CHARLIE A. ABLETT
CHARLIE A. ABLETT | Senior Developer/Systems Architect | Motueka
Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?
When I was a kid I'd dabbled a bit with our 8086 family computer, modifying existing games in MS-DOS and seeing the results. My dad encouraged this – he didn't get it but he supported what I was doing. When I was a teenager in the mid 90s, I taught myself HTML and some CGI, and later took the opportunity to become a GeoCities community leader.
When I went to university I had no idea about "real" programming, and I struggled a lot with my sense of belonging as the pedagogy of the first two years did not suit me. Once, however, I started putting things into context and learning shifted from tools and techniques to solving actual problems, I went from Cs to As overnight. Despite laughing off the suggestion of grad school from a professor ("Are you kidding me? Grad school's for smart people," I remember saying), I ended up getting a Masters in Computer Science and then doing a robotics research internship in Japan.
Part of the penny dropping for me was that the feeling of I don't know what I'm doing (which everybody experiences) is reinforced by a lot of very subtle wording and actions by many people in this industry. In my third year at uni, I read the book Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing and it validated what I felt. I learned so much about how words that seem harmless but can be damaging to a community's most vulnerable members (e.g. "Oh, you didn't know that? You just have to...").
"I can encourage others to open up about
their own vulnerabilities, and we can thrive together"
Knowing I wasn't alone in feeling in over my head allowed me to embrace my vulnerability as part of a learning process. I was learning and recognising where gaps in my knowledge and experience were, and that allowed me to put it in perspective: I don't have to know everything. I try my best to fill in gaps where I encounter them, recognise my own worth, and not be afraid of new things. I can encourage others to open up about their own vulnerabilities, and we can thrive together.
Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What are you most proud of?
I wrote Romanesco, a tree-based engine that recursively evaluate maths expressions. I wrote it for a client's project 3 years ago, open-sourced it, and it's been in production since. It's a challenging piece of code – it uses metaprogramming, recursion and a deterministic finite state machine.
Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?