The Programmer Currently Known as Gwendolyn

gwendo in the sun

I am a San Francisco based programmer with a passion for code. I am skilled with multiple languages and databases to varying degrees including PHP, Java, Scala, JavaScript, NodeJS, MySQL, MongoDB, and Postgres, and have extensive experience with HTML and CSS. I am a big fan and user of W3C compliant scripting for sites. Along with my work with specific languages, I’ve also worked with various supporting tools, such as Git and Subversion, Apache and Nginx, Grunt, Bash, Amazon Web Services, Hadoop, and countless others - after all, it’s nearly impossible to work in the industry and not be exposed to more than your core languages.

All aspects of web development fascinates me, and I have experience building both simple sites and complex database driven systems. Moreover, I am constantly learning new skills and techniques, which I feel is critical to any successful programmer’s experience. This has led to me branching out from my initial work building content management systems and simple static sites to mobile web and big data, and beginning to branch out into more systems admin oriented work (though I’d hesitate to call myself a systems admin by any means). The constant drive to learn new things that the web offers is something that greatly appeals to me, be it in simply learning new skills internally to push projects forward or learning entire new disciplines to begin completely new projects from scratch.

Every programmer ends up with skill sets they prefer working with, and for me one that has stood out is analytics or big data. I never expected to get involved in working with data, but a special request by my boss at a previous job to refactor our analytics code introduced me to this exciting field. I feel strongly about analytics, that it is a powerful tool to help both users and programmers to make decisions, predict upcoming trends, and generally be empowered to better do what they need to do. But analytics isn’t some all powerful magic spell that solves all problems, and it is something that needs to be handled with care. Data collection must be done thoughtfully and respectfully, mindful of the privacy of users, something I feel we as programmers need to be championing. Simply having charts means nothing if there is no context, and having data means nothing if there are no charts or other visualizations. Big data is an amazing tool, and one that I am endlessly excited to dive into, but like all tools has limitations and needs to be well understood.

Triumph in the Elizabethan Streets

Outside of my work as a programmer, I am an artist of various skill sets. I’ve participated in various improvisational based historical acting groups for nearly twenty years, and have run an acting troupe at the Northern California Renaissance Faire for fifteen years. My acting troupe, an amazing set of folks, continually astound me with their kindness, inventiveness, humor, creativity, dedication, and drive. I never cease to be humbled and delighted that they allow me to manage and direct them through the creative and political waters of our event.

Though I studied anthropology and computer science on the side, I majored in classical composition with an emphasis on Twentieth Century techniques and computer music (I really enjoyed minimalism and composers like Philip Glass, John Cage, and Steve Reich), and I have an extensive jazz background. Though I don’t play much any more (apartment living complicates practice on live instruments), I have played and competed on six instruments, including tenor sax, baritone sax, flute, piccolo, clarinet, and trombone (tenor and baritone sax are absolutely my favorites, and I probably embarrassed the trombone).

I do various crafts from fiber arts such as spinning wool, knitting, weaving, and sewing, to jewelry making such as silver smithing, wire work, and beading, to painting (in a mediocre manner, to be sure), to calligraphy, to mosaics. I love to create things and am rarely able to sit still unless reading. In many ways I’m a jack of all artistic trades, master of none, but for me, it’s not about being a master with art. Even if I’d focused on a single skill, I don’t think I’d ever feel like a master anyway; artists are notoriously always seeking to further their skill. Art is about making beautiful things that bring joy to the creator and the viewer, and sometimes, just to the creator, and I just want to explore those things that make me creatively joyful and challenged. Much of my little home is given over to either computers or crafting, and though cluttered, living in what amounts to a tech heavy artist’s studio is absolutely the life for me.