LENA PLAKSINA | Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington | Software Developer

Q. Girls and non-binary children often find it hard to see a pathway for themselves into a coding career. How did you get into coding? What is one piece of advice you have for them?

Software never occurred to me as a career option growing up. After high school, I studied Communication Design for my degree, and then spent some time working in events and graphic design. My formal tech training consists of a one-year Diploma of Web Development from Yoobee, so I had a bit of imposter syndrome going into my first internship with Software Engineering students. Turns out, there are loads of people in the industry who don't come from Computer Science backgrounds (and they're doing incredible work!).


I started studying web development to become a better digital designer, but the more I learned about programming, the more it felt like home. I love software for all the same reasons that I love design: it gives me a chance to be creative, solve problems, and make useful tools for other people.

My advice would be to ask for help. Often. Everyone started somewhere. If something doesn't make sense, ask somebody about it. If their explanation doesn't make sense, ask somebody else. We all learn differently, we make sense of and take meaning from concepts differently. Learning tends to not be linear. And try to get comfortable with making heaps of mistakes. A lot of this stuff isn't intuitive (I have to look up how to do stuff daily, and so does everyone else I work with — this is normal!). If it's fun, keep at it!

“My advice would be to ask for help. Often.”

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

I think one of the coolest things I've worked on so far has been WholesomeLang. It's a (very incomplete) Open Source programming language written in Ruby. It isn't optimised for performance, or security, or reliability. WholesomeLang is optimised for having fun.

The neat thing about this project was learning that writing a programming language isn't actually as complex and unachievable as I thought. Before working on WholesomeLang, I had this idea that to even attempt writing a programming language you had to be a genius. Turns out a language is just another piece of software; a tool we can write however we want, to suit our specific needs. It's also been great getting to know more about some of the trade-offs that go into language design; it's a side of programming I wasn't really exposed to before this project.

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

My biggest aspirations are to keep learning and passing the skills I gain to other people around me. I am always really stoked to get opportunities to speak to people about tech, or help out at workshops, events or classes. I've been so lucky with the amount of kind and knowledgeable people who helped me along the way; it's a community I really want to give back to as much as I can.

“My biggest aspirations are to keep
learning and passing the skills I gain
to other people.”

I'd also like to try some languages that don't follow the paradigms I'm used to. I always find this type of thing really fun because it challenges me to question my ideas about programming, making me see it in a new light. Lena codes mosty in Ruby, occasionally featuring HTML, CSS, Javascript, SQL, PHP and Java.

Code Club Aotearoa