Katka Nagyová
April 16, 2015

Meet Melanie Thewlis

Artist, teacher, web developer and political scientist Melanie Thewlis does it all. She will combine some of these skills and teach a 5-week-front-end-web-development-course at betahaus. We wanted to know more about this smart and versatile young lady, so we asked and she answered. Read up!

Can you tell us about your background?

I grew up in Melbourne and moved to Berlin five years ago. I don't have a classic computer science background - in fact I wanted to be an artist, and I studied art for six months after high school.

I didn't enjoy the course though, and swapped to studying history and political science. Through this time I was continuing to paint, and my partner and I decided to move to Berlin. We trained as English teachers, and I taught English to international students for about a year while we saved to come to Germany.

How did you end up doing web development?

When I arrived in Berlin I thought of myself as a painter/illustrator. My plan had been to pursue art and support myself teaching English.

I was still working in a marketing role for my family’s business back in Australia, and as a part of that I started to do work on their website. My first job took me about 100 hours and I earned €200, but I slowly started building up a freelancing portfolio and at one point I realised I was lying awake at night thinking about my latest website and not about my latest sketch, and I would wake up itching to start coding, not to pick up a paint brush.

In 2011 my partner Paul Zubrinich and I founded Little Web Giants, an online marketing and web development consultancy. Since that time I've built around 50 sites as sole or lead developer, working on a really wide range of projects.

For the past three years I have also been studying Creative Computing through Goldsmiths in the UK. Although most of the subjects don't have a direct impact on my day-to-day work, it's been a good process to go back and study a lot of foundational concepts in a theoretical way after building up a practical working knowledge of web development.

And what inspired you to start teaching it?

There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about teaching English – putting together the lesson plans and coming up with fun activities that really explain or cement a concept, seeing students collaborate and gain confidence in new skills, all of those aspects I really loved.

So when the opportunity came up to put together a front end course at betahaus I was really excited. I felt it would be satisfying to put together a lot of resources that I could have used when I was first starting out, and I was excited by the challenge of designing lessons and activities to convey the various core concepts we are going to cover.

You're an active member of the female tech community in Berlin, do you have any tips for girls/women who want to get into web development and coding?

I love coding, and I never expected to end up where I am now, so I would encourage anyone who's curious to give a try at least once. But particularly to women and girls I would say to just dive in and give it a go. I think you learn best by doing, so certainly online courses like Codecademy or Team Treehouse are really valuable - but I think nothing is as effective as setting yourself a goal and doing whatever it takes to get it done. The first thing you build will be a total embarrassment. That's great - next time you'll do it faster, better and more elegantly.

The other thing I would suggest is to get social with your coding as soon as possible. Join one of Berlin’s many, many meetup groups, from Rails Girls Berlin to Open Tech School, and start learning from others. It's such a relief to be able to just lean over and ask for some advice from the person sitting next to you. You will learn much faster and it's a lot of fun. This is one of the main reasons I think the Geekettes are such an awesome organisation – their female only events created a really safe space for me to get out there and start experiencing all the amazing things on offer in Berlin's tech scene.

There's no doubt that tech is a very male dominated field, but I've met many female developers with really diverse and fulfilling careers in tech. There's also a huge demand for skilled developers – so for women considering a career change, web development and programming in general could be a really great option.

You'll be holding a 5-week Web development Course at betahaus starting in February. Could you tell as a bit about your teaching methods and the knowledge the attendants will gain by taking this course?

Yeah sure, so the focus will be on front end web development. That’s the content of a website and how it’s presented to the user – text, images, graphic styles, animations and so forth. The great thing is that with front end skills alone you can build a simple multipage website that you could use to showcase a portfolio or promote an event. So that’s what we’ll be working towards building over the five weeks. As I said, I’m a big believer in learning by doing, so the course will have a real emphasis on doing useful stuff right from day one.

