There’s been a bit going on in the professional landscape over the past few months. I decided that I wanted to find a way to bridge my academic interests and my professional interests. This blog post is about what I did to get there and what’s next for me.
tl;dr - I’ll be working as a Haskell programmer for Rackspace in Austin, TX. I begin as a remote worker at the end of this month and move to Austin, TX at the start of September! Read on for the details.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you may have noticed that I have an interest in typed functional programming, by way of Haskell. I’m increasingly interested, and I think it’s a really exciting direction for the future. Speaking personally, it’s revived my interest in mathematics, and really gives me hope for bridging the gap between research and application in the field of computer science.
For the past year, I’ve been working as a Python developer for Rackspace. I’ve helped out a bit with the Openstack Marconi project, a queuing-as-a-service over HTTP kind of dig. The community for this project is wonderful, and I’ve enjoyed many weeks of poptart jokes, discussion on all matter of things, and making wonderful friends in the process. I’ve learned a lot, too. This project operated at the intersection of Python lore, distributed systems, and mid-scale software engineering. I learned how to consider design for sustainable testing, what it means to make a system easy to deploy and provision robustly, and the kinds of considerations that go into compatibility across versions - all sorts of things that I’ll carry with me wherever I go.
However, I realized it was time to move on when I saw my primary interests diverging. I wanted to see what it means to build systems using typed, functional programming languages. It’s been great to advocate for their use for the past few months, and my talk to OSCON was even accepted, but I want to taste the “Real World”. I told myself a number of times: “I’m willing to bet my career on Haskell”. And so I did, and it came to pass that I found another position where I would have the opportunity to use Haskell to solve problems.
What did it take to find this position? A lot of networking, really. I started by asking around at Rackspace whether functional programming was being used. The answer was in the positive, and during an internal conference, I met Lispers, Scala-ers, Clojurists, Erlangers, and Haskellers. After much geeking out, I inquired whether any of these teams were looking for a helping hand. The answer was in the positive, and the rest is a history I’d be happy to share over lunch.
A quick aside on OSCON - if not for the Allowed to Apply Tumblr, I would not have submitted a proposal. This collection of inspirational mini-posts encouraged me to share how strongly I felt about Haskell with the world, before I could even properly reason about the magic of Monads. I would’ve readily convinced myself that because I lacked experience, that my perspective on the matter had no value. I was afraid to speak at such any sufficiently public venue. That’s Impostor Syndrome in action, which Julie Pagano addresses wonderfully in this recent talk. I’m still preparing that talk for July 22nd, and I hope to bring a balanced, sobering view then, that goes beyond Haskell and speaks to the enabling powers of typed functional programming languages.
So here I am, in the middle of a transition. I start officially come the end of May in this new Haskell-y position. I’ve wrapped up most of what I started for Rackspace with regards to the Marconi project. However, there’s still one very important set of loose threads - the Google Summer of Code and the Gnome OPW programs. Let me address these directly.
I’ll continue to contribute to the Marconi project as a mentor ’til the end of the end of these programs. I want to pass on what I’ve learned to the next generation of amazing programmers. I participated in the Google Summer of Code in the Summer of 2011 as a student for the Boost C++ community. A vaguely functional Bloom filter emerged from that effort, but that’s not the important part. That was my first experience with open-source development. I want to pass on more than just technical knowledge during GSoC/OPW - I want to pass on a love for sharing and learning together. We don’t have to go it alone - and so I’ll do my best to enable those that I’ll be working with. Let’s make the best of it!
To bring this to a close, there are new ventures in my future. I hope to learn a lot in the process. No doubt, readers - you’ll continue to hear from me on this blog at least as often as now. All that’ll have changed is that my professional interests will be realigned with my personal interests. Only good can come of that.