Crystal Adkins – Quiet, but Outspoken Elixir Developer

 So, where, where are you from?

So I grew up in a town in Northcentral Kentucky called Mount Washington. It’s just south of Louisville. I spent about a year in Texas in my teens.  Once I got out on my own I moved to Louisville.  Kentucky has always just felt like home to me.  

 

How would you describe yourself in a few sentences

I would say in a few sentences. Quiet, but outspoken.

So I guess that’s kinda like the territory of being an adult with ADHD. I’m very reserved for the most part, but as soon as I’m comfortable with someone or if somebody starts to talk about something I’m super into you can’t get me to shut up.

 

What mobile device do you use and what apps are on your home screen?

So I am an Android person all the way. I’ve always had an Android device even before I was an Android dev/teacher. I’ve tried to use Apple devices, but there’s just something about Android that I’ve always liked more. 

Screenshot of phone homepage

So my home screen is super boring really, I have Google Chrome and the Google search bar. I’m completely aware it’s kind of redundant to have them both on the same page since I could just hit the search box and go. But also just like on my computer,  have 25 different tabs in my Chrome on my phone.  I mean, can you really consider yourself a dev without multiple browser windows open at the same time with more tabs than you can count in each of them???  No, just me? 

There’s the Home app since I have Google devices all through my house. There was a Google home in every single room, a Chromecast on every TV cause I have cable.  I use Nest security and home automation, which can be done through both the Home and Nest apps. 

I really wanted to have everything concerning finance, music and video on here too since I use them a LOT so that’s where the folders come into play. One for each type of app so I don’t have to search for them.

Then the lone Messenger app, I quit using Facebook near the end of 2020 but I keep Messenger since my to communicate with my mom, siblings, and other family since they prefer it over texts.

 

What was your path to Revelry?

So my path is kinda interesting, I graduated college with two associates, Information Security, my first love, and Network Administration.  So I was more of a hardware girl going through college. Funny story about that though.  One of my required courses was Java programming.  I hated it, like really was not a fan and even swore I would never program.  I’m not sure what it was about academic coding that wasn’t for me but if you would have told me then that I would be a software engineer later in life I probably would have laughed and walked away.  I was so positive coding was not in the wheelhouse of things I enjoyed.  Little did I know that academic vs. real-world coding would be so different.  

It was probably about six months to a year that I realized after that I really liked coding. So I wound up going through a boot camp that was offered to unemployed people in Eastern Kentucky. You had to apply for this and go through a bunch of interviews to be considered.  There was something like 850 applicants but they only chose 50, I had initially only signed up because it was a paid program.  Being unemployed at the time my thought process was “I know I hate coding but, every week I make it through the program is a week of pay that I may not have otherwise so why not”   During that boot camp, we learned Java, Android, basic HTML stuff things like that.

I wound up doing so well in that program the company that put on the boot camp hired me as an Android developer but soon after asked me to join the team that was creating curricula for teaching mobile development skills, specifically Android/Java which was really cool. Then when the time came I was asked to also teach the Android/Java curriculum I had created.  I taught high school juniors and seniors over the course of a couple of semesters as well as a summer camp where we focused on middle school+ aged students with learning differences.  This whole experience was extremely rewarding to me.  It really put in perspective how important getting skills like coding to people of all types and abilities is.  Some of my summer students had abilities that made it hard to find a good fit in the mainstream workplace but they excelled with writing code.  This opened up a whole new world of jobs to them that they might not otherwise known about. 

Even as rewarding as that was, at the end of the day I just really missed being a developer. So I ended up leaving that company and going to a company called El Toro. They do IP targeting for marketing. There I started Elixir development. I had never seen Elixir or heard of it before in my life. The CTO there was like, I know you haven’t seen or used Elixir before but I think you’d be good at it.  It was scary to make that jump but I’m so glad I did. It really was at this point where I knew this was what I wanted to do the rest of my career.  I left there for another Elixir position with a company that allowed me to work fully remote which meant I didn’t have to choose between being an active and engaged parent and having a career.  After some time there I was ready for a change and that when I came to Revelry

 

What stood out about Revelry that drove your decision to join the company?

So at first,  it was the draw that they would have different clients that meant I wasn’t going to be on the same project for my entire career.  So I wasn’t going to get bored with what I’m working on.  I love what I do but maintaining the same codebase, and only that codebase for years on end just wasn’t appealing. 

 

So what would you say you do at revelry?

via GIPHY

I do stuff and make things go.

So obviously the answer to what I do is I solve problems. That’s all coding is – solving problems. Every problem has hundreds of solutions and it’s like my job to find the best solution you can for the problem you’re trying to solve. 

Every day I get to solve a problem. If it’s a good day, I get to solve two or three different ones. If it’s something harder it might take a couple of days to solve it, but it’s all just solving problems.

I think that’s like one of the best things about what I do every day, is just come and solve problems.

 The CTO for the company where I started learning Elixir is, Rich Teachout. He had a saying that has always stuck with me, 

Writing code is about iterations, you make it work, you make it right. Then you make it fast. 

As you’re trying to find your solution, you find one that works, janky code or not.  Now you have a working solution, make it right, get rid of the shortcuts, whatever made it janky, etc. Once the code is “right”  find the places where you can make it faster and better. This is all part of my problem-solving process every single day.  

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing is solving problems. 

It’s really weird when people are like, “That’s your favorite thing to do? So, what’s it like to solve problems every day?”, 

I am assuming when I say solving problems and they know I code they think it this huge mathematical problem or something like that.  But it’s not problems like that, well they could be mathematical, but, it’s really just making things work. 

What’s your favorite productivity hack?

I have noise-canceling headphones when I really need to be productive. I will put things on and turn on just the noise canceling and just sit in silence. That really just helps me focus on being productive.  If somebody walks into my office and they see my headphones on they just turn around, my kids even know when Mom is wearing headphones, we should come back. In part it’s so people don’t talk to me when I’m “in the zone”, but also so there isn’t any other background noise to distract me. It really helps to focus on what I need to get done at that time.  So noise-canceling headphones are my favorite productivity hack. 

 

What is your programming language of choice?

So I’ve been through quite a few languages and my, my years of development. But out of all of them, I think my absolute favorite has, and still is elixir. There is something about functional programming that just feels right. It feels natural to me sometimes when you’re working in Java or more object-oriented languages.

It’s a lot easier to visualize those flows. Elixir for me is hands down my absolute favorite.

 

Tell me about your interests. What do you do when you’re not coding?

So when I’m not coding, I actually really enjoy making things. I’m not very creative but getting outside and building things make me happy. It all comes back to problem-solving. Like everything is a problem that can be solved even when you’re like building a porch. 

So the summer we had a contractor come in and he wound up really messing up my yard. He didn’t finish his job. It was a mess.  I technically live on the side of a mountain.  That’s really the only way I can explain it. So it’s like solid rock underneath, in my yard.

We wound up getting a jackhammer and just hammering through this rock to put in drainage. And it was just one of those things. Like, I guess I’m doing this now, guess I’ll do stuff like this on my own from now to too. It’s like, I know that I’m not a professional, but there’s always YouTube. I’m one of those people.  I would work my eight hours sitting here coding. When I was done, I would go change clothes into something I could get dirty in. I got a jackhammer for my backyard and put in all this stuff. It was really, really cool to like see this transformation and like I did it you know, so it’s just ever since I bought this house, I’ve been really big into learning how to do these things myself. It’s been a ton of fun.

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