeah, around that time.

So yeah, pretty much, I still have
a picture somewhere, he was maybe

two weeks old, and I had my two
computer sets up, wanted to look

professional, like a program, you know?

And on one I was running Linux and on one
windows and basically it looked so great.

But what people didn't know was that,
like I only just had the Linux installed,

but I didn't know how to use any of
it, like, it just looked cool, but I

knew nothing about anything, but yeah.

I started with very little.

So I just Googled and I
remember I Googled anything.

I would Google, I would
always say for newbies.

So you know how to do something for
newbies or for dummies, you know,

just always add this for dummies
at the end to make sure that the

explanation I got was the simplest one.

Simplest as possible.

Because I just didn't understand, like
I can speak English, but I couldn't

understand the technical words in English.

So even though I would translate them
back to Czech, but then I never had

like a Czech technical education either.

So I, just didn't understand
the meaning of the words.

So that was, I think they were supposed
to be the biggest obstacle that for, and

I don't know if it's the same for native
English speakers, but I just didn't

understand, like, what does it mean?

So even to this day, like, what does
it mean when you hydrate something

like what do you mean hydrate?

Surely there should be like easy
words to say or that lots of examples.

I just wouldn't understand.

So English was one thing that
I was struggling with, but then

the technical knowledge as well.

Michele: That's really interesting.

Like there's a, there's two sort of
barriers there, right, to teaching

yourself how to code was that the first
one was just knowing what's going on in

the first place, which it sounds like you,
you built the the most crucial ground

skill for any developer first, which is
figuring out how to Google things and

Googling for the things that you want.

Um, but then the second one is the
language piece, which, pretty much

all like all coding is in English.

And so not only do you need to know, like
what an array is from a code perspective?

You also need to know, what
an array is, period, or yeah.

Like hydrating that like, or
like there's all these like,

words that are used in these.

Zuzana: like what is a kernel?

I still don't know what a kernel is.

I mean, they say it's like, like when you
put a peach and the stone in the middle,

that's kind of like a kernel of the peach.

Am I saying it right?

I don't even know,

Michele: Yeah.

I guess it's like, it's like a
piece of like a grain, I guess.

I would

Zuzana: Something like the center of

Michele: piece of a grain.

Yeah.

Zuzana: Yeah, some words such as really
hard still to this day to understand,

or I, like, I look into it, I get it.

But then I forget.

And then you have to look it up again.

Yeah.

Some words such as.

Michele: Other, I think there's
one word you probably don't need

to translate, which is robot, which
I believe is originally Czech.

Zuzana: Yeah.

I think so.

Yeah.

Very good, general knowledge there.

Well done, Michelle.

Michele: Thank you.

Thank you now.

Um, But yeah, it's, I think it's really
interesting because I wonder if it, you

know, it probably takes you like that
much longer to learn how to do something.

If there's this extra layer
of translation on, on top

Zuzana: Hmm.

And I can't even translate it to, like
I said, I can't translate it to Czech

because I don't know the words in Czech
either because I never did that in Czech.

So I kind of have to translate
it into simpler English.

And I still struggled talking
about technical things.

Like when I do coding, when I pair
program with somebody, I use the

word stuff a lot or this or that,
because I still don't know, like

some words are just escaping me.

I know what they are, but I just
I'll get there eventually, might

just take me a few more years, but

Michele: Yeah, I could totally understand.

And I think, you know, something is
really interesting about your perspective

and then like your work is that, you
know, you're saying that previously you

were, you are working in a school, um,
with special needs kids, and, and then

you transitioned to being a developer
and you had this kind of, yeah, like

an additional hurdle to jump through.

And I you've become an
accessibility advocate.

And I guess I can really see how, you
know, your, your own experiences, both

work, and personally, have led to that
because you've exp like you've seen that

for yourself and that kind of application.

Zuzana: Yeah.

I mean, the reason I went for
accessibility in the first place

was because I really didn't
want to feel like I wasted four

years of university for nothing.

I was looking for a way to use my
psychology knowledge and the degree on

the web, so that I know that I haven't
just yet, like I said, I haven't

just spent four years doing nothing
or for nothing, not doing nothing.

I did a lot.

So that's why when I found accessibility,
I was like, oh, this is the, if anything,

if nothing, but for myself to know
that, okay, I can use psychology if I

accessibility and use it on the web.

But yeah, you're right, like when it
comes to subtitles are always like,

please use subtitles in videos or
audios because I mean, I learned to

speak English from subtitles on TV.

So when I, when I learned English,
I didn't learn English at school

or, I mean, I had English lessons,
but didn't learn anything.

It wasn't until I came to England as
an aupair pair, when I was eighteen,

but really zero spoken English when
I had to learn English the hard way.

And like, by being among English
speaking people, and what

helped me was subtitles on TV.

