Katelynn Burns from LaunchScout on Elixir Programming for the Backend

Katelynn Burns is a software engineer at LaunchScout Proficient in Elixir Programming and will be discussing the ins and outs of Elixir programming. 

What should a python or java developer know about getting started in programming Elixir?

My experience before starting with Elixir was mainly in Javascript, although I’ve worked a bit with python and java. My advice to anyone getting started with Elixir who has experience in other languages is to try to come into it with an open mind. It’s easy to feel like as developers we have a strong understanding of programming, but each language has its own unique quirks. It’s kind of like trying to learn Italian when you already know Spanish, they have a lot of similarities but it’s important to understand the differences between the language you’re used to and the new language. Elixir can seem pretty intimidating at first. It has a lot of logical difference that were different than what I was used to. For instance, for loops are not a thing in Elixir. One of the things that helped me to get better at Elixir’s unique logic was to start by solving simple algorithms that I’d already solved with my main language, but try to learn how to solve them using Elixir’s unique logic. There’s also amazing documentation and the elixirforum, which I would highly recommend checking out. I think one of the most intimidating

parts of learning a new language can be knowing where to start, but I didn’t feel that as much with Elixir. The community who use Elixir feel excited about their language and bringing in new developers and it shows. It even has a getting started guide (https://elixir-lang.org/getting-started). I think the main thing I would tell developers who are considering learning Elixir is that it’s worth it. Elixir has some of the easiest to read and elegant code I have had experience with. Elixir is enjoyable to write. It feels like a language that was written by developers for developers. I used to do some auto body work and would always complain that cars were designed with the seller in mind but never the mechanic who would have to fix it. In my experience Elixir doesn’t have that problem. It cares about creating a smooth user experience while also being nice to work with for the developers using it.

What are some use cases for the Elixir apps you develop?

The company I work for, Launch Scout is a company that helps our clients develop their applications, so there are many different use cases depending on the client. I’ve worked on applications that focused on connecting authors with their readers, an application for spas to schedule and organize their business, and an application for micro internships. I’ve really enjoyed working at Launch Scout because it’s given me the opportunity to look at a lot of different code bases and styles, as well as get to work with a lot of different teams. Plus each application has a very different use case, but the clients are all equally passionate and excited about what they’re making. I feel like for me I enjoy making a wide variety of applications because it’s more opportunity to learn and try something new, which is one of the things that excites me about software engineering. There’s no real stopping point for learning, as long as you have the drive to want to keep growing there’s always more to learn and try. I find that very exciting. As for my personal projects outside of work, I don’t have any released Elixir application at the moment, although I have some that I have been working on. For personal projects I tend to lean towards something that focuses on being creative or that solves a problem I’m seeing myself or someone I know is currently dealing with. One of the aspects I love most about software engineering is it’s combination of analytical thinking and creativity, and so I tend to lean into that when creating applications. One of the applications I made in the past was used to design and save a 3D duck for rubber duck debugging. This application was done in Javascript, but I’d love to go back to it sometime and use what I’ve learned since starting to code in Elixir to make it a better application. I generally see my personal projects as an opportunity to learn new technologies and try something complicated and new. A lot of the time I am less focused on creating a finished product and more focused on the journey and the creation itself. 

Please tell us more about your presentation upcoming at CodeBeam America 2022.

I’m very excited to give my talkHow Elixir Helped Me to Love the Back-End at CodeBeam. I’m very passionate about this topic because I used to be very intimidated by the backend. Elixir has given me the resources and confidence to embrace the full stack, and I believe that’s important. I think even if someone is focused on a particular part of the stack, it’s good to at least be able to understand the full picture of what you’re working on. Elixir was a language that I hadn’t heard of before starting my apprenticeship with Launch Scout. After learning about it I can understand why the Elixir community is so excited about it, it’s a great language. I’m excited to get the opportunity to share a little bit of my journey into Elixir and hopefully help others who may be intimidated by the backend to get the confidence to start this journey for themselves, or to give mentors some insight into how to help guide new developers. I have a background in teaching, so I’m always excited by the opportunity to teach and try to help people on their journey. I feel very lucky and like I have had a very great support group so far in my engineering journey, so I’m excited for an opportunity to pass that forward as well as meet and talk to others in the Elixir community.


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