By Kyle Russell
As much as we try to fight it, most people have a very stereotypical image come to mind when they think of coders and software entrepreneurs: pale, unshaven, twenty-something males.
Lyndsey Scott is none of those things. Though passionate about acting, she majored in computer science in college and then went on to become a model for brands such as Victoria's Secret, Gucci, and Prada.
Despite her success on the runway, Lyndsey never lost her passion for coding. While she chose not to take the traditional route with a software engineering job at a firm in Manhattan or the Silicon Valley, she continued to work on apps in her free time, with projects ranging from an app that lets you learn about and fund youth education in Africa to an app that lets actors and models create professional-looking portfolios with the ease that only an iPad app can deliver.
We first learned about Lyndsey and her surprising workload from her profile on Stack Overflow, a site that lets programmers ask questions about their code and get helpful responses from other members of the community with expertise on specific topics.
She's something of a celebrity on the site: users gain reputation points for providing helpful answers and the site keeps track of the number of views each profile attracts. To date, she's gained over 1,000 reputation points and her profile has been viewed over 38,000 times.
Earlier this week, Lyndsey and I had a chat about her modeling and coding careers. Read on for her thoughts on developing for iOS over Android, being a "lurker" on a coding forum, and what it takes to get young women into coding and computers.
When did you get into coding?
Lyndsey Scott: I started programming games on my TI-89 calculator in middle school or early high school, but I never thought of it as "coding." I just thought of it as a way to create cool games to play with.
How did you choose computer science as a major? What school did you go to?
From the very beginning, I knew I'd pursue theatre as a major and thought I'd pursue Economics as a second. Luckily, I went to Amherst College and the open curriculum there allowed me to try all different things. I took Russian and English Literature courses, I took math courses... At some point I backed away from Econ, considered majoring in Physics, but since Physics didn't fit into my schedule during one semester, I decided to give Comp. Sci. a try. Right away, I was hooked. It was an easy decision. My mind just wrapped itself around those particular concepts and logic so easily.
Did you consider any software engineering jobs after college?
I didn't consider any software engineering jobs. I knew I wanted to pursue acting and I started auditioning in NY as soon as I graduated.
When did you get into modeling?
At some point after college, I started looking more like a model and many people suggested I give it a try. So I went to every agency in New York, was rejected by each, and after resigning myself to the fact that modeling wasn't for me, an agency happened to find my pictures online and offered me a contract.
Are you still modeling?
Yes, I'm still modeling. And I love it. It's a type of acting – transforming into different characters and creating lasting works of art. I have so much fun doing it and I hope to do it as long as I can!
What made you decide to get back into coding? How long have you been a "lurker" on Stack Overflow?
I've intermittently done programming of some kind or another since college and though I only created my profile once I needed to ask my first question, I probably have read forum posts on Stack Overflow for a few years now.
I see on your Stack Overflow profile that you do a lot of work with Cocoa/Objective-C/iOS development. What made you go with iOS as your target platform for app development?
I like how Apple devices, unlike Android devices, are standardized; but I would love to eventually program for Android as well.
What other languages do you have experience with? What do you like and dislike about the languages/tool sets you worked with?
I've programmed in Java, C++, Python, and I've also done a little programming in MIPS. Her – it's super intuitive and I imagine if I were to write my own programming language, it would look a lot like Python. But at the same time, I tend to focus on one language at a time and I'm so immersed in Objective-C right now that my Python would definitely need a brush up if I were to get back to it.
What are you working on now?
I'm currently working on a pretty cool networking app that I hope to release within the next month.
Are you aiming at the iPhone, the iPad, or both for your app(s)?
It depends... My iPort app (available on the Apple App Store) is solely for iPads since it's a portfolio app for models and other artists that is best viewed and edited from a larger device; but in most cases, I prefer to design my apps for use on both iPhones and iPads just to give users the option.
What's your current development machine? Do you have a special work setup?
Just my MacBook Air for now. I'm definitely considering an upgrade though because, although it's a great device and easily portable, I keep running out of space.
There's been a bit of controversy lately with a particular VC claiming that it's tough to get girls into coding and computers. Do you think that's true? What do you think needs to be done to get more young women into computer science?
Ha, yes, I'm aware of the controversy. I read through his interview and although I think people are definitely reaching by calling him "sexist." Thirteen-year-old girls can easily become interested in computers and technology as long as they're given the opportunity.
I know I personally became interested in programming when I was 13 or younger as soon as I realized I had a TI-89 calculator capable of being programmed and a book full of documentation. I think, in general, many young people would love to better understand what goes into making the technology they use on a regular basis, but too few of them are given the opportunity.
Just last month though, students around the world were in fact given an opportunity with the release of Code.org's Hour Of Code and over 20 million of them tried programming for the first time within weeks. And please pass along this message for me to this "particular VC": Most of them were girls!