Liquid Web’s Front End Developer and Designer for iThemes on hard work, what inspires her about tech, and the rewards of building things.
Saylor Holder has always appreciated how a thing comes together. Raised in Gould, Oklahoma as the youngest of four, Holder worked with her carpenter and contractor father on construction sites and around their family farm and ranch. “Gould had a population of 130, a Post Office, a bank, and that’s all,” she says. In the summer, she roofed houses with her father, developing an early love for the ways something is constructed and made beautiful.
“I started waitressing at 12 years old just to be able to work inside and catch a break from the brutal Oklahoma summers,” she says. “My siblings and I played outside all the time and got into loads of shenanigans that my parents are still learning about to this day.” Holder’s mother worked at the town’s bank, often taking breaks at work to settle minor feuds between the four siblings. “God rest her soul, she had quite the handful with us—which is why we always ended up back outside doing manual labor with my dad.” She still enjoys working outdoors. “My favorite way to spend a day is waking up early and being outside with my husband. We like working on houses, farming, and building things,” she says.
In 2014, her love of constructing things brought Holder to the tech world as an unpaid intern at a web design agency. Still a college student, she worked to balance the internship with school and her part-time job as a farmhand. After graduating from college in 2015, the internship became a full-time job. “It was a real feet-to-the-fire kind of experience,” Holder says. “I didn’t go to school for computer science. I had just been briefly introduced to web design in one of my communication courses, and I loved it. So I learned everything I could on YouTube, at the internship, and at my job for the two years I was there.” Then, in 2016, Holder interviewed with Matt Danner and Cory Miller after being referred to them by a partner with iThemes. She was hired, and the rest is history.
At Liquid Web, Holder works as Front End Developer and Designer for iThemes, designing the UI for the iThemes software, helping to maintain the site, and assisting Marketing with landing pages and promotional work.
“I tell people to imagine a house being built,” She says. “The backend developers are your framers, electricians, plumbers, groundwork people, etc. And the front-end developers like me do the painting and tilework and all things interior design to make a structure an actual home. We put the finishing touches on websites and software, making it a welcoming experience people are excited to use.”
For Holder, the most compelling aspects of a tech career are the trust, flexibility, and possibilities she has found at Liquid Web. “I believe we are our own limits when it comes to the ideas and solutions we can introduce,” she says. “Also, I love that I can do this job without a degree. As long as I can do the work, I can continue to grow in this field, and I believe that’s how it should be. It surprises me and makes me feel better to know just how many people feel imposter syndrome. And how we are all just putting out one fire at a time because no one has it all figured out. In this field, the possibilities for what you can create are endless! This is such a challenging and fulfilling field. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of things to learn.”
Among the most influential people in her career has been Jim Motes, a farmer she worked for in college. “He, like many others in my life, spent many years only hiring male farmhands. But once he hired a girl, he never went back. He quickly learned just how hard-working, capable, and competent women are and learned he got much more done with the help of women,” she says. “Jim taught me so much. We worked hard each day, but he would have us stop working so that we could learn about things happening around us, like the process of a new queen bee splitting the hive in half or the actual tried and true way to pick out the best watermelon. He also was an example of a person in my life with endless hobbies. He never used age as a thing to hold him back from learning something new. He fought in the war, learned to be a helicopter pilot, was a professor at OSU, started a farm, and bred the hottest pepper in the world. He lives life in a way that is unafraid of dying. He is generous and has a wonderful, dry sense of humor. He appreciates hard work. I want to be like him.” She is working toward building a life in which is unapologetically herself— she and her husband are currently purchasing land and starting their own farm.
Holder feels confident that the role of women in tech will only continue to grow. “Women are problem solvers,” she says, “and we need problem solvers.” The key, she says, is being willing to get our hands dirty and let go of perfectionism. We should strive instead to be constantly learning.
After a long day building things—whether in iThemes or on a farm—you can find Saylor Holder around a fire with friends and s’mores and watermelon—about which she has parting wisdom from her mentor Jim Motes to share: “Here’s the secret to choosing the best watermelon: Look for the melon with the largest yellow spot. Make sure the yellow is still firm, though! The larger the yellow spot, the more time it has spent in the field getting sweeter and sweeter.”
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