Code is Poetry: A Musician’s Tale by Helen Hou-Sandí, #wcsf14



Notes from  the talk given at the 2014 WordCamp conference in San Francisco by Helen Hou-Sandí. Official description:

During a decade spent as a professional musician, I discovered web development and then WordPress, and made a primary career switch. While on the surface they sound incongruous, I believe that skills I learned and honed as a classical pianist have translated directly to becoming a leader in open source software development. Join me as I take a look at those skills and celebrate alternative paths into WordPress.

My notes:

  • She is core commiter/ccontributor lead 4.0 release cycle
  • She defines herself as a pianist, classical musicians, two degrees in it. Brings up clearest memories for her. Music gives her goosebump
  • She loves to build things
  • Web designers vs. Web developers
  • Is she a real developer? Doesn’t wear t-shirts, didn’t see classic cult movies, doesn’t grow beard.
  • Music and webdev goes together well
  • Music background can help you make bigger/better things
  • Music is a structured language. Notes/code doesn’t represent the end result, unless you know how to interpret it.
  • Everything on the screen means something. the dots, abbreviation.
  • Audience doesn’t need to be able to read notes/code to appreciate it.
  • Learn notation, transfer it into physical movement
  • Musician: renderer of notes.
  • Developer is more like a composer: creating something meaningful.
  • “Technique without music is pedantry. Music without technique is not music.”
  • Without software code is just code. Has to have an end user in mind.
  • Avoid repetitive stress injury have good techniques. Ensures future health of the project.
  • Grad school professor, personal mentor inspired her.
  • Mentorship is important. Beneficial in the WordPress community
  • Important: always find joy and create your own career path
  • Make informed decisions.
  • By the time you reach grad school you can read note and play music. But for creating meaningful music you need to make decisions based on further data. Beethoven’s vs Bach’s allegro…
  • Cross-discipline knowledge: know French, its grammar and its diction
  • Same lesson in development: data-informed development. Use user testing, statistics, developers need to know basic design concept. Gives better understanding of users and devices.
  • Decisions, not options: what serves our users best.
  • Trust your intuition. Innate ability of the right way to combine all that, in a way that sets you apart form other people.
  • Intertwining of different instruments: string resonates with the piano, musical decisions together with others.
  • Same with development, it is a bit like herding cats. Several projects at the same time with lots of pieces and people.
  • We pick up non-verbal cues at live auditions. Constant micro-adjustments
  • Andre Previn: “If you are going to be a musicians, you must be interested in new things all the time.” Applies to development too.
  • There is so much to learn. It doesn’t replace, but complement what you already know.
  • Self-motivation makes you a better developer.
  • Know how to read ahead. Value of offline practice.
  • Music is code
  • Cool in this field that you meet people of varied background.
  • Q&A:
    • Beginning of career: her dad taught her how to program as a kid: Hertz values of piano. Finished graduate degree, didn’t want to do a doctorate. Her school hired her to do a job.
    • How do you help traditional engineers that not everyone sees code the same way? We all learn from each other. Most people have hobbies.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *