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?

I avoid "rock star" talk since I'm not interested in the limelight. I'm interested in quietly solving interesting, complex and difficult problems – for tangible social impact! I'm also interested in helping people identify behaviours that can harm and help people to thrive, be vulnerable with each other and learn from each other. Charlie codes in Ruby, Javascript, Java, C/C++, C#/VB, Python and uses the pronouns: They/them.

Code Club Aotearoa