I mean, so much, so much.

I still remembering that
wasn't the old text.

I think it was like 8, 8, 8 on the remote.

I don't know if it's just English
or Czech thing, but maybe it's

like 8, 8, 8 on the TV remote.

And you would have the subtitles.

And that helped me so much, like just
piercing together, the word, and how

it sounds, and how it's being used.

So, yeah.

Please everyone, whoever does
videos or audio, use or add subtitles

or transcripts, because not only
is easier to search, come on.

Like you don't, you can't always
listen to video, with volume up.

So you can always, you know, if you're
with other people or traveling, whatever.

So subtitles these are just so
important for me, and, if they help me.

Michele: And I think you
mentioned with transcripts too.

I mean, the, sort of the great
thing about the age we're in right

now is that you can get automated
transcripts that are like, they're

pretty much like 95% of the way there.

And it's really cheap.

So I remember, you know, the company
I worked at before I worked on

geocodio, like they basically had a
freelancer that they hired to make

all of their transcripts by hand.

And it was very expensive
and time consuming.

And, you know, it could take a couple of
weeks to get a transcript back for, you

know, a 30 minute video, but now you can
just upload it to descript or otter.ai.

like there's all of these services that
will do these automated transcripts.

And not only does it help people who might
have, you know, various disabilities, but

also people who are not native speakers
of the language that your video is in

or it's is also great for SEO as well.

Like there's so many benefits to it.

It's almost like, you know, pick
the benefit that you care about it

and then run with that one for your
reason to do transcription, or, or.

Zuzana: I mean, everything accessibly
to people might think like, oh, it's

only for somebody else, you know,
but really all accessible concepts

are beneficial for everyone, having
like website's keyboard accessible.

So you might think it's for people,
you know, who maybe don't have a mouse,

whatever, but what about when you're
holding a child, you know, or, like have

a broken arm, something, I mean, they're
always, always beneficial for everyone.

And whoever says that they don't need
their websites be accessible, they're

lying to themselves because you may
be there currently don't have the

need, but there might come a time
that they would wish that the website

they are using or their website.

So for me, accessibility
is a common sense.

Like, yeah.

I mean, why not?

Michele: I guess for a lot of, you
know, like indie developers, you

know, starting their own companies.

I get the sense sometimes that
accessibility feels, like, it

feels somewhere between a chore and
like completely confusing and just

like, it's like such a big area.

Like It's just like this sort of monster,
almost that they're like, I don't even

like, know what I need to do about that.

And it sounds really
complicated and time consuming.

So, uh, I'm just gonna pretend like
it's not there because, oh my God,

I don't even have anyone paying me.

Like how can I, you know, focus on this?

Um, I'm just curious.

What is your like advice to
someone who is feeling now?

Zuzana: First of all, when
it comes down to HTML.

If you use HTML properly, I
mean, you're halfway there.

You know, if you use the, if
you start at the bottom, started

semantic markup properly, you are
halfway there and you don't have

to do everything a hundred percent.

You just start, you know, you don't,
don't aim for like a hundred percent

in lighthouse or the report just do
what you can and then improve on it.

You know, it doesn't have
to be all or nothing.

Just start somewhere and.

Because if you think about it, like, oh,
it needs to be a hundred percent perfect.

Well, it could, it would be great,
but just do an, a little helps.

Michele: Yeah.

I mean, uh, you know, another thing
is, you know, using something like

tailwind, for example, like I know that
they have done accessibility reviews.

And so that can be big leg up, both in
terms of accessibility, but also you don't

have to build your own design system.

And so kind of like with transcripts,
it's like pick your reason for using the

thing that is more accessible, because
it also has, you know, marketing and

the efficiency benefits to it as well.

Like it's not accessibility or
marketing or accessibility or design.

It could be both of those things.

Zuzana: Yeah.

And even this light house report, like
when you do the like lighthouse audit,

it tells you what needs to be done.

You know, it doesn't just tell
you or your website is terrible.

It gives, it gives you tips,
what you can do to improve it.

So there is so much help and it, Yeah.

don't, don't let it overwhelm you.

You don't have to do it all.

Just do it little by little by little.

Michele: Yeah.

And so this is the focus of the courses
you've done on LinkedIn as well.

Zuzana: Hmm.

Yeah.

LinkedIn.

Yeah.

Michele: I'm curious for, you know, other
developers, like would you recommend

doing a LinkedIn learning course?

Like cause I got, had a conversation
sometimes with friends where

like, oh look, I got reached
out by LinkedIn learning.

Like, should I , should I do this?

Like, is it worth it?

Zuzana: For me, it is worth
it, for various reasons.

First of all, it forces me when I'm
working on a course, it forces me to

really understand what I'm doing and
maybe that's why I've only done the

basic stuff, because I just don't
feel confident enough to do advanced.

