To be && not to be. That is the statement.

In life, we are always busy labeling ourselves. Am I thrifty or extravagant, feminine or masculine, intense or relaxed, this or that, and ultimately “good or bad”?

As I gain more experience living the various things life throws at me, I see more and more the importance of being comfortable with multidimensional dualities. Our external world is becoming more complex, and especially as populations are becoming more cross-cultural and integrated, the “OR” is shadowed by the “AND” qualifier in terms of relevancy. I suppose the challenge has always been striking the precarious balance when all things collide.

For instance, for a really long time I wondered if I had more male or female characteristics, or if I’m more Chinese than I am American. I have a business degree, but I really love to code. Am I an urban gal or a country girl? Introverted or outgoing? Pretty mainstream, yet extremely otaku? Am I a millennial or gen x-er? I think Barrack Obama captured this best in his memoir Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance – that identity is fluid! Grasping onto one or the other can be extremely polarizing.

I went to a ruby workshop the other day hosted at the Pivotal Labs Atlanta location, where Scott Bellware was speaking about event-sourced microservices. Struggling to muster up some inner courage as the fact of the matter was that this was the first coding meet-up I had ever gone to, I had just started the ruby lessons in the Flatiron School web dev curriculum, and the attendance gender ratio was vastly skewed, my inner voice screamed, “I’m not a ruby engineer, help! [ fail whale ]! ” I felt like I had walked into the wrong class. Yet, while only intermittent topics made sense, the room felt really open-minded and welcoming. I realized soon that nobody cared whether I was or wasn’t a coder, my flail was all in my head. We were all there to learn and add to wherever we may be on the scale of developer/non-developer, as this label is mostly a matter of perspective. But this was something that took me years to finally realize, and I still have to constantly remind myself.

Because of these personal challenges that may or may not be all in anyone’s head, I’m glad to see news such as this one about CMU’s incoming female-majority 2017 freshman class. Many paths now comfortably embrace the male/female duality in our external world, and that is reassuring.

Why did you decide to learn software development?

I don’t think I chose software development, so much as it chose me. I know this sounds like one of those determinism debates, and this is how it all played out for me: I found that the more I opened my mind, while directing my energy towards where my [sometimes misguided] curiosities lie (business, finance, economic policy, social sciences, design, etc.), the road always led me back to software development.

Naturally, there was only one conclusion I could make. It seemed that no matter what I was learning to do, I wanted to transform those learnings with new technological creations and tools that could communicate reorganized ideas to myself and to the world. It’s the field that touches all other fields and discriminates against none, as the one uniter.

Writing code gives people a voice, and a seat at the table. Not speaking a word of English when I immigrated to the United States at 8 years of age, I had a lot of catching up to do. When I was introduced to programming languages in high school, I was hooked! For the first time, it felt like I was put on equal playing field as everyone else. That sense of empowerment was a much needed boost in confidence for this 3-year ESL student. (And despite all expectations, I really wasn’t that amazing at math either!)

So here I am, after a long winding academic and career path, at the source that unites the world.

If I can sit back and take a bird’s eye view of how software development fits into human existence, I see it as the inverse of all things organic. It helps humans discover who they really are relative to the universe, not quite unlike my constant search for identity. It’s the gateway to machine learning and artificial intelligence, and will ultimately help us answer the questions of ‘who are we?’, and ‘why are we here?’

But more relevantly, why aren’t you learning software development?