Shanakay Hall is a Web Developer at a university in the city by day, and an entrepreneur by night. She recently completed her post-grad in Web Development and has a B.A. in Communications Studies. She loves live music, foodie things and travelling. She is also a photographer and a big advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM. Shanakay is an AHF Summit 2019 participant.

Your academic background is in communications and media studies. What motivated you to pursue studies in web development and tech?

It’s interesting because my love for computers and technology goes back to when I was a teenager. I remember playing around with the layout features for my LiveJournal page and going into the source codes of other websites, cherry-picking parts of the HTML and CSS I liked and then creating my own websites using those pickings. I eventually started to develop interests in other creative areas, entered University and let this interest fall to the side. After graduation, I worked in different communications roles which required me to do a lot of web-based work. It was in these roles that I rediscovered my love for the technical side of things. I loved playing around with the front-end languages of HTML and CSS, and wanted to learn more. I wanted to learn how to actually build the websites and apps that I used so much so I decided to go back to school.

You have completed a number of work terms and internships and currently work as a web developer. What steps did you take to develop your portfolio?

I took my projects in school very seriously because I knew that I wanted to eventually include some of them in my portfolio. I took the opportunities where we were given more freedom to create useful real-world projects that I would want to use, such as, an Ontario Coronavirus Tracker. I also worked with some of my classmates to create a simple music playing application (think Spotify’s baby brother). I also took the entrepreneurial route to run my own side business, building websites for clients using WordPress. These projects helped to build the website-category in my portfolio.  

What is your favourite quote? Tell us what makes it so!

I have a few, but I really like, “fortune favours people of action.” To me it’s basically saying, be bold and go after what you want. I believe that in life you have to go after and speak up for what you want. You won’t get what you don’t ask for. Also, when you work with purpose, people will notice and support you. I think there are other variations of this quote, including, “fortune favours the bold” or “fortune favours the brave.”

You  run your own business Kaylo Digital. Tell us what motivated you to start your side business?

Yes, my web design business is called Kaylo Digital. I mainly work with service based businesses and entrepreneurs building conversion focused websites. I’ve always been a bit of a hustler and an entrepreneur so I guess it’s just a natural next step for me in my journey. Most of my work so far has come from referrals and I’ve realized that there is a real need for the services I provide. All businesses need to have a strong online presence these days, and a website provides an online home for your business. 

How do you invest in your own potential as a Black woman?

I love to learn, and try to always keep feeding my brain! I buy online courses, attend self-development and networking workshops, subscribe to different podcasts, and watch a lot of YouTube videos to keep up-to-date on trends and events in the industry. I also really value sleep and try my best not to compromise on it. We need to make sure our minds and bodies are in good health so that we can show up as our best and sleep is a big part of that. I’ve been through burnout before and it taught me a big lesson to not compromise on rest. 

What advice would you give your younger self in high school or first semester of University?

It’s okay to be different 😉 Embrace your unique qualities and weirdness. Those things will become your strongest selling points and are what will attract people to you. 

What advice would you give an early-career BIWOC starting out in a web development program looking to pursue a career in tech?

Take things one step at a time and try not to get too overwhelmed in your journey. Coding can be challenging and when you are having a difficult time grasping certain concepts it can sometimes feel discouraging. But don’t give up. Keep going and keep practicing. Put in the work and trust in the process and you will eventually get it. You can take on real world projects to practice your skills. For example you could work with a family member or a friend that’s looking for a solution to a business problem and create a small web app or website for them. It will give you a great opportunity to apply your learning to real world business problems and build up your experience for your resume. Also, network and start working on your brand early. Those things are important.