„Programming makes me powerful!“ – Mari Carmen Gutiérrez
Rails Girls is all about enthusing women about programming. Therefore, we would like you to meet some of our female coaches. The start will make Mari, a passionate computer scientist from Spain.
How old were you when you used a computer for the first time?
I used my first computer when I was 9 years old; my parents bought a nice i486 with MS-DOS that I used mainly for playing simple but addictive games, and also for school tasks. It was cool! My first own computer came when I was 15 years old. I was pretty interested in computers because I had seen some programming basics at high school and our old i486 needed a replacement. I supervised the whole purchase process (chose the pieces and so on) and my parents understood that the computer would be basically mine 😛
How did you get in touch with programming?
When I was 10 years old, my brother (who is five years older than me) brought home a nice programming book for MS-DOS. I didn’t understand anything, but the drawings were so funny that I think that got stuck in my mind somehow. Years after, I attended a kind of „experimental“ high school, which also taught Computer Science basics. This is where I learned the big picture on how computers and imperative programming works. I saw a few programming fundamentals in school (using QBasic) but I really started programming (Pascal, C, Java, and several other functional languages, a bit of Ruby) at the University, where I studied Computer Science/Engineering. I’ve been programming professionally (in Ruby) for almost 3 years.
When and how did you discover that you actually liked it?
I kind of noticed it at high school, but I really enjoyed programming during the University, where you know nothing about what you have to do, the language you have to use, or how to do it, but in the end you are able to write (mainly nasty) code that works. That was super exciting!
What in particular do you like about programming?
Programming makes me POWERFUL! I said this a million times, but it’s so true! For me, being able to create tons of value out of a laptop and an internet connection (things that a lot of people have at home or at least have access to) is simply amazing. And I’m not only talking about economic value; a simple program to organize your books is full of value too 🙂
Did you have friends in IT when you started learning?
Well, at the University we were all trying to become IT people, so I think the answer is no. But it was so fun to follow the process all together! Learning with others makes it waaaaay easier. There is nothing better than more than one brain trying to figure out something. You learn a lot and help others learning at the same time.
Did you have to overcome any inner fears or other obstacles when you started to learn?
Of course, when you start something that you have never seen before and is as weird and complex as Computer Science looks at first, you are full of fear. But if you really like it, there’s nothing you can’t achieve, sooner or later. It’s a matter of trying, getting wrong, learning, and getting wiser and stronger throughout the process. Once you are used to this cycle you know ‚how to learn‘ and your fears are less. Anyway, feeling fear means nothing else that being out of your comfort zone, which also means that you are learning something new. And that can’t be bad! 😉
Did you have to overcome any obstacles when you started to work or during your career as a female developer?
Nothing related to being a girl/woman. Just the usual obstacles and fears in a new job!
How many programming languages do you „speak“?
Anyway, once you know a language that follows a specific programming paradigm, learning new languages following the same paradigm is way easier than learning that first language!
Did you use any tools or techniques when you started programming or when you were learning a new language that helped you learning the „vocabularies“ of your first programming language?
For me has always been useful reading first a short reference about the language basics (and with ‚reading‘ I mean ‚reading while typing in a text editor/interpreter to see what happens‘) and after that, trying to code something simple (a little secret personal project) and reading code from others helps a lot.
Do you think there should be more women in IT?
Sure! In my experience, women and men have different approaches to problems (can’t explain why, probably genetics and evolution has something to do here), and I think a diverse team (in all aspects) will always come up with more innovative and accurate solutions than one composed of a lot of people that think in the same way.
Would you recommend to learn programming to everyone?
Nowadays almost everybody owns a device that is programmable or let us set up a programming environment and this will sure keep growing in a near future. Wouldn’t be wonderful to be able of taking advantage of this new capabilities we have on our hands? The goal of learning how to program doesn’t need to be becoming a good programer, but just learning to use these new tools to make our life richer and sometimes easier! The former only applies if you want to work as a programmer, and for this you only need passion and being willing to learn everyday.
Do you have any advise for a programming newbe?
Don’t let failures disappoint you or make you quit. Keep working, keep learning, and break or create amazing or stupid things! And if you need help, ask 🙂