I think there will be a mix of needs from the group, and I’ve tried to come up with something for everyone – In the mix there will be plenty of social coding, group work, and peer learning, as these are really important aspects of developer culture. I’m also enjoying coming up with activities involving Lego to help explain things like debugging and control loops – because why should kids have all the fun? We’ll be using professional tools such as CodePen and Browserstack, running though coding exercises, and then putting it all together for a final project. I’m really excited to see what everyone comes up with!

Now for all of you who are curious about the course and want to meet Melanie in person check the course HERE!

interview by Hana Hariri

Join the people of betahaus here! 


Lubomila: The carbon footprint of a company is always involving what's happening in the actual office but it also involves the external partners and choices. We always advise companies to start in-house, looking at what's happening in their office and within their team. As second comes the communication aspect including how you present yourself as a brand and what you communicate to your customers or online followers. Then the final step is actually implementing changes on a product level, looking deep at the supply chain, and checking if all small parts of your product are sustainable - for ex. the packaging, products made with palm oil, etc.

Lubomila: Our focus has been shifted towards actually educating businesses on what is sustainability and helping them connect to actions that can make them immediately more sustainable, and reduce their carbon emission level. This is also where our new tool comes in handy. We have built a platform which calculates, monitors and offsets CO2 emissions, that are created by a certain company and connects them to environments and projects that you can now see on our platform.

Photo by Lea GK

Well, both. Currently we offer the following two options: shorter publicly available Brand Playlists and long-form private Soundtracks for spaces. For both of them we work closely with the client to understand how sound fits into their brand DNA and what their audience is like.

We believe that the guests’ experience with a particular space doesn’t have to begin and end with their stay. The idea of the Brand Playlist is to be a public brand playlists designed to engage the customers before, during, and after their visit at a space. It’s always accessible for them and serves as a new, dynamic marketing channel.

The Soundtrack is slightly different. It takes sometimes up to weeks of work and is designed by a world-class artist, DJ, or tastemaker. For it we first work with you to develop a deep understanding of your business and style. Then we match you with the perfect artist, DJ, or tastemaker to create unique, always fresh playlists, custom tailored to match your brand. 

In both cases, we update them regularly based on guest habits and clients’ needs. 

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound

The way we engage with the music community is something really important for us and honestly, what makes us different than other background music providers. A lot of the background music providers out there have internal teams of maybe five or six DJs that do all of the music for their clients. We aim to connect with the local scene and always work with local DJs. There's some kind of magic in finding the exact right artists for the brand.

And on the flip side of it, when we hire artists, we make sure that the project is also inspiring for them and that they would be interested in participating. We always make sure to pay them well. The whole project creates for them a new income stream that they wouldn't have otherwise.

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound

Yes! This was really fun. The objective with the betahaus "betabeer sounds" playlist was to showcase the community side of betahaus. There are so many cool, interesting people in the betahaus community and we thought a playlist could be a perfect way to not only help bring the community together but also show the diverse funkiness of the communities of Berlin and Neukölln, which is why Hazy Pockets, a longtime local Berlin DJ known for his eclectic mixes, was perfect for this project.

This playlist moves from bluesy 60s rock into surf and tropicalia, picking up momentum into Motown and onwards through some laid back disco tunes. Perfect for the betabeer events betahaus hosts monthly!


Oh, there are just so many! Like the Imren Grill for instance where you can find the best homemade Turkish food or Das Gift and Gordon which are both run by great music people. Kohelenquelle in Prenzleuer Berg is my favorite local bar (or rather kneipe). To satisfy my  techno / electronic records needs I always go to Hard Wax and one of my most special places is the Zions Kirche steeple, which has an awesome view of the city and a great Weinerei close by. 

You can see me around betahaus. Online, you can always check out my website and listen to our public playlists on Spotify. We’re also currently working on a collaboration with betahaus, so a special Playlist curated by is will very soon sound around the spaces in Kreuzberg and Neukölln. 


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