Geek Speak: Meredith Underell, Vancouver chapter lead for Ladies Learning Code

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Meredith Underell enjoys bringing people together to learn about computer technology. The former project manager, who lives in the Vancouver area, has worked as a freelance software developer for almost two years.

Underell serves as the Vancouver chapter lead for Ladies Learning Code. Founded in Toronto in 2011, Ladies Learning Code expanded to Vancouver in 2012 and now holds monthly workshops for computer-programming novices in the city. On February 22, Intro to HTML & CSS will take place at the HootSuite office.

As well, Underell is the co-organizer of Vancouver’s Code & Coffee (with Jennifer Cooper). Founded earlier this month, the Meetup group invites developers to come together for “creative code time”. The inaugural Code & Coffee event happened on January 21.

Underell graduated from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor of science degree in physics and mathematics.

The Georgia Straight interviewed Underell via Skype.

Can you tell me a bit about your work as a developer?

I’m a freelance software developer. So, I take on client projects—websites or more back-end work—and that’s what I do on a daily basis.

Why did you get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I got involved with Ladies Learning Code because I really want to give back to the community. I want to be able to show others how fun working in tech can be. I’ve had fun for years now, and I want to be able to show others all the opportunities you can get by being in tech.

What has been the response in Vancouver to Ladies Learning Code’s workshops?

It’s been amazing, honestly. Mentors providing their time—it’s completely volunteer. The lead instructors giving their time, getting the word out there. We’ve only had positive feedback from people coming through us.

We’re already almost full for mentors for the February 22 workshop. We literally only have a few spot left for mentors, because that’s how much they want to help out. The community has just been amazing. We sell out our workshops as well.

What is Code & Coffee about?

Code & Coffee is really just about setting aside a couple hours a month where developers can just work on whatever they want to work on. So, if you want to try out a new technology, a new language, it’s just an opportunity to sit down and play around with different technologies, different languages. You can talk to one another and ask questions. That’s all it is.

I call it “creative code time”. So, there’s no deadlines. There’s nothing like that involved. It’s just your own time that you get to set aside that not a lot of us developers can always do.

What tech trends are you watching right now?

I’m really kind of watching JavaScript. There are a few languages—Node.js, AngularJS, and Backbone.js—just to see where those are taking off and how JavaScript is playing a bigger role in the tech community. Just to see how different languages flow in and out of the tech world, it’s very interesting.

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hacker
While I commend this, Java is dying a slow death. If you want to see the future of computer science start learning functional programming in Scheme/Lisp by reading SICP. Then watch 'Don't fear the Monad' on youtube and start doing Haskell so you can code multi threaded applications without crazy JVM race conditions. There's also a great Scala course on coursera right now by the inventor of the language but if you're like me and interested in cryptography and security you'll avoid anything that touches the JVM or runs in a browser. The current offerings of quantum computing prototypes like the D-Wave are all running Lisp for operating systems and for good reason.

If you want a job immediately take SICP then learn Objective C to code iOS crud. Since SICP teaches you how to actually code, learning Objective C just means taking a weekend to familiarize yourself with syntax and libraries, then bang out some crud to experiment with the compiler and voila, instant job as a jr. dev somewhere in startup gastown land.
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yuck
Java is the worst language you will ever learn. Rigid terrible syntax and the most boring and bland way to learn how to code. Even worse is most courses I've seen consistently hand wave over stuff like public static void and the ridiculous complexity of the javac/jvm. Theres already a billion java programmers in India and China competing to drive each others salary down and more companies are outsourcing. You can write an interpreter in clojure to output fully formatted java code too so eventually all java will be done automatically and proprietary sun jdk abandoned completely. Where I work we have in house erlang, clojure, C++/Obj-C devs and node.js and c# junk is handled by tata consultancy in India which we audit. Basically all I do is give it a once over and pin our tls certs to the app, or write it all in Android NDK for amazing UX because java sdk enables stupid things like the Bing app remote execution exploit that came out the other day.

I started by reading K&R and making linux kernel modules in C, which brought me to python for scripting maint commands because its an easy imperative language, then to Ruby because its fun, then to Lisp when I had that aha moment when you finally get it. If I started doing java would've already fled the industry it's awful. Create read update and delete
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Ivan Storck
Remember the Java in JavaScript is like the ham in hamburger. Totally different. JavaScript does have its roots in functional programming languages: Scheme and Self. Just the C style syntax comes from Java.
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