About this episode
In this episode, we'll discuss using creative expression to process anxiety, finding non design and dev related entry points into tech, and how community is the ultimate resource.
Matthew Munger: Hey Claudia, thank you for joining me today.
Claudia Cafeo: Hey there, Matthew. Thank you so much for having me here today. It's a pleasure to see you again.
Matthew Munger: Why don't you quickly start off by telling us a bit about yourself and who you are.
Claudia Cafeo: My name's Claudia. Perfect pronunciation there. I am from Italy, originally, but I live in London, UK, and I'm the founder at Floxies Community, an international community for women in UX/UI design and Webflow development. And I also work as a community manager at No Code Ops.
Matthew Munger: And where are you located?
Claudia Cafeo: I’m in London, UK. So this is gonna be my 10th year here. And I have to say, I'm a proper Londoner now. I'm having a tea with milk. And we were having this conversation earlier on: this is not something that I would've done 10 years ago before moving to the UK, but now I have to have my afternoon tea with milk. It has been great being here.
I moved because of work. Straight after I finished uni in Italy, I was looking for opportunities abroad. I used to be a primary school teacher, actually, here in the UK. It was my first job, and I actually flew over to the UK to present for an interview. That kind of thing where your mom asks you, “Oh, where are you going?” I was like, “Oh, I'm going to London for the first time.” And she's like, “Oh, for how long?” I was like,” I dunno.” And 10 years later, I'm still here. So that was quite a big trip. Poor mom. No, but I absolutely love being here, it's a big city full of opportunities and very multicultural. So I get to know and meet people from all over the world, which is kind of what you do in community life anyway.
Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.
Claudia Cafeo: But I have the chance to also do it in person, which is amazing.
Matthew Munger: What do you like and enjoy about living there that's kept you there?
Claudia Cafeo: Just the people, you know, just diversity and meeting people from all over the world and all sorts of backgrounds. So every Saturday I also play football or soccer and so it's amazing because it's kind of another community. It's like a drop in session. So people– it's for women– so women are free to join every Saturday. And they're all coming from different countries and so it's fantastic.
That's what I love the most. I feel like whenever you meet somebody new coming from a different background than you, you start growing. It's a learning opportunity and it's a growth opportunity for you. And so I love that so much about London. And people come with foods. I love food, being Italian, so I love the fact that I can eat sushi on a Monday, curry on a Tuesday, Turkish food on a Wednesday, whatever. You name it, it’s here, I love it so much.
Another great thing that I love about being here is the possibility to go and visit museums for free. All the time, every time, all the museums are free. There's so many of them, and so one of my favorite ones is the National Gallery, it's an art museum. And whenever I'm looking for some kind of inspiration, or like I need to find myself again if I feel a little bit lost, I just go there and immerse myself in art, and I love it so much. I just go there and sketch sometimes and it’s beautiful.
Matthew Munger: What is your workspace like? If we were to sit in your chair at your desk what would we see?
Claudia Cafeo: It's quite tidy because I'm a true believer that a tidy, clean space around you also translates into a tidy, clean mind. I have to have a tidy space around me in order for me to function properly. If you were here right now you would see a white desk, a kind of nice little air plant, which is a kind of plant that doesn't need soil to survive. It just lives in the air, but you have to kind of look after it, sprinkle some water every day or give it a bath once a month. Once a month I give my plants a little bath.
I have a little rainbow rubber here that I like because you give some color. I have my no code banner at the back, my rgb unicorn, once again to spark some creativity. A couple of Franco pops that I'm collecting, one of them being Zena the Warrior Princess. She's my ultimate protector in the room. I have my monitor, my laptop, and I'm trying to build kind of a decent setup for streams, which I do twice a week now.
Matthew Munger: When you're not streaming and you're just maybe kind of doing focused work, do you like to listen to any music?
Claudia Cafeo: Yeah, I do actually. In my Discord server that I built, I integrated a music bot that plays lo-fi music 24/7. And so whenever I'm working I get the best of two worlds. So I can still be in my Discord chatting to my community members and listen to music at the same time. So I always have that playing in the background when I'm doing focused work. Sometimes I'm also listening to metal or it depends on which mood I'm in. But yeah, if it’s a weekend then maybe pop music, dance, like ready to go party. But it really depends on my mood. I pretty much look like a lo-fi girl on YouTube with the window and the rain all the time, pretty much. That's a nice image.
Matthew Munger: What are your hobbies and kind of interests?
