November 8th & 9th, 2024
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SeaGL speaker Q&A: E. Dunham

E. Dunham gives her talk titled, “How To Learn Rust” on Friday afternoon.

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

A: I’m the DevOps engineer for Mozilla Research, which is a jack-of-all-trades sort of role that always keeps me busy and learning new things. I telecommute from the middle of nowhere in Oregon, where I enjoy gardening and attempting to keep bees. I got into this whole FOSS thing years ago as a student at the OSU Open Source Lab, and have been active in various communities ever since.

Q: Without tipping your hand on the actual talk, can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

A: Without tipping my hand?! I’ll tip the heck out of my hand, because I know how tough it is to choose which talk to attend in a given time slot at a conference like SeaGL. My talk “How to learn Rust” is basically 2 talks in one: First, I outline the dozen core categories of learning technique that my peers and mentors told me about when I asked them for their tips on learning new languages. Then I show you the resources available to learn Rust through each of those methods. Whether or not you’re into Rust, this talk will give you a checklist of things to try when you feel stuck or lost studying a programming language.

Q: Is this your first visit to SeaGL? If so, what are your expectations? If not, can you give us your impressions of the event?

A: I’ve been to several SeaGLs, and accidentally found myself in a variety of organizational roles through the years. The part of a tech conference that gets advertised is the talks – the keynotes and the various lectures in the program. But if it was just about listening to talks all day, you could do that with YouTube from the comfort of your own couch. What makes a conference worth showing up to in person is what we call the hallway track – it’s all the humans with interesting experiences and ideas who are there to share them. The value of going to a talk in person rather than just watching a video of it after the fact is that you get to engage with the presenter, both through asking questions and through the expressions and body language that tell them what parts the audience is enjoying most so they can talk more about those areas. And as you’re leaving a talk, you have an instant conversation topic with the speaker and everyone else who attended, so it’s easy to make a lot of new friends.

Compared to other tech conferences in the area, SeaGL feels less like a job fair and more like a family get-together. It has a great venue, where all the rooms are reasonably close together so it’s hard to get lost and easy to maximize the time you spend interacting with other attendees.

Q: Is Rust the best programming language?

A: It depends on what problem you want to solve! There are some mistakes that it’s really easy to make in most systems programming languages, and Rust is carefully designed to make those mistakes difficult or impossible. If you have code in another language that’s working great, don’t scrap it just because something fashionable came along… But if you hit the wall on that language’s reliability and performance and the topic of rewriting part or all of your code comes up, Rust is worth serious consideration.