Kate Travers’ Journey from Art shipping to Elixir Senior Engineer

Kate Travers 02.07.2018

Kate’s route to becoming a developer was not the usual one. She started out in art history working for an art shipping company in New York. Five years in, with a lot of the work still being done on pen and paper, her employer decided to hire contractors to build a proper logistics system. Kate immediately clicked with this team of contractors and went from their internal stakeholder on the project to beta testing the new system and finally joining them directly as a support technician.

Kate just loved it and wanted to do more, resulting in her taking a course at the Flatiron school. This thorough education in programming resulted in her joining the Flatiron engineering team as an apprentice, and almost four years on, she is now one of their senior developers.

Kate is building ‘learn.co,’ a learning management system with added interactivity and community features. The system only needs one click to “Open IDE” and launch a functional development environment right in the browser. Flatiron are particularly excited about this feature because it allows students new to coding to get a taste of programming with real tools that developers use on the job. Unlike a REPL (a read-eval-print-loop) that executes a few lines of simple code, the IDE allows students to experience the more complex interaction between editing different files and executing them from a command line, all in browser. The full write-up can be viewed here. Flatiron has been using Elixir in production since 2016, with 3 apps, the main one being the backend that powers this custom IDE. Their team is hiring engineers, especially Elixir devs, based in NYC, but they do support remote roles too.

Kate feels that the biggest hurdle she had to overcome was ‘the imposter syndrome.’ The Ruby and Elixir communities were very supportive of her but it was only after giving her first talk at Full Stack Toronto 2016, that she finally felt like she had overcome these self doubts. Holding the attention of fellow developers for an hour and answering their questions, helped to change her perception of her own skills, infusing a level of self confidence.

Why Elixir?

Kate’s talk at Code Elixir LDN 2018 will be about ‘Pattern matching: The gateway to loving Elixir. For Kate, it's what won her over to the language. Elixir has a lot going for it,  concurrency, fault tolerance, scalability, yet none of these can be enjoyed right away. Only after the app is made and in production do you get to see just what this means. When starting out in a new language, you need a quick win, the thing that will keep you going, for Kate, this was ‘Pattern Matching.’

Pattern Matching is a deceptively powerful paradigm making Elixir a compelling language to program in. It does so much more than just help developers write small, declarative, maintainable functions; it actually makes developers stronger programmers. To understand what this is in Elixir, requires a reframing of the way tying values to variables is thought about. The statement x = 1, the = is the “match operator”, and evaluates whether the value on the right matches the pattern on the left. If it is a match, then the value is bound to the variable, if not, then a MatchError is raised. Attend Kate's talk at Code Elixir LDN and get a good grounding in this attractive feature, also read Kate’s in-depth exploration of this on her blog here.

Kate’s Bio

Kate Travers is a Brooklyn-based fullstack web developer, specialising in Rails, React, and Elixir applications. Outside work, Kate is an active volunteer, tutor and mentor through Flatiron School, as well as backup quarterback for the three-time-defending champions of the Brooklyn co-ed touch football league.

Author

Kate Travers

Kate Travers is a Brooklyn-based fullstack web developer, specialising in Rails, React, and Elixir applications. A graduate of the Flatiron School, Kate currently spends her days building Learn.co, the online learning platform that powers FIS and 2U programs. Outside work, Kate is an active volunteer, tutor and mentor through Flatiron School, as well as backup quarterback for the three-time-defending champions of the Brooklyn co-ed touch football league.

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