Claudia Cafeo: I like to think that I've always been quite a creative person. I've been playing the piano since I was five, that's kind of another means of communication for me. So a while back I tweeted about this, but people might think that I'm super social because I'm always online. But actually, when I'm not talking to you, or ,you know, streams, or other people asking me about what we do, I'm very quiet. I don't talk that much. And so one way for me to express my feelings is either via drawing or playing instruments. So the piano is my kind of second heart. So another funny thing about me, I have dreams every month that I would become something different. So me dreaming of becoming a DJ, a music, you know, digital EDM composer. That was one of my dreams. This month in particular, I’m obsessed with gaming. I went back to playing my PS4. I'm gonna upgrade to a PS5. Gamer girl this month. And I was like, “Maybe you should start streaming about that as well.”
Matthew Munger: What game kind of brought you back in?
Claudia Cafeo: Horizon, Forbidden West, so beautiful.
Matthew Munger: And so you like drawing physically with the pencil, but you also draw on the ipad? You also do digital?
Claudia Cafeo: I think it was during the pandemic as well. So many things have started during the pandemic. You know, Floxies, and another project of mine is called My Anxiety and I. I draw little sketches of me and what I think is the representation of my anxiety, because I struggle with anxiety a lot. And so another way for me to cope with that and process that is via drawing, so I sketch these little illustrations on the ipad. And every now and then I’ll post them on Instagram, or for now, individual posts. Because basically what happens is whenever I'm experiencing anxiety, I try to think about it in a way that makes me laugh or is funny. For example, I'm not a huge fan of flying, and because of my job I have to fly a lot, but I get super anxious whenever I do. And so one of the sketches, I think it's me sitting on the plane by myself, and as soon as the crew says, “All right now you can fasten your seatbelts.” As soon as I do that movement of clipping the seatbelt, my anxiety appears sat next to me, sunglasses on, ready to travel. So it kind of makes it comical and funny to me and it helps me get through it.
Matthew Munger: So you personify your anxiety and kind of separate it out from you? Interesting, yeah.
Claudia Cafeo: Yeah, it’s like a separate character. It’s this gloomy, friendly figure next to me all the time.
Matthew Munger: Gloomy, friendly figure. So often with anxiety– I have anxiety too– and once we actually process it, what is actually kind of the worst thing that can happen? And it's like, that's gonna happen and you're able to kind of say, “Okay, this really isn't that bad. Why am I feeling this? Why am I freaking out on the inside?”
Claudia Cafeo: Yeah, mental health is a biggie. You know, that's something else that I wanted to make sure that I would talk about in my communities and that I would set up a space. At Floxies we use Gather Town, which is kind of a 2D pixelated game where people can build their offices or whatever you need it for. And so we built our headquarters there, that's where I stream from every Wednesday. But I also built a kind of area for mental health, and that's a space where I know that if somebody's going there, they just wanna have a chat. They don't wanna talk about design or work or anything. They just need to talk about something, or they just wanna stay by themselves for a while. But I wanted to make sure that we had the space for that as well, especially now that life has kind of shifted behind the screen. Sometimes you just need to have somebody to talk to.
Matthew Munger: That's really great.
Matthew Munger: What is something that would surprise people to learn about you?
Claudia Cafeo: Interesting question, because I’m quite transparent in everything. I used to do karate, is that surprising? I’m not sure. I love dancing. That could be surprising because I completely lose it. I'm a true believer in work-life balance, so on a Friday, that's when my laptop's off and I'm unreachable because I'm having a good time somewhere else. Yeah, I love being a little dancing queen.
School & teaching
Matthew Munger: What about anything from your life in Italy?
Claudia Cafeo: Yeah, so I was brought up kind of traditional style, and so was different a while back. And so Sicily is the island where I was born, and it's a beautiful place. I always go there every summer for holiday, and that's the only way that I would go back. Growing up there was a little bit tough because– very traditional– you kind of have your life ready, packed up for you, and it's definitely made me into the person that I am today. And so I am very determined and passionate about what I do. I did not always have the chance to pursue what I wanted. And so I want to make sure today that whenever I'm meeting somebody, I give them all the means for them to realize and build that person that they want to be, without necessarily having to go through all the struggles that I had to go through.
And I love being a teacher, you know. It was so rewarding. I specialized in autism, so I was supporting children with special needs and I absolutely loved it. It's just during the pandemic it got too stressful here, especially in the UK. I was definitely on the front line. Unfortunately during that year, I lost three of my relatives back home and I couldn't travel back to see any of them. So that crossed the line, you know, and that's when I realized, “Okay you know I am fairly intelligent. I could try and do something else.”
