Becoming the right kind of keyboard warrior
Claudia Field recently joined our Octave whānau as a software developer. Here she chats to us about what led her to become a developer in the first place and the bits of the job she loves the most.
Before I went to university, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. If you’d told me that I’d become a software engineer, building websites used by thousands every day, I would have thought you were joking. Like most people my age, I grew up using computers and helping my parents ‘make the printer work,’ but I had no idea about what was going on behind the scenes.
Halfway through my first year of engineering at uni, around the time physics was getting far too hard to be interesting, I was introduced to the idea of software engineering and computer coding. It’s a typically male-dominated industry. This was intimidating, but I gave it a whirl anyway and haven’t looked back.
As a developer, I love the challenge of using just a keyboard to create an interactive picture on a screen. Often I'll be provided with a visual picture of what needs to be created - a button here, an image there, but exactly how to get those things to be there is up to me. Sure, there are best practices and ways things have been done before, but sometimes those solutions won’t work. You have to get creative, try different things, and problem-solve.
Unlike the more traditional forms of engineering, the results will be clear almost straight away. The image will be in the wrong place, or clicking the button won't do anything. Sometimes it’ll just be a blank screen (those are sad moments).
As problems get more complex, it can take longer to discover pitfalls in your perfect solution - some weird edge case you didn’t initially consider, but the same principle applies. Your solution is right in front of you. You can change bits, tinker with things, or delete sections completely, all from your keyboard. I really enjoy this iterative process and the freedom it gives you to try out new approaches and ask ‘What if I just...?’.
Being part of the team at Octave means that the problems we’re solving are interesting and often complex. Lots of work has gone into designing the solution from a visual perspective, and mastering the user interaction, so the technical solution must do it justice. By working together and using different problem-solving approaches, we’re able to come up with the high-quality products we’re known for.
Once you’ve crafted your masterpiece and tested that it’s doing what you intended it to do, there's something pretty special about pushing it live. It’s a bit terrifying but cool nonetheless. Code that you’ve written is on the internet! People can interact with it and it's going to make things better or easier for them.
I’m thankful that as a uni fresher I put my drink down long enough to give coding a go. Technology provides solutions for everybody, so it should be built by everybody.
The industry is slowly beginning to diversify, and I’m honoured to be a part of that. It has its challenges, but for me, it’s very rewarding. Software combines problem-solving with creativity and allows me to build solutions for the people of today and the problems of tomorrow, (all without having to do physics!)