MILA DYMNIKOVA

MILA DYMNIKOVA | Data Scientist | Wellington

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

My first experience coding was in an ICT class in high school where we used BASIC. I didn’t pursue it because I couldn’t relate it to things that I cared about. During this time, I wanted to do something that would help people, so I felt that the best way I could do that is by studying medicine. One of my teachers wasn’t convinced and encouraged me to learn about other pathways during career week, especially the engineering ones. I realised that I could study software engineering and still work in the medical field by creating smarter life-saving algorithms for doctors and patients all over the world. I started studying software engineering with a mindset that I can apply this skill to anything I find important. 

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When I started university, I had no experience other than the BASIC classes and felt out of place being surrounded by students that had been coding throughout the summer at least. But here’s the most important thing about coding: code is transparent and highlights how our minds work. Code doesn’t reflect your ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. There is no “coder” type, absolutely anyone can learn to code. And it’s so much fun! I used to look at computer games or mobile phones as some kind of tech magic, but very early on in my journey of learning to code, I realised I also have the ability to craft a piece of code that feels like magic. You can find technology everywhere nowadays, so learning to code gives you the ability to understand and shape the world around you. It can become your own superpower. 

Once you do start learning to code, getting in the flow will become easier and easier. Don’t worry about memorising all the method names and libraries, even the most experienced programmers Google the most basic questions on a daily basis. 

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

I don’t have a project that really stands out to me… yet! I’m a big data nerd, I love finding an interesting dataset, finding a pattern, and then visualising it using javascript library called D3.js. Exploring the data set is a lot of fun and lets me practice using some machine learning algorithms and try out crazy ideas. The whole process of creating interactive data visualisation on top of a pattern recognition algorithm requires me to be creative in problem solving and storytelling. 

"Once you do start learning to code, getting in
the flow will become easier and easier."

Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder? 

At some point, I would love to start my own tech company. But for now, I’m enjoying working as a data scientist and building data products. In the near future, I would like to present a talk at a tech conference and Meetup groups about applications of data science and telling stories using data. 

I feel like my journey to where I am now has been smooth. I've had a couple of small experiences when people have tried to question my ability to code because I am a woman, but again, it felt like they were being bullies and the interaction never blocked me from coding. I don't have experiences where I have been discriminated for being who I am to the point where I didn't believe I was able to code. 

Right now is a time and space for minorities, that have had difficult experiences, to be heard, support each other, and work on a better future. I would challenge anyone that tries to put barriers on minorities from getting into the tech industry. Code is transparent and highlights how our minds work – I’ve always felt that code doesn’t reflect ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. I hope that my journey could inspire someone to start learning to code without fearing that they are going to be rejected. Mila codes in Python, Ruby, Javascript, SQL. 

Code Club Aotearoa