Young German student Anna was indecisive about what course she wanted to take. But coding applications nowadays encompasses almost every field, and learning how to code is easy enough that children as young as four and old ladies as old as 81 are able to code.
The rise of personal computers such as the Apple and the BASIC programming language in the 80s, encouraged many children to learn coding through typed programs that came with books and manuals. Coding was also widely taught in schools. Fast-forward to today where the Raspberry Pi foundation launched the inexpensive Raspberry Pi series of computer boards, to duplicate that boom and teach young kids how to code, as much as the BBC Micro did in the UK and the Apple in the US.
As for the old lady, age did not stop retired Japanese bank teller Masako Wakamiya from learning to develop for iOS and create a game called Hinadan that earned 53,000 downloads worldwide, because she had a goal in mind. To entertain Japan’s increasing elderly population and keep their minds sharp. She’s been a techie since the age of 60 but coding came to the scene at 80.
Now back to Anna, who has several non-computing-related interests including law, medicine and economics. Because of how information technology has integrated its way into most aspects of society, coding today can be a way to reach those interests and more. The choice to code, to become a developer has managed to worm its way into hers and the minds of many people, who would otherwise pursue something else, or even come later while busy with another career.
Anna finally chose a course which is the best of both worlds, Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Economics, and has later led her to the most unlikely of interests. Even if true interests seem incompatible with information technology, entrants into the field can’t help, but become motivated to seek solutions to many problems by taking advantage in what computers are mostly known for--Artificial Intelligence or AI.
AI of course is the ability of computers/machines to decide the best course of action to solve problems given the right amount of data. Anna hopes that devices that employ AI can efficiently help with problems big and small to improve on quality of life. She’s very much into discussing various AI aspects on her Instagram and Tiktok, while continuously deploying Machine Learning models.
So much progress for someone who had zero experience in coding. Here is our talk with Anna in greater detail.
What's your journey into Computer Science as a student?
Throughout most of high school, I was indecisive about what I wanted to study afterwards, because I am interested in many different subjects. Economics, Medicine and Law were things that I was considering the most. At no point, I was considering Computer Science as an option, because I had absolutely no knowledge or experience at coding. By the final year of high school, I was completely sure, I would be studying Economics.
However, one day I heard a YouTuber talking about how she started studying a coding-related subject and this was the first time, I thought about going this route myself. After seeing this video, I got a weird gut feeling, I should look into coding-related study programs. I asked my family and friends, whether it would be crazy to study something coding-related without having any knowledge about it.
To be honest, I got quite mixed feedback on this question, but I took the risk and applied for a Bachelor's degree in a Computer Science program with a bit of Economics. As I had 3 months between the end of high school and the beginning of University, I used this time to get familiar with the basics of C++ and Java.
At the beginning of University, I was still afraid of failing in the coding-related subjects and studied all of the time. In the retrospective, this fear of failing helped me so much: Coding turned out to be my favorite and best subject. My fear motivated me to study more than others and get better grades.
What is your favorite programming language and why?
My favorite programming languages are Dart and Python for sure. I love Dart in combination with Flutter, as I think it's the easiest way to code an app. Flutter is amazing for deploying apps in both iOS and Android. Python is great for anything related to Artificial Intelligence or Data Science. Besides that, I really love the simplicity of the language.
I think Python is great for beginners, but also advanced programmers who don't have any experience in this language, because it's very intuitive. At my university, Dart is not [sic] teached at all and Python only a little bit. Therefore, I had to learn both on my own, but there are a lot of free resources to facilitate this process.
What skills do you think are important to be a successful developer?
The most important skills in my opinion are logical thinking, teamwork, communication and self-confidence. Logical thinking will help you to write better code, eliminate errors and solve bugs. Coding almost always includes teamwork.
Today, all big companies use agile methods like SCRUM, that involve daily meetings. Therefore, you need to feel comfortable around people. Next, you need to communicate precisely with your team members and clients. From my working experience, most mistakes happen due to misunderstandings between team members or between different stakeholders.
Another important trait is self- confidence. No matter how good you are at coding, you will often feel lost and without any idea on how to code certain tasks. Having self-confidence will help you to start searching for solutions rather than worrying for hours about how to solve a given task.
When I started working at Deutsche Telekom in 2018, I received very challenging tasks from the beginning, as my team was really small. Looking back, the fact that I received way too complex tasks for my experience level is such a valuable gift. After finishing all of these tasks, there wasn't any task I was afraid of. It gave me the self-confidence to start working on solutions, instead of worrying.
What are your hopes for the future?
For my personal life, it's to start a family and to always be surrounded by loving people. For my professional life, it's to become a researcher and entrepreneur. Regarding humanity in general, my hope is that we implement new technologies safely and transparently, especially in regards to Artificial Intelligence.
Although I share so much content about Artificial Intelligence on my Social media accounts and deploy Machine Learning models, I am really concerned about it too. Of course, AI offers safety and improved quality of life. However, I agree with Elon Musk on the fact that Artificial intelligence is much more dangerous than nuclear weapons.
What advice do you have for women looking to get into dev?
First of all: Don't be afraid of the dev field. There are so many amazing humans working in dev and a big focus of dev is teamwork. Therefore, the majority of people you will meet and work within this field will be good-hearted by nature. There is really nothing at all to be afraid of.
If you finally decided to get into dev: Believe in yourself. You need to be self-confident and stand up for yourself in discussions with your colleagues. The biggest mistake I see women (including myself) do in the dev area is to be too self-conscious around men.
Don't be afraid to voice your opinion. In fact, expressing criticism is a vital part of the development process. At first, I was really intimidated to voice my opinion against more experienced and confident men. However, I promise you won't regret it. The more you challenge certain topics or beliefs, the more respect you will earn.
What resources do you use to learn programming languages and skills?
What I can say for sure, is that everyone will find a great method to learn coding, as there are so many options. I think online courses with certifications are great, as certifications can be a great help to find a job. For this, I recommend edX, Coursera or Udemy. There are a lot of free courses on YouTube too, if you don't want to spend money on a certificate. They are really good too and sometimes even better than the courses you need to pay for.
So, there you have it. Coding can be for everyone, it’s very easy to get into and can lead to other interesting things. As proof, you can look up many similar stories as Anna’s where unlikely coders found success.