You know, it all comes
down to the language.

I think the, my biggest
insecurity is the language.

Not being able to explain something,
not because I don't know how, but

like I'm struggling with the words.

So that's why I haven't just haven't done
anything advanced, but when it comes to

beginners courses, I still remember as I'm
still not that far, like into my career

to forget what it was like as a beginner.

So I still remember what it's like.

I still remember being
confused as smallest of things.

For example, you know, when you've got
like a tutorials and they use terminal

snippets, like he code snippets and
at the beginning of the terminal,

you've got a dollar sign on a mark.

And I always thought that
was part of the command.

Like you have to add a dollar, so and
then write a command I didn't know that

that was like, just, that was assigned.

They would say like type it,
type this into terminals.

So like, things like that.

I had no idea, you know, and
it confused me for so long.

Like, what is this dollar side doing that?

Do I have to type it up?

And I type it, it doesn't work.

What does it mean?

So I still remember these little
things that we don't think about as

much as we are programmers, like in
a daily life, you know, early work.

We don't think about things like
that, but I think I still remember.

So I'm trying to not forget
and use this in my courses.

And of course, I'm sure there will be
other things I will forget and different

people will have different struggles,
different questions, but the courses

are making are the courses I would
have loved to have when I was learning.

Michele: Yeah, I feel like I can really
see like a lot of empathy for past you

coming through and that, and trying to
make things easier for people who are

maybe in a similar situation as, as you
were in, when you were learning to code.

Zuzana: Yeah.

Yeah, because it wasn't easy.

I mean, like I said, it didn't take
me six months and I don't doubt about

people who can make it in such a short
period of time, but it took me years.

I mean, it wasn't an easy journey
and I just, I did so many courses.

And even though, then I thought,
okay, I know how to do things.

I still wouldn't call myself
a developer because who am I?

I mean, I had no certificates, you
know, I come from the uh, background

like people, unless you have a degree
or a certificate, it's not real.

And the thing about web development
is that you don't need any of this

and you can still be a real developer
without any degrees or certificates.

But this is what I struggled with.

I didn't know.

At what point can I
call myself a developer?

Like, because I remember I was at a
local WordPress meetup and, you know,

at the beginning we would say like
introductions, and well, I finally

like got the courage to say, hi, my
name is Zuzana and I'm a developer.

And I still felt like I was such a fraud.

Like, what am I even saying?

But then there was a person and
they said, oh, I'm just a hobbyist.

And then every question they
had, it would be so advanced.

I was so, so they called themselves a
hobbyist, and they are so way ahead of me.

And I'm here, I'm saying developer,
and I know hardly anything.

So I struggled with it big
time, and I'm trying to.

I know it's real.

I know other people struggle.

So I'm trying to, do and say things
that would have helped me back then.

And I'm not saying people didn't
encourage me to, of course they did.

Like without other people, I wouldn't
be here, but I think you have to really

believe it to even listen to other people.

It doesn't matter.

What other people tell you, if
you don't believe in yourself,

it's, you know, it's pointless.

So I'm trying to do my best.

Maybe, hopefully help other people
believe in themselves like they can do it.

Cause they often think, oh,
developer, you know, it's so hard,

I could never do it, but I didn't
have any technical background.

You know, I didn't that people
who start coding when they are

teenagers, I knew nothing about
computers and it took me a while.

So I was 36, I think, 35, 35, something
like that when I started learning.

And that's another thing
like people, I think, oh, I'm

too old to do something new.

And I thought that.

Until I read one day, I don't know
some online articles saying like today

is the youngest you will ever be.

You've only be older.

So if you don't start whatever tasks you
want to start today, because you think

are too old, chances are, it will never
leave you this wanting, the feeling

that you want to try, and you will only
be older next time you think about it.

So you might as well just start.

So I did, but yeah, I don't deny these
feelings, other people feel this way.

I've got so many friends who say, oh,
we wish, we could do things that you do.

I said, but I am not special.

Like I'm stubborn.

That's yeah, I am stubborn.

But if, and I don't want to
see if I can do it, anyone can,

because like people have different
circumstances, different abilities.

So again, this is such
a sweeping statement.

Like I don't like that, but at the same
time, I don't want people to think it's

impossible because I believe it is.

Michele: Yeah.

I mean, I think there's a lot of value
in, and you saying that like you were a

35 year old mom of three kids, changing
careers to become a self-taught developer,

it was not a native English speaker.

I think if you can do it, that should
be very good motivation for other people

to see that they can also overcome,
you know, the barriers that they face

as well and becoming a developer.

Zuzana: Yeah, I mean, I always when
people say self-taught, I don't know

if it's the right way to say, because
nobody's really truly self-taught.

We are all building on the
knowledge of other people.

