Like the tech industry as a whole, the Elixir community faces gender diversity challenges: Just 2% of Elixirists identify as women and less than 1% identify as non-binary, according to the 2020 ElixirConf community survey.
To promote inclusivity and highlight the diversity of the Elixir community, DockYard sponsored nine women and non-binary programmers to attend ElixirConf 2021. They were spread across the globe, from Mexico to the U.S. and Europe, and ranged in experience from brand-new to seasoned Elixirists.
Rosa Richter, Kelli Rockwell, and Julia Morales Castro all came into ElixirConf as seasoned Elixirists working with the language as part of their day-to-day roles. We caught up with them after the conference to hear about their experiences and what they took away from ElixirConf 2021.
Rosa Richter started her career working in engineering for financial institutions before moving on to an agency, where she was tasked with researching Elixir as part of a project involving Erlang.
That initial foray into the language sparked her interest, but it wasn’t until years later — and after a stint working on an alpaca farm — that she began working with Elixir in earnest for a company that developed an Elixir-based app to help construction contractors communicate.
Coming into ElixirConf with her background, Richter appreciated the real-world, practical applications on display during many of the sessions.
“The maintainer of Oban, the jobs library, gave a whole talk about how to test open jobs.” she said, “Even during the presentation, I was like, ‘I want to go write tests for all our open jobs right now.’”
The practicality of the conference, coupled with the infectious enthusiasm she found in many of the presenters, was a pleasant surprise. Going in, she didn’t anticipate hearing directly from people on the projects they’ve personally developed, but it was a welcome aspect of the event.
“When you talk to the lead developer on their own project, they just get so excited,” she said. “It’s infectious.”
Now Richter is ramping up her involvement in the Elixir community, connecting with other Elixirists and posting her own projects to forums, she said. And she has plans to continue that, thanks largely to the Elixir community and the positive atmosphere she’s encountered so far.
Kelli Rockwell was drawn at a young age to the creative element of programming — she got her start writing lines of code to change the appearance of her Neopets page.
Years later in her career as a software engineer, she saw pattern matching demonstrated with Elixir for the first time, and knew immediately that she wanted to do more with the language. It’s an element that can entirely change the way a programmer approaches code, she said.
Before that, she worked mainly with Ruby and Python, so Elixir was a brand-new experience and she was immediately drawn to the ease of working with the processes and concurrency.
Now, as a full-time developer, she values events like ElixirConf as a way to see both the macro-level trends in the industry and how fellow developers are using Elixir day to day. Talks like the one by Brooklyn Zeleneka on moving from centralization to distributed networking were particularly interesting to Rockwell.
“I feel like I came away with a new mental model for looking at systems and networks, and her breakdowns of big problems like distributed auth, distributed (and) encrypted databases, and distributed computing were amazingly clear,” she said.
With ElixirConf 2021 behind her, Rockwell now has plans to work more with LiveView, and plans to develop identical projects in Elixir and Golang, which she’s begun learning.
Julia Morales Castro
An English literature graduate who found her way into programming after writing an article on women in tech, Julia Morales Castro had little exposure to Elixir until she began working with it in her current job.
Fortunately, she found the transition from Ruby to Elixir to be a relatively easy one.
She was drawn to the discussions on open-source projects, she said, and, in particular, to the excitement that many of the presenters and attendees brought to the idea of open-source work.
Seeing presenters’ willingness to put their projects on display and invite others to work with it as well added an infectious enthusiasm, even when the topic wasn’t something Castro was interested in beforehand. After seeing that, Castro has plans to contribute to open source projects on her own as well.
Even during presentations on topics she was already familiar with, Castro found that engaging with the same ideas differently was valuable. A session on Ecto.Multi, for example, presented information in a new way that she found useful.
“I had seen them in the repos that I work in, and I just hadn’t had a chance to really dive in and read the documentation myself,” she said. “It was cool that someone was taking the time to present it, even though it’s something that you could just read on the internet, but it’s cool to engage in a different way.”
DockYard is a digital product consultancy specializing in production-ready apps that scale wonderfully as companies grow. We offer a range of consulting services with capabilities in product planning, design, user experience (UX), full-stack engineering, and QA. Over the last decade, DockYard has solved complex product challenges for visionary companies like Netflix, Apple, Nasdaq, and Harvard. We’re also dedicated to advancing open-source web development technologies, such as libraries and tooling built around the Elixir programming language. From idea to impact, DockYard empowers ambitious teams to build for the future. Visit us at www.dockyard.com.