The best session of CodeMash 2015? It's all about the bliss.

by Seth Petry-Johnson 14. January 2015 19:40

2015 was my fourth CodeMash. Or maybe my fifth; the awesome sauce tends to run together a bit in my mind.

In previous years my mind has been expanded, contorted, exhausted and sullied by all manner of educational days and "socially lubricated" evenings. I've walked away with lots of new ideas and technical goals, but this was the first year that my spirit was moved by a session. For the first time in a long time, I remembered why I love programming so much.

I went into Cori Drew's "Geek Parenting Lessons Learned... so far" session hoping to learn a few practical tips for raising kids that enjoy, or at least understand, programming. Cori's 11-year-old daughter Katelyn is pretty damn amazing and I figured I'd learn a thing or two.

And I did learn a thing or two, but honestly the value of that learning is eclipsed many times over by what I felt during the session. I felt joy, and hope. 

Joy? Hope? At a technical conference?

Yup. Cori's passion for development was on full display, as was her love of the developer community and the enjoyment she gets from sharing those things with her daughter. She was truly infectious and reminded me of the early days of my own career when I'd work way into the night on a coding problem, searching for elegance amongst all of the curly braces and HTML tags. She reminded me how it felt to discover an aptitude for expressing myself through code patterns and syntax, and what it was like to discover a community of other people like me. She reminded me that what drew me to this thing was the coding itself, not the financial rewards or "leadership opportunities" that become the focus of a maturing career. She reminded me how much I love the craft of programming and sharing that craft with others.

And more than that, she was a she, talking about her own positive experiences and about a young girl finding a bit of that same joy.

You see, I spent the latter part of 2014 seeking out women to follow on Twitter. That gave me a front-row seat to GamerGate and a bunch of other proof that women in tech have a much different experience than my own. And this saddened me; it sucks to see people struggling to get in, or remain in, the industry I love. Specifically, it made me sad for my daughter's chances at following in my footsteps. Can I really encourage her to explore an industry that at best treats her as an outsider, and at worst will threaten to rape or kill her just for having an opinion?

So I feel like Cori's talk was exactly the bit of perspective I needed. It was refreshing and inspiring to see a woman sharing a positive experience. She reminded me that we're fighting this fight for a reason, so that eventually we won't have to fight any more. And so I shared in her joy, hopeful that budding programmers like Katelyn will do amazing things not only with the tech, but with the culture as well.

As usual, CodeMash was great. Good content, great people, lots of fun. But the best thing it gave me was the most unexpected: a vision of a future where my kids can, if they choose, follow a love of programming out in the open, surrounded by a supporting community, and not hiding in the back of the room on BBS systems like I did.

I'm looking forward to 2016, CodeMash, but you have some work to do. The bar has been set pretty high.

Seth Petry-Johnson

I'm a software architect and consultant for Heuristic Solutions.

I value clean code, malleable designs, short feedback cycles, usable interfaces and balance in all things.

I am a Pisces.

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