And like I am, self-taught in a sense
that I didn't go to school, but I mean,

I've used people's tutorials and videos
and resources, so they taught me.

So I'm just kind of passing
the knowledge on if I can.

Michele: I guess self-directed is maybe
what I'm, yeah, Like, to say that you

didn't go to, you know, you don't have
an it degree or something like that.

So I I'm curious, you said it was
January of 2016 when you had your

youngest son, and that was when
you decided to explore switching

careers and becoming a developer.

And then you mentioned this WordPress
meetup you are at where you first

gave yourself the permission
to call yourself a developer.

And I'm curious how long it was from
when you first started learning to

code and January of 2016, to when you
called yourself a developer, and then

when you first got paid for doing
development work, in some capacity.

Zuzana: I think looking
back, so I started in 2016.

The first year, I was just learning.

I don't think much happened
the first year, then in 2017, I

started, I think that was when I
did that you Udacity Nanodegree.

So you Udacity is this
online platform with courses.

I think it's changed over the years, but
they used to do these scholarships where

they have what they call nanodegrees.

It's like a little degree where
you do courses and you have to do

assignments and you can either, it
used to be, and you can either for

free, by yourself, like free courses.

Or if you paid, you would have like an
access to an actual tutor who would review

your code and give you tips and all that.

But the paid one, I mean, I
can't remember what it was.

It was quite expensive for me.

So I would never do that for money,
but they also offer scholarships.

So I applied and there was a scholarship
for mobile web development, which

has nothing to do with mobiles.

But it's to do with accessibility and
making things like, I don't actually

know why to use the word mobile.

It was to do with the rate of access a
bit accessibility and making the web.

So I applied for that and
that was funded by Google.

And I got that scholarship, which means,
I could do the whole course and I had

access to, uh, the tutor or, you know,
there was a forum with all the students.

So when I did that, I think in 20 a, I
started in 2017 and I finished with 2018.

That took about six months.

Yeah.

And doing that, I think that's that point,
so it was about a year and a half into it.

I have to say, like being a mum,
I've wasn't doing it full-time

like I wasn't doing it every
day, you know, eight hours a day.

No, I was doing everyday little bit, but
still bear in mind, I had three kids.

One of them was tiny, so I did
all I could, but like, that's

why it probably took me so long.

But then in 2018 I finished a Nanodegree.

Um, I think end of 2017 was the first time
I went to the WordPress meetup and I, me

being me, cause I don't say no to things.

Then when they asked for people,
if there was anybody who would

like to do a presentation, I just
said, yeah, I'm going to do it.

And, I did it about accessibility
and I used a lot of the material

from the university course.

So I did a presentation and
there was like 30 people on the.

And it was the first time, and
I actually stood up and talked

about anything, even remotely
technical in front of other people.

And when I did that, after
that, I was like, okay, maybe

I can call myself a developer.

I mean, at that point I
still didn't have any money.

I didn't have any pay for a check.

I didn't actually build any, I mean, I
built a website for my husband and I built

one for myself, you know, but nothing.

So after giving this talk, this
presentation, I think that was when I

started believing in myself thinking,
okay, I can call myself a developer.

So that was 2018.

So it was about two years almost.

Yeah, because I think the presentation I
gave was like January or February in 2018.

So it was about two years after I
first look into web development, and

then the job, so actually a at meetup.

Then I did two more times.

One was about, it was because
it was wordpress meetups, it

was all to do with WordPress.

So the first was the accessibility one.

Then I also did one about child themes.

And another one I can't remember.

Anyway, but those talks in the
audience was a person, a man who

is the owner of a local agency.

And we got to talking after the
talk, after the presentation that

I gave and we were chatting and he
was asking me stuff and he said, why

don't we, you know, carry on talking,
maybe I would have a job for you.

I was like, wow.

And yeah, at the end he did
give me my first ever dev job.

At first I was contracting for
him and then he employed me.

So he basically gave me the job, knowing
that I didn't have any experience, but

seeing my, my talk, I guess, convinced
him that I was okay and I could learn.

And he gave me the.

So that was, I think June, July, 2018.

Yeah.

Michele: I think people who are willing
to give somebody a chance like that

and like to be their first champion.

Like, those are very, very special people.

And I mean, it sounds like that played
a huge role in your career, but I

think that's something for like, I
guess all of us to like, look for

those opportunities of like, how can
I be that first champion for someone.

And I feel like I really see that come
through in, in your work with Larabelles

bells where you're trying to, you
know, lift up women and non-binary and

trans people in the laravel of a world.

And so I'm curious, like, like how
did you come across the Laravel world?

Zuzana: Hmm, what was
in this job actually.

So although it was mainly
WordPress agency, they did have

a couple of Laravel projects.

And that was when I first got
to know about Laravel, I've

never heard about it until then.

