Meet The Code BEAM V America Program Committee

SOPHIE DEBENEDETTO 01.03.2021

1. Short bio: I'm currently a senior engineer at GitHub working on the GitHub Insights product to deliver engineering metrics and insights to teams. My journey here was a slightly unconventional one. I attended the Flatiron School's Software Engineering immersive program back in 2015. After 3 months of hard work, I completed the program and took a job teaching and writing curriculum at the school. I loved (and still love!) teaching programming, but after about a year, I felt I needed to get some hands-on programming experience of my own. I left Flatiron for another company, where I learned a lot, before actually returning to The Flatiron School on their engineering team and eventually transitioning to engineering management. It was there that I got to work with Elixir, developing and launching two new greenfield Elixir apps into production with my teams. At Flatiron, I gained a lot of hands-on Elixir experience, tried my hand at engineering management, and grew a lot as an engineer and a manager. When I started to look around for a new opportunity that would let me practice some of my skills at scale, GitHub seemed like a great next step. I've been since January of 2020 (what a time to start a new job!) and certainly found the challenges that I was looking for. Outside of my day-to-day professional life, I'm one of many maintainers of Elixir School, a free online Elixir curriculum, I'm a co-host of the (coming soon!) Beamrad.io podcast, and I'm teaming up with Bruce Tate to write a new book on LiveView for Pragmatic Bookshelf. 

 

2. Why do you love the BEAM - There are so many reasons to love Elixir and the BEAM! I'll start with what, to me, is the most convincing. Elixir and the Beam empower developers and teams to be highly productive, at scale. I've seen teams ramp up on Elixir and deliver value to users faster than in any other programming language I've worked with. And, as the community around Elixir and the BEAM matures, the tooling to deploy, observe, and maintain Elixir applications has become even more robust and accessible. I think there are a few reasons for this. Elixir is a beautiful language---its eloquent, it composes well, and the learning curve is very gentle. Thanks to the BEAM, it makes concurrency, fault tolerance, and distributed programming widely accessible to individuals and teams so that more and more developers are able to deploy these powerful tools to solve real-world problems. I feel like I've written some of the most beautiful code of my career with Elixir and that's no coincidence! 

 

3. Why are you excited to be on the Code BEAM committee - I've been an active member of the Elixir community for a few years now---as a maintainer of Elixir School, a co-organizer of the EMPEX NYC conference, and as a conference speaker. I've seen the Elixir and Erlang communities grow closer and closer over recent years, but there is still work to do here. I'm thrilled to be working with the other program committee members to design a program that unites Elixir and Erlang community members and positions the future of Elixir and the future of Erlang as the shared future of distributed programming. 

Code BEAM V America 10-12 March

4. Code BEAM is committed to encouraging diversity and inclusion in the tech community - what are your thoughts on this important issue? - I've often been the only woman in the room at work, or the only female speaker on the roster of a conference. The responsibility to open up these opportunities to other women and members of marginalized communities in tech is one I take very seriously. I've found that one of the most effective ways to create diversity in the tech community is to ensure that people of diverse backgrounds are part of the organization and planning of conferences and events, hiring committees, etc. Bringing this diversity of background, experience and thought is an important step towards realizing more diversity in our community. 

Apply to the Diversity & Inclusion program 

5. Which track are you curating and what can we expect from it - I'm actually not sure which track I will be curating! But I hope to be hosting a LiveView Q&A together with Bruce Tate. 

 

6. What excited you about this edition of Code BEAM - The virtual format is really exciting, it opens up a set of opportunities for engagement that the traditional in-person conference has yet to realize. Not only will the event be open to a wider audience than ever before, since travel won't limit attendees, but the dynamic and interactive nature of so many of the planned activities will be more engaging than the traditional speaker/audience set-up. Small Q&A conversations with community members and experts, panels between friends and colleagues, and more will allow for more audience participation, more organic connections between speakers, attendees and organizers, and create more opportunities for learning. 

 

Bonus questions:

What are your must-haves for a working environment that is conducive to writing great code? - Empathy and trust. Building strong, collaborative, relationships between team members that engender trust and empathy is the biggest contributor to high-performing teams in my experience. Things like the "blameless retro" for example are totally impossible to achieve without trust and empathy between team members. Individuals can write great code, and teams deliver high-value work, when team members trust each other, have empathy for one another's challenges, listen well, and support each other to learn and grow. 

What is the worst mistake you made while programming and what was the outcome? We all have a "crashing production" story I'm sure but mine is a little different. Once, at my first engineering job, I accidentally kicked off a process that paid-out our users the money stored in their accounts. This wasn't the problem. The problem was that the process was _already running_. The process itself was idempotent---meaning that running it a second time wouldn't cause people to get paid twice. But running it while the first process was still going would! So we paid everyone twice! I won't say exactly how much was paid out but it was enough to give me a small heart attack! I was able to partner with my team lead to undo the error and resolve the issue. This was a situation in which I definitely benefited from the "blameless" culture that I think it's critical for teams to adopt. By not placing the blame on me, not only was I able to deal with this scary situation, but we as a team were able to identify what we needed to fix so that no one else could make the same mistake in the future.

>> Code BEAM V America 10-12 March

SOPHIE DEBENEDETTO
Author

SOPHIE DEBENEDETTO

Sophie is an engineer at GitHub where she helps build tools that power the development cycles of teams around the world. She is a former graduate of and teacher at The Flatiron School and has a passion for coding education. That passion, plus her love of Elixir, has also led her to become a maintainer of Elixir School, a free, open-source Elixir curriculum. Historically she is a cat person but will admit to owning a dog.

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