And that's when I kind of like started studying UX/UI design and Webflow after work during my evenings because I really wanted to change my career, my life. And I just put all my energy there and managed to make it happen, which is amazing. What I'm doing today, all the transferable skills from teaching are being so useful to me today because I still feel like I'm teaching people or helping and supporting people, but on a much bigger scale. Before, I was helping 30 little kiddos growing up and I was giving them all my heart. Now I’m doing it with 3000 people.
Matthew Munger: Yeah.
Claudia Cafeo: Same heart, but much bigger delivery.
Matthew Munger: We're all kids on the inside, still.
Claudia Cafeo: We’re all kids after all.
Matthew Munger: Yeah.
Matthew Munger: What is your role day-to-day and how would you describe what you do to someone else?
Claudia Cafeo: As a community person, I would say that the best description there is that I work as a bridge. So I connect people, and that's the part that I love the most about what I do. Because I started Floxies community in 2021 and I also work as a community manager, so following the same kind of day-to-day life in both communities. And what I love the most is that not only are you supporting people, you're sharing resources, helping them grow, but ultimately you're also connecting them with new opportunities or jobs.
When I started Floxies, it was because I wanted to change my career and I wanted to become a designer and become a Webflow dev for developing landing pages for games, video games. Especially now that I am gaming again, that kind of dream is creeping up again, But no, I ended up becoming a community manager kind of naturally, and that’s one of the beauties of getting in tech and something that I often speak about as well when I'm talking to women. You don't have to necessarily think that you have to become a full stack developer, a no-coder, or a designer. You don't have to think of necessarily a role for you to be entering the tech space, because there are so many different shades. And for me, becoming a community manager was a beautiful shade for me to get into the tech space. There's so many nuances and different roles that people can try, it’s just a matter of understanding which one is the best fit for you.
Matthew Munger: What is a resource that you think more people in the community should know about?
Claudia Cafeo: I feel like Webflow University doesn't get enough love. People always ask me like, “Oh, what course should I do? I've heard about this course and that course.” And I always say like, “Yes, sure they're very valuable options, but have you started with this basic HTML and CSS, it's free?” You'd be surprised, like the majority of people either don’t know about it or they haven't. It’s a free amazing resource that everyone should know about before they embark on their journeys into becoming a Webflow designer or developer, HTML and CSS. Webflow University, go and do it, it’s free, it's your starting point, for sure. The most beautiful aspect of Webflow is, apart from being an amazing tool, it's community, right? It's beautiful to see how people from different communities are referring this person to the right places.
And so, definitely, new people should know about this because they're not alone, and so if they let the community at Webflow know, they’ll get sorted. It's beautiful to see. If it's a woman, chances are somebody is gonna tell them about Floxies, or if it's somebody, I don't know, based in Canada, I'm gonna be like, “Hey have you heard about No-Code North?” It's fantastic, I love that kind of spirit.
Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.
Claudia Cafeo: All of these communities are full of amazing resources.
Matthew Munger: Absolutely, yeah.
Claudia Cafeo: Yeah, I think that's the most powerful resource that anyone could have.
Matthew Munger: Who is someone in the community that inspires you?
Claudia Cafeo: Well so many people out there. Nelson, he's the OG pixel Geek. And so just from watching his videos, you know, his builds. Obviously there are so many people out there that I respect and admire so much, you know, I could start mentioning all of them.
Colleen, Penny, Mirella, Maria, like all the girls from my community basically are a source of inspiration to me. But equally there's Mason from Edgar Allen, is a big inspiration to me, because he's such a good hearted person and he keeps helping people whilst also coming up with all these amazing products and projects. And I just respect him a lot because like what we say here, “He's a good egg.”
Matthew Munger: What is some advice that you would share with others in the community?
Claudia Cafeo: Talk. Don't try to do things all by yourself. Start small, but don't try to do it all by yourself. And that's something that I had to remind myself of as well, like all the time. I always try to do everything by myself and sometimes it gets a bit much. You don't have to do it by yourself. Once again the community's out there and so you will be surprised by the amount of time that you can save, and equally how much faster you can learn just by talking to another person about the issue you're having or something that you're learning about. Just talk to another developer, designer, talk to another person about what you're trying to do, what your blockers are, and brainstorm ideas with other people. And so that's my advice.
Matthew Munger: Claudia, how can others in the community reach out and connect with you?
Claudia Cafeo: All right, you can find me everywhere. I'm Claudia, aka Spam, No, I'm joking, but you can find me– I'm very active on social media. You can find me on LinkedIn, it’s my name, Claudia Cafeo. And Twitter, C Cafeo. Reach out, I'm very responsive, I love meeting new people. Please go ahead and shoot me a request and let’s start chatting.