I wasn't even active on Twitter
really, because like, I didn't

know anyone to follow know.

It's very hard when you are
starting in something new to even

know what people to follow, like
who to follow, who are the people?

So I wasn't on Twitter much, or
I had an account but I wasn't.

And yeah, in that company, so that was
the first time like my boss, he gave

me a chance, like he said, that is
this WordPress project, or there's this

Laravel two, which one do you want?

I was like, well, to be honest,
I could probably do my work

faster on the WordPress one, but
I really want to work in Laravel.

So he gave me the time,
the chance to look into it.

And I remember that was
like summer 2018, I think.

And I was going on holidays and
I had the Matt Stauffer, laravel

up and running book with me.

Just reading through it on a plane.

It was like reading the book, you know,
when you read it, but actually applying

the knowledge, it sounded also clear.

I mean, I was like, this is perfect.

I understand everything.

And then I sat in front of
the computer and tried to like

run a new Laravel project.

I was like, Ooh, that's not this,
this is way beyond anything.

I know what to do.

Like, so yeah, that's when I
learned about Laravel and although

I didn't, I couldn't do anything.

I knew I wanted to learn that.

I don't know why, but maybe it was the
book, maybe because at that point I also

watched some YouTube tutorials, and I
was excited by the possibilities because

bear in mind, at that point, I was still
very, very new to development in general.

I was working with WordPress,
but I still didn't know.

So reading about what Laravel and watching
people think, do things with Laravel.

To me, it was like, wow.

I mean, I could do that.

I really want to learn how to do it.

So yeah, from that start, I knew I
wanted to learn more about Laravel.

And then when I, I think I followed
Matt and then I followed other people

and I got to know about the community
and it seemed really nice, you know?

So it was like, that was it.

I found, I remember
thinking to myself, okay.

I found my thing because you know,
when you learn anything new, especially

in development, when we've got so
many technologies and tools, you can

become an expert in so many things.

I think it's quite nice to find the
thing that you like and then focus on it.

Otherwise you are kind of trying
too many things, and at least in

my, the first couple of years, I
was doing so many things, trying to

learn everything there was to learn,
but never really getting good at

anything because I never gave myself
the time to learn anything in depth.

And when I found a Laravel
of, I was like, that's it.

I really want to learn how this works.

And yeah.

Michele: And so where did the
idea for Larabelles is coming.

Zuzana: So although the, the Laravel
community was great, I didn't really

see any women or mothers, you know,
because the thing is, I was still

feeling, still feeling that I'm old and
I shouldn't be doing it simply because

I didn't see anyone else doing it.

You know, I didn't see any
other women developers.

And so I was like, why not?

It does it mean that, like women
shouldn't be developers or what does

it, I mean, what is the message?

This situation is, you know, sending link.

The fact that you can't find an, a
developers, I mean, women developers that

was, I could relate to what does it mean?

Does it mean that there aren't any, it
does it mean that I shouldn't be doing it.

You know, what is it?

So I was looking for, for
a community in general.

So I found looking through those success
stories, there were the other frameworks

and other languages have pages like this.

So I think there is jango
girls and rails girls.

I don't know the names, but like a
lot of these websites or communities,

they would have success stories
or stories of the women that made.

And I would read these stories over
and I was like, wow, look at this.

She was a mom.

I was always trying to find
something to relate to.

So whenever somebody had a
psychology degree, I was like, wow.

And they made it, I can do two or there
was a mum or while she's a mom too.

And I can, you know, so I was always
looking for other people who were

in, had something in common with me.

I had something coming up
with them and had made it.

And that kind of inspired me to keep
going because otherwise it was quite

lonely, you know, always seeing on the.

And there's nothing wrong with men doing
what they do, but I just didn't feel, I

felt like, should I even be doing this?

You know, it's because
it was, it felt strange.

So that's why at first I
was looking for a community.

I didn't want to found anything, you know,
I wouldn't call myself an entrepreneur.

I didn't know anything
about anything really.

So I was looking for a community like
that and I was like, there must be.

So if, if jango has community and
if, I mean, view has community.

Everyone is community.

To see why there isn't one for Laravel.

So I asked it on Twitter, and
I asked my like 300 followers.

I was like, does anyone know
about a community for women?

And they said, no, and
maybe you should get one.

I was like, yeah.

Right.

Ha.

And I left it and that was there in 2018.

Um, yeah, two years later, they're still,
honestly, I was looking out for one.

I wanted somebody to make a community,
so I can become a part of and like

find my friendship circle, you know.

People that you can go to just
chat people who maybe go through

the same things like you.

I, nobody did.

So, I think it was about two years
later when I actually, maybe for the

first time I mentioned it to another
developer, like a group of developers

that I know, and they also do it.

Just create one.

I was like, who am I to make?

I mean, I, I don't even know a lot
Laravel that well, you know, I've only

been doing it for a couple of years.

Who am I to make a community?

And they said, well, you are the
perfect person because you are,

it's a community that you want.

You're not making it, of course I'm making
for other people, but I'm making it the

first place I was making it for myself.

I knew exactly what I needed.

So I was in a perfect
place to make something.

So I did.

But looking back, it still feels unreal.

Seriously.

Michele: So I'm curious how many members
are there of Larabells bells now?

Zuzana: I don't actually, I don't
keep, like, I can tell you how many

newsletters we sent out, can tell you
how many people are on discord, or how

many followers we have on Twitter, but
we don't have like a so on the website,

I think we have about 30 people featured.

So 30, 30 ish women trans and nonbinary
developers are on the website.

So.

If that's how you would count.

I mean, to me, that directory that
I'm building like directory of

women, non-binary trans of developers
that I'm building is again, that's

for me when I couldn't find anyone
to even talk to even follow.

And now there are 30 or odd
people that now people can

follow and read about and learn.

To me, this is a huge success.

I know for other people It
might be well, just 30 people.

What are you talking about for me?

It's like, ah, you know, I found people
from all over the world and it's amazing.

And I can say that I found them or they
found me cause like I reached out to,

I use a lot of, you know, on LinkedIn
when you sometimes get the suggestions,

you know, to follow certain people.

So I go through suggestions as, and
if anyone has PHP beyond and is a

women trans and non binary, you know,
I, uh, contact them and I hope that

they will not think I'm a weirdo
and they will hopefully reply back.

But that to me is the biggest
success, success that I found.

I managed to put together this
directory of women, non binary and trans

developers, people can talk to and.

People can follow on Twitter.

And so many of us are
doing now doing things.

And we have probably been
doing this all along.

We just, like women don't seem
to be very public, in the public

eye about the things we do.

So I'm not sure.

We didn't exist, which has
the known about each other.

And now we do, and I think it's for the
best, because I definitely made friends

with people that I, you know, through
Laravel through a lot of Larabelles

community, and I've got opportunities
that I, and I know other people got

opportunities through Lara bells,
for example, the LinkedIn courses.

So LinkedIn approached me, me personally,
but then when they found out about

Larabelles, they asked me, okay.

Are their other, a lot of Larabelles
who would like to do courses.

So then I asked a other Larabelles
of us, and I know at least two

other ones have done courses and I
think more people are in the works.

So this is amazing.

Michele: It is amazing.

I mean, I think, you know, going from
being, feeling like you're the only

person who is trying to, to do this to
then having 30 people, but then who, you

know, do those 30 people by, being public
themselves, by running courses, you know,

speaking at the conferences and giving
workshops, giving talks, doing live coding

challenges like you did, like, you know,
that's more people who find out about it.

And there is an exponential
effect of that, that the more

public you and other people are.

The more people know about the
organization, but also know that

they too can, you know, be on
stage at a conference as well.

Zuzana: I think the last
Laracon, uh, summer one.

So it was.

The then there were six women speakers
at a lot Laracon online that was, I think

that was the most women we could have
ever been at a lot of Laracon conference.

And I was like, this is so nice.

Like it just so nice that now we are
out there speaking and people listening,

listening to our experiences and maybe
learning from us, you know, learning

about what it's like to be a woman in.

In the Laravel community, because people
will say, oh, a lot of Laravel community

is nice and people are nice to each other.

That's right.

I'm not saying it isn't true, but
at the same time, I'm not trying

to, you know, some people have said
to me that I am trying to break

the perfectly okay, community.

Why am I doing this?

Why am I creating like, you know, two
communities when there could be just

one and I wish there wasn't a need
for Larabelles but at the same time, I

don't, I don't see it as anything wrong.

Like we are.

You know, when you go and when you
meet people in a real world outside

of work, you also have a part of
communities, whether it is you

going to the gym or you have another
hobby, these are all communities.

And surely, nobody said, why
do you need to have like a, I

don't know, painting community?

Like, why do I do need that?

I mean, because you have something
in common and you like to talk

about it and you feel better for it.

So that's why we have Larabelles,
it's not to break, the Laravel

community, it's to make it better.

Because now we have someone to talk
to, someone we can ask for help or

even somebody to, I know, I will give,
shout out to people, other people,

because I know how hard it would be for
me to give shout out to myself, so I'm

trying to be, I think I'm an enabler.

I'm just, I like to enable people to do.

And so I think, it's the best for
the community, because then you will

have more people confident to talk
about the work, doing great work,

you know, talking about their lives
and it will enrich everyone else.

Michele: I mean, that's an important
thing about the larval community and

certainly the leadership of the Laravel
community is being very welcoming.

