When I was in school at Carnegie Mellon, I worked on open data. I felt like a lot of the students around me had great ideas to improve their community, but were blocked when it came to actually accessing things like course schedules, room reservations, etc - and that even if they were able to get ahold of this data, they got in trouble for using it, or found it in a poor format that was difficult to work with. I lobbied for my university - and many others! - to open up their data, and I pulled together a group of students called ScottyLabs to manage this data and make it easy for students to use.
Now I work at Google in the Developers Relations group. I’m still really dedicated to making it easy for other developers to build the things that they want to build, but now I do that for Google. I work with both the engineering team that builds the AdMob SDK, and with developers outside of Google that want to use this SDK.
How did you learn to program?
I was first introduced to programming by my sixth grade math teacher, who had me working through a QBASIC tutorial. At the time, I only thought programming was cool because it could do my math homework faster. I didn’t know that computer science existed until I went to high school, which was when I learned a lot more and realized how much more could be done with programming. And even then, when I went to college, there was so much more to the programming world than I realized.
My computer science program was really challenging, and regardless of previous experience, the playing field was leveled by sophomore year. And then we all started finding different things we were enthusiastic about, and our enthusiasm translated into hard work, and eventually skill. A good friend of mine is getting a PhD in Natural Language Processing. Another is really interested in security and performance. I was able to explore my interests in open data, developer tools, hackathons and startups. And after all this time, I’m happy to say that I’m still learning to program, and I hope to keep learning!
What do you do when you’re not programming?
I’ve been trying out a lot of new things lately. I recently went GoKart racing for the first time:
Photo of Amy in GoKart racing suit
Geared up and ready to race
and I tried my hand at archery:
Photo of Amy with archery bow
Bow in hand, ready to shoot
I also enjoy playing piano. If I see a piano, I can’t resist sitting down and cranking something out.
What’s your one piece of advice for new programmers?
Do not let other people intimidate you. Everyone is continuously learning, and people will probably be using very different tools and languages just a few years from now. This field is extremely broad but extremely young, and we’re not even close to figuring out all the new things we can do, and a few years and a big ego don’t matter as much as being able to continually learn.