Getting to Know Melanie Sumner

October 25, 2018

LinkedIn wouldn't be the company it is today without the engineers who built it. We have no shortage of talented individuals in technical roles across the company. They are the ones who create, build, and maintain our platform, tools, and features—as well as write posts for this blog. In this series, we feature some of the people and personalities that make LinkedIn great.

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Melanie Sumner is a Senior Software Engineer working on a team focusing specifically on accessibility efforts in Ember.js. Currently, she is working on the native accessibility story for the framework, which will result in better accessibility straight out of the box. The accessibility team does a lot of great work to help all of the engineers at LinkedIn, no matter their team or role, make accessible products so that we can continue work to realize our vision of creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.

What are some of the coolest projects that you and your team have been working on?
I’m really excited about the future of Ember because of its proven staying power—not only has it been around longer than its peers, but the commitment to backwards compatibility throughout versions also means it will be a solid choice for apps for years to come. It just keeps getting better all the time. Once we can land our “better accessibility by default” goal, we will successfully empower a whole new generation of engineers, apps, and end users—very exciting work!

Why are you so passionate about accessibility in Ember?
No JavaScript framework currently has a native accessibility story, so work in this space is crucial. Ember.js has often led the way for JS frameworks in general, but there are always ways that we all can learn from one another and inspire each other.

It’s thrilling to see the level of commitment that LinkedIn has to accessibility, especially the company’s support for making this idea of better native JS framework accessibility happen. I get goosebumps (the good kind!) just thinking about it.

What do you love most about working on accessibility in Ember and what tools do you use every day at LinkedIn?
The thing I love most is the ability to deep dive into source code and figure out why something is behaving the way it is and then feeling empowered to do something about it. I have so much support here, and it is also deeply satisfying to know that you can not be the smartest person in the room but still have significant knowledge to contribute.

In terms of tools, I use screen readers every day. It’s important to know how they work on a deeper level so I can help create a platform that will empower all of our members.

What other projects are you involved in outside of accessibility in Ember?
All things Ember, really! I joined the core team this past March, and have been working on both the Steering Committee, ensuring we have a solid governance process for our open source community, as well as the Learning Team, so we can make sure that the next generation of Ember enthusiasts feel completely empowered to create whatever they can imagine! I’ve also recently spoken at a few conferences and I’m finding that it’s something I seem to enjoy it, so I've been doing a lot of traveling and speaking as well.

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Speaking at EmberConf 2018 in Portland

What is something about you not found on your LinkedIn profile?
This is a fun question—it helps me remember the things about my life that are not my work! I met my husband while playing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) called Final Fantasy XI, and we’ve been together ever since. We also have an epic Lego battle scene as part of our living room décor. Our son built and maintains it, but we get to play with it sometimes. It’s a fun thing to do together as a family.

Compared to other places you've worked, how do you like working in LinkedIn?
I’m a decorated wartime military veteran (I was in the U.S. Navy), so working at an innovative company such as LinkedIn is a dream come true. The support I receive to dig deep and deliver excellent quality work is absolutely unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.