Um, so I mean, it's really awesome, you
said that there were six women speaking

at Laracon last summer, because I
remember the one that I spoke at in 2017.

I don't think I realized it.

I think it was me.

And then I think Laura, from client
portal, I don't know if there was

another female speaker, but like
I remember thinking, oh, wow,

it's like so awesome that there's
like multiple women speaking here.

And like, I remember going to the
conference and like, no one made

me feel like actively unwelcome.

And I was like, wow, this is really great.

And now of course realizing, well, that's
kind of a, in some ways that's like a

low bar that like no one comes up to
you and says like, why are you here?

Right.

But like that actually, like, you does
happen where like, people basically

just assume I'm my husband's assistant
and like have told me that he does

all the real work of the company
and that like, you know, basically

that I'm his secretary, right?

And like people treated me like I was,
you know, like I deserved to be there.

Which I, which I really love, like I've,
I've always, really felt welcome in the

Laravel world, even though, you know,
I'm not, I'm not a developer myself.

And sure, there's always people that
are going to be like, you know, oh,

this is, you know, divisive or whatever.

Like there's always going to
be those people, but I think

it's really important with the
leadership of the community models.

And, you know, I think certainly
from, you know, Matt, your boss, you

know, Taylor, and everybody else.

There's a, there's a
really strong sense of

Zuzana: Yeah.

I mean really, their are doing
a lot of things right, already.

It just, sometimes, you need
this little extra thing.

For example, I mean, I wouldn't ask
anyone like Taylor or Matt wants

to make a community for women.

Why would they, you know.

They could, but like, I sometimes feel
like you have to be really coming from

within to know what the community needs.

So that's why I say like if it's
probably very selfish, but I'm building

community first and foremost for myself,
because this is what I needed back then.

And I still do, and I know like
people are different and I know

different people have different needs.

I'm trying to think, like if I
come from my needs, my own views.

And hopefully at least I'll have somebody.

And then the bigger the community
is the more opinions we can have.

And the more people then
can, you know, use their own

experiences and grow even larger.

I mean, one thing I don't like to
be is this, uh, like people think of

Larabelles so they think of me, like
I am just the person who founded it.

I am not that important, really
like con, beyond it's more than me.

And I wish it wasn't like when
people say Larabelles bus, they

think automatically about me because
I don't want it to be that way.

Like, I want a lot of Larabelles
to be independent entity.

By thing, like maybe when we get bit
bigger and more people get involved,

it won't be always me doing podcasts
and, you know, presentations.

That's what I wish for, because
really believe it or not, I hate

this, this publicity and like
this attention, like it's not me.

And so I am so anxious every time I
do, like a talk or, uh, the Laracon

on day two, a Laracon of cons.

I do it because I feel like
I don't want to say no.

I feel it in a way, a
little bit of pressure.

If I say no, doesn't mean that
there will be one less woman there.

So I feel like I have to say yes to
these things, and I do enjoy doing,

don't get me wrong, but it's also very
stressful and same as, there was a

Laravel of Origin's documentary that
went live in March and ever since the

documentary, they keep coming out to
offers in the company who made it.

They keep coming up with these other
short videos, like about various

things to do with Laravel world.

And they came up with Larabelles
boss, one just like few days ago.

And I just seeing myself down,
I was like, oh God, not me.

Like, I wish there were
other people, not just me.

I want Larabelles, and the
message to grow beyond just me.

Because I am not a person who likes
publicity at all, which is funny

because I'm now all over Twitter.

I can go with the flow.

Now I'm trying to think about
it too much, but yeah, I want of

Larabelles to be bigger than just me.

Michele: You do these things basically
for the benefit of past you, not for the

benefit of like promoting current, you.

It's all it's, it's all about lifting up.

Zuzana: My current me hates
myself at the moment, but my

past, that was very well said.

Yeah.

Yeah, definitely.

I do that for my past me mia.

Michele: you're being a
champion of, of another people.

Zuzana: Maybe in the future, maybe
I'll feel again the same way about

what I'm going through right now.

Maybe I'll be like, oh look, look,
if I hadn't done all this publicity,

maybe I wouldn't be wherever
I'm going to be in the future.

I don't know.

Michele: Yeah.

Zuzana: But it's definitely not, not
comfortable for me, but it is what it is.

I'm just going with the flow.

I have a problem saying no, to be fair.

Like when people offer me something,
I just, most of the time say yes,

except for this podcast, when
you had to convince me, like,

Michele: I re I really had to, to
sell it to you to come on today.

And actually one of those reasons I really
wanted to have you on is because you

have also been a champion of me as well.

From the very, very early thoughts of
me writing a book, you were sliding

into my DMS, instigating it, you
know, just, just like all in the

beginning when I was like, oh, I don't
know, like, should I write a book?

That sounds like a big project.

I can't do it.

