Featured Speaker Interview: Mina Markham

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Featured Speaker Interview: Mina Markham

One of your most talked about contributions to the Hillary Clinton campaign was her pattern library “Pantsuit”.  Did you need to run the name by anyone when you came up with it?  How did that conversation go?

I didn't need to run it past anyone. Since it was an internal tool, no one outside of the tech team cared what it was called. I don't remember the exact moment I thought of the name. I mulled it over in my head for a few days.

When we were casually brainstorming names for this "Bootstrap-like" project, I sheepishly said "what about Pantsuit?" And everyone around me was like "Yes. Yes! That's fucking brilliant!"

I was shocked. Honestly, I wasn't sure about the name until that moment.

As someone working in your field I imagine the sudden press and spotlight being directed at you for Pantsuit was unexpected and new.  Did you enjoy having your work talked about so openly?

There's a community of people who work on design systems and modular CSS, so I thought there would be interest inside those circles of the tech industry. However, I was surprised at how widespread the interest was. For the most part the attention was great. The flip side is it also increased the amount of harassment I received.

Personally, I'm convinced 90% of the interest is because of the name.

Working on a high profile website like the Hillary Campaign must come with a feeling of great responsibility. What are some things you learned that you will take away with you from the experience?

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I learned is done is better than perfect.

Campaigns come with a lot of rapid, non-negotiable deadlines. Sometimes we had to be scrappy and make concessions to ship on time. In that sense, technical debt isn't always bad. I learned to weigh stability versus maintainability.

One aspect of development I didn't pay enough attention to before the campaign was accessibility. This is one of the few instances where the target audience for a site truly is any and everyone. I learned to stop making assumptions about the users.

Girl Crush is a recurring subject on your blog, profiling women you find inspiring.  Your last post is from 2015, who are your current girl crushes?

Ha! I forgot I was doing that. My poor, neglected blog.

I never fail to learn something reading posts from Sara Souedian or Una Kravets.

For non-tech and all-around hilarity, I'm a big fan of Luvvie Ajayi.

The theme for FITC Toronto in 2017 is Step into the Light - can you tell us what this means to you?

When it's an overcast day, and the sun begins to break through the clouds, and you step into the light to feel the warmth on your face.

It reminds me of that.


Find out more at

FITC Toronto // The Future of Innovation, Technology & Creativity
Hilton Toronto • April 23-25

Or on her website mina.codes/#💋

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