LottieFiles is focused on making it simpler to work with Lottie animations, and Karin helps build feature-rich plugins that enable users and add immense value. She has been pivotal in developing Adobe plugins and her ‘never give up’ attitude drives her to solve challenging problems!
How would you describe your role at LottieFiles and all the amazing things you do?
I'm a software engineer in the plugins team here at LottieFiles. Simply put, my team gets to work on creating some of the plugins you see on the integrations page. The key highlights that I've personally worked on are the Adobe plugins (After Effects and Animate), and what's fun about this role is that we also get to explore development on any software with a plugin interface.
It's also particularly interesting because we get to work closely with the origins of Lottie (fun fact: After Effects and Bodymovin!), and there are so many valuable lessons to learn. Unlike other teams who start a product from scratch, a lot of my work is understanding the software that's already been built and then building a product with features to add value for users of the software. An example of this would be Animate, where our key focus would be adding feature support, so that motion designers can create Lotties with the features of Animate. However, when working with a plugin such as Google Workspace, our focus shifts to enabling users to consume the files we have available at LottieFiles.
We're always looking to explore and build plugins for other platforms, so if you know of any software with a plugin system, feel free to let the team know (or even me personally) via any channel you're comfortable with!
We’d love to hear your story and how you shaped your professional path. How has your learning experience been in these years?
Like most software engineers, I started with games. I have two older brothers who introduced me to the art of video games at the young age of 7. They also had a habit of taking apart computers and putting them back together (sometimes destroying things in the process and getting an earful from our parents). This was how I was introduced to the idea of troubleshooting. As the years rolled by, I was introduced to the Internet, and so began a lifelong relationship.
My first dance with working with the web was through blogging (which was cool circa 2005) and customizing my own themes with HTML and CSS, spending relentless hours googling "How to center a div." I never thought this was going to be a career! Of course, I remained an avid gamer (and had watched a Portal 2 documentary on how the game was made), so naturally, Game Developer was a lot more appealing than Web Developer. At the crossroads of "What do I do with my career?", I saw Software Engineering as a broad-spectrum approach that would widen my horizons. Looking back, I'm glad I made that choice. Development for the web is definitely very different than it was 16 years ago, making blog themes!
After some time in university, joining hackathons, a brief stint in founding a game development club (learning you have to pay money to publish mobile apps), and naturally, debating whether a Gundam was a feasible final year project, my foray into the professional world began. I began working for a supply chain optimization organization, Quintiq (before their acquisition by Dassault Systemes). The puzzles there were interesting and solved real-life problems, and I truly loved how they frame supply chain issues as "puzzles." Despite the utilitarian interface, they have an immense focus on user experience because they truly understand the target audience. Fun fact: it was where I first learned how to solve the Rubiks Cube!
My professional relationship with the Web started when a friend from university (and fellow colleague here at LottieFiles, Karam Ali) had joined a startup called MyBump Medi in the AdTech space in Malaysia, and they were looking for a React Developer. The beauty of startups is that your colleagues feel more like family, in part because of the number of hours you spend working together. Time moves very differently in the startup world! It kickstarts your learning mode into overdrive, and I wouldn't know half the things I do if it wasn't for the trust the founders had placed in me. It definitely took me out of my introverted shell, allowing me to grow and recognize the value in the knowledge that I already have and share. MyBump Media was actually my introduction to Lottie and LottieFiles too! They were an early advocate of the file system, using Lotties in their mobile apps because it was lighter 😉.
We now come full circle to where I am in my story today. The opportunity arose to join the LottieFiles team, and I was initially hesitant to leave my comfort zone. The deciding factor was meeting the LottieFiles team members, who are these all-stars with brilliant minds with endless wells of knowledge. There's honestly so much to learn and so many people to learn from. You will never run out of things to challenge yourself with.
What about motion in design enticed you into a career in it?
Try to remember a time in the early 2000s (and if you’re too young to remember, don’t be shy to google it!) when you’d go into a website, and your cursor would change into a colorful, animated mouse with sparkles flying around each time you moved it. Remember opening up Microsoft Word and seeing Clippy bounce around, begging you to ask him a question? I remember my first time learning about animated SVGs and getting a pair of eyes to follow your cursor. It blew my mind!
To me, motion makes every interaction more memorable, no matter how flashy or subtle. Go to Twitter and try clicking the like on a hashflag. That adorable little micro animation, that’s a Lottie! Being able to contribute to a technology that will make a lasting impression for years to come is one of the main reasons I’m in this career. I genuinely believe that the ability to make pixels move using a few lines of code is nothing short of magic.
What is the key thing at the forefront of your mind when working as a software developer?
In a word: tenacity. When working with plugins, a lot can go wrong beyond your expertise, and sometimes you have to get creative with your Google searches! Some roadblocks feel like the end of the road. But you'd be surprised by how much you can achieve by discussing it with your team and troubleshooting over a call. In the worst-case scenario, it really is an unachievable feat, but at least you now know why and you've proven it's unsolvable (at least for now). As long as we understand the limitations of the software we are building the plugin for, tenacity takes us the rest of the way.
What is your advice be for aspiring software engineers?
Don't give up! As cliche as it sounds. One of the biggest hurdles in a software engineering career path is societal, which you may internalize. Be it because you feel you're too old or too young, or you're a woman, or you're not good at math (all real reasons people have told me why they can't pursue a career in tech), the pursuit of knowledge is universal and doesn't care about those things. The truth is, we live in the age of the internet, and technology has gotten more accessible. Endless hours of information exist at our fingertips. We just need to Google it!