I'm not an author like, I'll be
like, you were just every single

like thread and everything.

You were, you were on it being
like, no, you could write the book.

You'll look back on this.

And remember, this is the moment
you decided to like, um, and.

Zuzana: it's true.

Like I could say, I could tell
you from looking from, you

know, you are, it was about you.

It's so hard to be objective and.

it's about yourself, you know?

But like I could tell you, you can
write you can talk and also do, as I

say, not as I do, that's my, so if You
told me write the book, I'm like nah,

but I'm going to encourage everyone
else because that's, I like doing that.

I think it's important.

Michele: Yeah.

You like being a type of people.

I am.

I am, I am very grateful for
your support and encouragement.

I remember I tweeted out like,
oh, like I'm, you know, I had this

like crazy thought of like writing
a book and then people were so

overwhelmingly positive about it.

I was like, wow.

It was just like a kind
of idle thought I had.

And almost didn't want to
admit to myself that I had.

But then it was like, everybody
else gave me kind of the, the

permission to, to run with that.

And almost in that way, that when you
were at that WordPress meetup, like,

you kind of had this sort of little
kernel of a, of a feeling of like,

oh, I could identify as a developer.

I could identify as an author.

And then once you, when somebody
let you embody that identity, right?

Like allowed that to grow a little
bit, that's when it really blossomed.

And so I think it sounds like you've
really seen for yourself the importance

of, being that encouragement for someone
when maybe it's not that they don't

believe in themselves it's that they don't
know if they're allowed to believe in

this other identity, this other role for

Zuzana: Yeah.

Yeah.

And we can, honestly, we can be anything
you want to be, it's been, we've been

like in a way, I don't wanna say, not
controlled, but we were made to believe

we have certain roles in a society and
it's, and although things are changing,

some things are still hard to accept that
we can be more than just, you know, and

you can be a mom and you can also be a
business owner and you can have it all.

Okay.

You might have to make compromises
and negotiate here and there, but

you can have it all on your own.

And I think believing in that is the
first step, whatever it is for, for

you or anyone who's listening, like

whatever it is that you wish you
could do something on me, be somebody

just know that you can, you can.

Most of the time, the only person
that's stopping you is yourself.

Well, yeah, just we can
be anything we want to be.

And if you want to be a Laravel
of other developer, let's get in

touch and I'm going to help you.

Michele: I feel like that is
a fantastic way to end this.

Thank you so much for, for coming
on today and for letting me

convince you to come on today.

Um, Zuzana if people want to learn
more about you or Larabelles or all

those other things you're involved
with where can they go to learn?

Zuzana: So Twitter, probably.

So on my, on Twitter, my handle
is Zuzana, Z U Z A N A

underscore K U N C K O V A.

I good luck finding it.

Michele: Link.

Zuzana: Okay, so I'm going a
website, there's an zuzana-k.com.

So there will be links there.

I'm sure.

Then, like I said,
Twitter, linkedIn learning.

If you look me up, you will see currently
have three courses and I've got a fourth

one, I'm working on a fourth one now.

A lot of Larabelles is Laravel a
lot of larabelles.com website and

a lot of larabelles PHP on Twitter.

And I think that's all.

Michele: Thank you so much for
coming on today before we close out.

I want to give a huge thanks to all of
our listeners, who've become software

socialites and support our show.

You can become a supporter for a $10
a month or a hundred dollars a year

at software social.dev/supporters.

Chris from Chipper CI, the
dangerously handsome Kevin Griffin.

Oh, it thinks I'm supposed
to say daringly handsome, but

Kevin today you're dangerous.

Um, Mike from gently used domains,
Dave, from recut, max of onlineornot

Stefan from talk to Stefan, Brendan
Andrade of bright bits, Aaron from Tuple.

Alex Hillman from the tiny MBA, Remy from
memo.fm, Jane and Benedikt from user list.

Kendall Morgan, Ruben Gamez of
signwell, Corey Haynes of swipewell.

Mike Wade of crowd sentry,
Nate Ritter of room steals, and

Anna Maste of subscribed sense.

Geoff Roberts from outseta.

Justin Jackson from MegaMaker, Jack Ellis
and Paul Jarvis from fathom analytics,

Matthew from appointment reminder, Andrew
Culver at bullet train, John Kostor, Alex

of Corso systems, Richard from stunning,
Josh, the annoyingly pragmatic founder.

That's actually what he wanted me to read.

Um, Ben from consent kit, John from
credo and editor ninja, Cam Sloan.

Michael Koper of Nusii proposals.

Arvid Kahl, James Sowers of
Castaway.fm, Nathan of develop

your UX, and Jessica Malnik.

To all of our supporters, thank you.

And to Zuzana Kunckova, thank
you so much for being with us today.

Zuzana: Thank you for having me.

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