Panel: Charles Max Wood

Guest: Nell Shamrell-Harrington

This week on My Ruby Story, Chuck talks with Nell who is a principle engineer at Chef. Check them out at Chef.Io. She also works with Operation Code. This organization helps veterans to learn code, and helps them get a technical job. Check out today’s episode where Chuck and Nell discuss Ruby, Rust, and much more!

In particular, we dive pretty deep on:

2:00 – Chuck: Episode 105 is another episode you’ve been on before.

2:25 – Chuck: I want to spotlight you and talk about what you are working on. How did you get into programming?

2:38 – Nell: I was a theater major in college. I graduated in 2007 and the big financial crisis hit in 2008. I found work at the Physics Department in Seattle. Once they found out that I knew how to code, they gave me more coding to do.

When you are doing just the mathematics portion – you don’t see how this applies to real life. I didn’t pursue it because I didn’t see how it worked in the real world. Then I saw eventually how my theater background really helped me with coding because you have to be super creative.

After that (this is when I got into Ruby) my roommate in college sent me a message. She was working with Ruby, too, and she wanted to bring me on as a junior developer.

5:55 – Chuck: It’s interesting, too, to see what you just said. Not seeing the real-world application with some of that stuff. I can relate to that. I wanted to get into IT after college. The other thing is that it was someone you KNEW to get you into Ruby. People get into a specific framework because of someone that they knew/know.

6:54 – Nell: Yes, it’s the personal testimonies that help people make those decisions.

7:13 – Chuck: It was someone that you KNEW that helped you get X job.

7:24 – Nell: Yes, in Operation Code, too. Take a look at this candidate (normally you wouldn’t look at them b/c of their CV) and take a chance on them.

8:09 – Chuck: One thing that I am curious about what’s been your favorite thing to work on with Ruby?

8:38 – Nell: I worked on the supermarket product. Cookbook is a chef recipe for infrastructure…

We weren’t just running a site that people were using. They were saying: we love it, but we are behind a firewall. They couldn’t use the public one and they wanted a private one. The answer was: Yes! That was the first time I worked on software – packaged and distributed. I loved the breadth of the industries that it had an affect on. It was cool to see different industries use my work through a Ruby on Rails application. Ruby does scale!

10:42 – Chuck: Let’s talk about your work at Chef. You worked on Supermarket and then what was the distributed part to it?

11:05 – Nell: Chef Omnibus was the tool we used. You could take that package and install it on the infrastructure…

11:33 – Chuck: I worked at a university for a while. The work I did was that the access to the Internet was limited. Chef would have been nice!

11:58 – Chuck: What did you do at Blue Box?

11:59 – Nell: Software engineer there and we were a hosting company. We had a Rails application…

I helped write the code.

12:29 – Chuck: What are you working on now?

12:32 – Nell: I am working on a project called Habitat.

Nell talks about what THIS project is and how it functions. Check it out!

14:20 – Chuck: How did you get into Operation Code?

14:26 – Nell: Both my parents were air force operators. I wanted to but I had a physical limitation so I couldn’t. I grew up in military culture from 0-14 years old. After that I realized in my 20’s I really missed it. After the military it’s scary because you don’t have (maybe) a sense of purpose like you did in the military.

She asked how she could help and someone referred her to Operation Code. She realized she could be an asset and help these veterans. She works with close to 3,000 veterans to help them give a purpose after military life. They learn code and then hopefully find a technical job.

17:13 – Chuck: I spent some years around that life, too, when I was a missionary overseas. My brother-in-law was medically discharged. You see this change and it can be scary for them. You wind up in this position and you want to help. I admire this. These folks have sacrificed for us so let’s make a difference for them, too.

18:35 – Nell: My friend said that she didn’t like it when people thanked her for her service. She said that so many warzones it seems empty. When she heard this it was powerful to her.

19:40 – Chuck: How can people get involved?

19:43 – Nell: Operation Code – Hit the JOIN link. You can sign-up to be a volunteer. The slack community is where all the magic happens. 

20:24 – Chuck: Anything else?

20:28 – Nell: Habitat is written in Rust. I haven’t done tons in Ruby right now. But what I am known in Ruby is for regular expressions. People have told me that it has helped them a lot.

22:14 – Nell: Regular expressions can be a lot of fun but they are mind numbing at first. Seeing an example can help.

22:33 – Chuck: Habitat is written in Rust. What’s that transition like from Ruby to Rust?

22:49 – Nell: I took a Latin course. Learning Rust was like learning Latin in that it’s a HUGE learning curve. However, in both that I stopped fighting with the language. And stepped back to see why it was doing what it’s doing. In Rust there is no Garbage Collector.

My Ruby experience did give me a leg-up.

Nell continues to talk about the differences between Rust and Ruby.

24:30 – Chuck: Which language do you like better?

24:34 – Nell: Personally, Ruby but for this project Rust!

24:45 – Chuck: We were talking about the tradeoffs between…

25:01 – Nell: Yes, choose the language that works for THAT project and for your team.

25:17 – Chuck: How can people find you?

25:23 – Nell: Twitter. I check it throughout the day, so feel free to DM me. GitHub, too.

I have gotten back to voice acting so check that out!

26:11 – Advertisement – Fresh Books!