JENNIE STENHOUSE

JENNIE STENHOUSE | Developer | Matamata

Q. How did you get into coding?

I first started coding in university, taking Comp101 was a random selection for me. It turned out that I was okay at it. I went on an exchange in my second year to America where I got more into the art side of coding. That's when I really found my groove with it – when I got back I went down to Otago as they offered a games-focused summer course. I then followed courses that interested me and did design courses as well.

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I definitely believe that investing time in a wide range of interests/areas can make you a better programmer. I strayed away from programming for a while, working as an editor and camera girl in South Africa, and then doing motion graphics and design. I always dabbled in code; being able to code definitely gave me advantages in other areas that weren't software development. For instance, being able to create quick scripts to streamline my workflow or knock together webpages. I think learning to code made me a better problem solver, and having a concept about how applications are working under the hood is super helpful in troubleshooting problems (like when your editing program keeps creating corrupt files mere hours before delivery and everyone is stressing out).

Now I am back to coding and loving it. There is something so powerful about being able to take an idea from concept to product. Learning to program doesn't lock you into just software development. I think it can take you to all sorts of amazing places.

Q. What is one piece of advice you have for girls, women and omg people?

Ask smart people questions, even if you think those questions are dumb. Experts are so accessible now, and if you approach them respectfully most will make time for you or at least point you in the right direction. Be kind and share your knowledge when you can. It seems to me that when you have to talk someone else through a process or a concept it really solidifies your understanding of it.

"Ask smart people questions,
even if you think those questions are dumb”

Make stuff and break stuff to understand how it works, but also check the manual. Hacking stuff together to get a quick prototype is a lot of fun and you can learn heaps in a short time, but you’re definitely going to create errors. Being able to debug well is an awesome skill to have (even if it's your own messy mistakes that you’re fixing).

I think that there is sometimes a lot of pressure to be this amazing know-it-all programmer, but there is no shame Googling even the basic stuff. Okay, so just sticking to one piece of advice was too tricky!

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written?

I am really enjoying a bit of code I am writing now, it's not super complicated or in fact that clever, but it's satisfying. All it does is compare stored user information with some data generated by interaction, with a touch of random numbers and some per-generated dialog. It creates a spiffy interaction that can be dynamically updated.

I think it's that feeling of combining simple ingredients kinda like baking a cake and ending up with an amazing black forest gateau vs your run-of-the-mill chocolate cake (even though they mostly have the same things in them).

Q. What piece of code are you most proud of in your career so far?

This is a tough question! A lot of my code for actual paid work has been pretty mundane. It's totally okay to write lots of straight-forward code. Not everything is going to be super flashy or amazingly clever. There is a lot to be said for well-documented clean code that gets the job done.

“There is a lot to be said for well-documented
clean code that gets the job done”

Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder? What are you aspiring to do next?

I really want to make rad things that people find useful or delightful (both would be great!). I am currently working in the Voice Assistant domain (Alexa, Google Home, Bixby, Snips etc.). Even though the industry is fresh it’s a really exciting area to be in, and moving at a breakneck pace! It pulls together such interesting fields from design to data science and mathematics, linguistics, and psychology there is always something new to learn. I would love to make a tool that really inspires people to switch to or embrace voice assistants as part of their everyday life.

I have this notebook where I keep all my ideas for projects and the list keeps getting longer. There is so much inspiration but just not enough time to implement them – I hope that I get to tick off some of those projects at some point!

It's such an exciting time to be able to code. It’s amazing what you can achieve from behind your keyboard in little old New Zealand without having to have spend thousands on a highly specked out machine. A simple (and often free)  text editor can take you far.

Jennie codes in JS, Python, C++.

Code Club Aotearoa