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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Q&A with Gavin King

GeeCON is less than a month away! I hope you are just as excited as we are. We have a multitude of attractions brewing for y'all, but more on that later. In the meantime we'd like to welcome you to another post in our Q&A series. Our keynote speaker Gavin King, author of Hibernate and Seam framework, has taken turn in answering our questions. Enjoy!

What was your first computer? How old were you? What did you do with it?

A Commodore 64. I was like 10 years old, I guess. I learned to write programs with it, but the stupid tape drive always destroyed my programs before I could really "finish" them. I doubt that there are many 10-year olds learning to program anymore, but when I was 10 it was not uncommon.

What will the next revolution be about?

I guess I don't really believe in revolutions. Science and especially technology almost always advance incrementally, building gradually on work that has been done before. And when true revolutions in understanding (rarely) occur, they are almost never foreseen by anyone.

Are there enough women in IT? Why do you think so?

Enough for what, precisely? Do you mean do I think that talented, committed female programmers are able to pursue successful careers without running into career-frustrating discrimination? Or do you mean "enough women" to meet some kind of ideological agenda?

If the latter, well, I guess I have no preconceived notion of how many female programmers there "should" be. As a libertarian, I have no interest in trying to force society into some ideologically-motivated ideal of perfection. I respect people's own judgements about what is best for them. So I'm happy to let women choose the career paths that most interest them, without trying to shove my own preferences down their throats. Now, I would certainly prefer to work with more women about, but not to the extent that I think it is right to try and cajole or coerce women into career paths that they would not personally choose for themselves.

Now, if the question is about discrimination, well, I have not personally observed obvious discrimination against female programmers, and I don't myself discriminate on the basis of sex. Nor have I heard a whole lot of stories of discrimination from talented female programmers. Nor have I met a whole lot of women saying they would have loved to have become computer programmers but failed to attain this goal (for whatever reason). But on the other hand, I have certainly not gone out of my way to seek out this kind of empirical evidence. So in the end I simply don't know the answer.

Why are you coming to speak at GeeCON?

Because I'm hoping to find folks who are interested in becoming part of the Ceylon community and getting involved in the evolution of the language and platform.

What is the most important part of a programmers conference?

For me the best bit is being able to form connections with talented people and meet people who are using our technology. Because I work from home, I rarely get a chance to meet other people in my industry.

What do you want to teach the youngest and bravest developers? What message do you want to send?

Don't let yourself get trapped doing something boring that doesn't interest you. There are way more opportunities than you would imagine to do work that is actually fun and actually matters. If you can't find paying work like this easily, then open source is an fantastic outlet for your creativity, and affords career opportunities that you probably don't imagine. The image of the open source developer working for nothing but his (or her, in light of question 3) own personal satisfaction is at least outdated, and probably never apt. On the contrary, open source is the best way to put your skills on display and develop your own personal "brand". If you're any good at what you do, you would be crazy to not take advantage of this.

If you still haven't, please check out the Q&A with Bruce Eckel and Kevlin Henney!

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