Meet Tiffany Kuchta, Co-Founder of Quandarymat.

October 30, 2017

Tiffany is the co-founder and lead developer at Quandarymat, a development shop focused on the planning and development of web-based projects from eCommerce and Content Management Systems to custom API integrations and backend applications that support business automation.


What first inspired you to learn how to code?


A wonderful accident.


I can remember being interested in programming as early as middle school; I just didn't know that's what the rudimentary changes I was making to the configuration of the command-line RPG I was playing really were. In high school, I was academically strong in both math and science, but I also enjoyed writing. In the absence of a concrete career goal, I was pushed toward a future in journalism by my teachers and guidance counselors. In fact, I was actively discouraged by those same school authorities from taking the only programming classes my high school offered. “There are only boys in that class, and you won't like it anyway. You're not going into computers.” The year, shockingly, was 1998.


In an incredibly lucky twist of fate, I accidentally registered for an introductory computer science class my freshman year of college. With my very first “Hello, World,” I knew that this was what I was born to do. I transferred schools and changed majors, eventually graduating with a Computer Science degree and co-founding a web development shop shortly thereafter.


What is your favorite part of your business?


My favorite part of my work is solving problems. That's the easy answer, though. My favorite part of my business is the opportunity to communicate about complex technical ideas with sometimes-non-technical humans. I've never believed that programmers are inherently bad communicators, and I absolutely love the opportunity to help others understand the work we've done or are doing for them. As an extension of that, I also love our process for taking on rescue projects, a process that acknowledges that establishing trust is the most important project requirement, and allows us to jump into partially completed or broken code in order to see a project through to deployment.


What was one of best challenges you overcame as you grew your business to what it is today?


I like the positivity here. “Best” challenges. I don't know if it's the best challenge that I overcame, but my favorite, seldom-discussed challenge is Perfection Creep. Perfection Creep is the term I use to describe my tendency as a developer to ignore time/budget remaining on a project in pursuit of the most perfect solution.


Except, done is better than perfect.


And while I was typing that sentence, 17 new Javascript frameworks were released (and 250 recruiters on LinkedIn just created job listings asking for someone with 5 years experience using them). The code I'm writing today looks nothing like the code I wrote a year ago. Sometimes, it looks nothing like the code I wrote last week. But, as a project shop, it is irresponsible for us to spend too much time chasing the new hotness when a project doesn't require it. Projects would never get done at all, let alone on time or on budget. And so, we have to be responsible with both our implementation time and our learning time. Scheduled learning allows us to explore without negatively impacting timelines and budgets.


How did your business life change when you had kids?


How much time do you have?


Having children helped me realize the value of working for myself. I set my own hours, mostly, and I can be there for activities, or work from home when the babysitter is sick. Beyond just working at home, my “office” can be virtually anywhere. (This can be both a blessing and a curse. For example, sometimes you might have to take a laptop into Magic Kingdom and fight a DDoS attack from the back of the Country Bear Jamboree...hypothetically.) Because of the benefit remote work provided to my family, we made the decision as a company to become a fully distributed team. Now we can each work in the places that make us the happiest, and spend the maximum amount of time with the ones we love the most. Disclaimer: I still work in an office that is not in my home most of the time, because I, personally, require that separation. Your mileage may vary.


You may have noted that I mostly set my own hours. I used to be completely unable to walk away from an unsolved problem, but I have had to learn to walk away because now that I have children, I absolutely, 100%, must stop work at 5pm. Walking away, however, has provided me with the solution on more than one occasion, and now I'm just mad I didn't start doing it sooner.


What advice do you have to other women who are currently running their own start up and thinking about starting a family?


To the extent possible, set reasonable boundaries on your personal time NOW. Coordinate with your team to identify protocols around work time, and protect personal time fiercely, for yourself and everyone else. If you don't set the expectation now that you'll stay late without prior arrangement or answer emails on the weekend, it won't feel like things are “slipping” when you have to stop staying late and answering emails on the weekend later. (I think this is also called “work-life balance”, but since I believe everyone's parameters for the balance($work,$life) function are different, I don't like blanketing this issue with a term that indicates a 50/50 relationship.)

And finally, ask for help. It makes you no less strong and independent and amazing if you need your partner to make dinner tonight or your mom to come fold the laundry. And even if you swore you'd never, ever pay someone to mow your lawn when you can do it yourself, it's probably fine if you do. Spending your fiercely-protected personal time on a Saturday afternoon building miniature space stations out of Legos with a couple small humans is just more fun.

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