Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Julia! I work as a software developer and live in Montréal. I spend most of my time right now thinking about 2 things — how to be a better programmer, and how I can best help other people out.
I have a couple of CS degrees, but most recently I spent the fall at Hacker School, a 3 month workshop for becoming a better programmer. I wrote a blog post every day about what I worked on there (a TCP stack, an operating system, compression algorithms from scratch, and some other things). I love using serious systems in silly ways. I mostly work on data science-y projects.
This past year I co-founded Montreal All-Girl Hack Night, a monthly meetup group for women who program, and PyLadies Montréal, a group that helps people get started with Python. These have both been fantastic experiences. There are many many more women who program here than I ever thought, and people tell us that they find them useful. It’s a start, but I’d like to do much more.
What books have influenced you the most?
It turns out that I almost never read programming books — I learn everything from blog posts and the internet. So we’ll talk about making things better instead.
The book that I’ve read recently that has most shaped my thinking is Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements more Inclusive, by Julia Serano. It’s about how our social justice movements (where the whole point is to be more inclusive) often end up excluding people. Every chapter had important ideas that I hadn’t thought of before, and I found myself nodding a lot.
Julia Serano writes a lot about how femininity is marginalized, which is something I’ve noticed specifically in technology — women who dress in a feminine way are often assumed to be incompetent because they’re wearing makeup, and it’s bullshit. I especially love that she’s a social justice activist and a scientist (biologist), because she’s equally angry at people who say that biology determines your identity completely and people who say biology has nothing to do with it.
When I was an undergrad, I spent a ton of time in the Union for Gender Empowerment. This was a fantastic place where you could read queer & gender theory books and drink tea and ruminate. I learned there that there’s a huge variety of gender expression, and that I could be whoever I needed to be. I read Stone Butch Blues and Butch is a Noun and Ivan E Coyote and Gender Outlaw and so many others.
Looking back, the lesson I take from this is that it’s really important to model possibility. And good libraries are amazing.
What book would you like to write?
I don’t have any immediate plans to write a book, partly because I understand it’s incredibly time consuming and I do too much as it is. But! I also kind of want to.
I mostly blog about things I do with programming that I find really fun. Here’s a book that I probably won’t write, but I would surely read if someone else wrote it.
Title: Programming!!! (why it’s fun)
Summary: Programming!!! is about things I’ve found surprising and exciting and strange while getting better at programming. It’s about compilers and networking and algorithms and bytecode and rabbits. It’s about the strange and hilarious nooks and crannies of the systems we use every day. It’s about odd bugs I’ve run into and what I did. Really, it’s about why I think programming is so fun and why I keep doing it. I promise that you’ll learn something new.
Published on 2014-03-06