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Ayu Adiati Polywork interview

How Ayu Adiati found a dev community — and herself in the process

While the universe of developers is vast (and more often than not, vocal), many aspects of the job, such as the long hours solely solving problems, can feel isolating. Can anyone really feel a sense of belonging — let alone nurture  an inclusive community — in a largely independent dev landscape?

That was the challenge for Ayu Adiati, whose journey to self-discovery has crossed continents, motherhood, and a new challenge: writing for developers and, arguably more difficult, finding a community she could call her extended family.

“I learned by myself and didn’t have anyone to share my frustrations or experiences with,” Ayu recalls of her early experiences in learning how to code.

We spoke with Ayu about her transition to technical writer from marketer, the obstacles to creating content for an unforgiving developer population, and what finding a community along the way has truly meant to her.

A new personal and professional journey

Ayu’s journey began a long way from her current role and home. It starts in Indonesia, where she spent her early life and career as a marketer. She admits that her passion for marketing was lukewarm to say the least, but can now reflect on one of its benefits — honing her ability to communicate with anyone — an invaluable skillset for the next stage of her career and life.

Long before she engaged in a community that gave developers a safe space to talk about any and all topics, however, she was finding a place of her own on multiple levels. First, it was a move to the Netherlands — now more than a decade ago —  that came with a number of adjustments. There was a new life, language, and not long after, child to care for full-time. Learning Dutch and embracing her role as a stay-at-home mom was difficult enough, but Ayu hit an inflection point: she wanted to build something greater for herself (and eventually, others). That led her to a familiar medium — writing.

Source: Ayu's website

“When my daughter was two years old, I started to learn. Then I wrote my first article in 2020,” she said, following the discovery of the intimate Virtual Coffee community (where she currently serves as a Documentation Lead) and its monthly writing challenges.

So, she began writing. At first, there was no set agenda or goal, but then the content came fast and quick via the monthly challenge  documenting her experiences learning web development on her blog . "I tried it and fully loved it," she said.

As her writing was growing in both production and attention, a familiar roadblock emerged. Ayu noticed that there was something lost in translation when it came to technical documentation for non-native English speakers. To bridge the gap, she channeled her storytelling abilities into translating technical concepts into accessible content. Her articles, particularly those that break down React, began to gain attention among developers new and old.

"I didn't think anyone would read my blog."

"I didn't think anyone would read my blog," she says, but quickly began to see the impact, even receiving heartfelt messages from readers expressing gratitude for helping them along a familiar journey.

Today, she writes about several technical topics, such as building with Next.js, coupled with broader topics such as what it means to learn in public.

Nurturing a community and finding purpose

Ayu’s learned a lot about herself as she balanced her passion for coding and writing with her life outside of work.

"What I love about the community is the support system, especially for the self taught."

Empathy for others has come relatively easily, especially as a mother, but being an advisor in the developer community has also become an exercise in nurturing ties with others and the sense of belonging it creates. It was in Virtual Coffee and smaller groups where she’s felt these connections most, helping her gain confidence in adapting to a new life abroad, learning to code, and becoming a strong technical writer.

“What I love about the community is the support system, especially for the self taught,” she says.

She admits it has also been self-affirming (“I can write!” she says with a laugh), allowing her to embrace the idea that she could be more than a parent or writer. She could be a leader.

“Writing for the web development world is really fascinating and interesting for me. I realized that I can do this, I can actually do this,” she says. “I can be involved in a community as a volunteer. Whenever I think about volunteering, it’s at an animal shelter or elderly care homes. I never thought it could be this way. I never thought I could get the chance to give back and help other developers.”