Rebecca Ely Bloomberg at Scala Days blog

Rebecca Ely at Scala Days: “I didn’t pick Scala. Scala picked me.”

Rebecca Ely, or simply Ely, as she’s known in the Scala community, is an engineer on the Spark platform team at Bloomberg and an enthusiastic member of the SF Scala community. Her 2015 transition into tech was preceded by work as a federal acquisition consultant, math and science teacher, and volunteer monkey bather. She still bathes the occasional monkey.

In advance of her talk “Teaching Scala to the Statically Challenged” at Scala Days in New York, we spoke to Ely about her quitting a job in D.C., designing a folk dance choreography algorithm and her Scala journey.

What’s your background and what does your current role at Bloomberg involve?

In 2015 I left my life as a federal acquisition consultant in Washington, DC to enroll in a coding bootcamp.  I took this step at the urging of a friend who promised that, as a software engineer, I could work on interesting problems without wearing a suit.  During the bootcamp, I designed an algorithm for generating folk dance choreography that caught the attention of some Bloomberg engineers in San Francisco. At Bloomberg I create performant tools to connect Spark to Bloomberg’s critical data sources and also consult on application teams’ adoption of Spark.

Why did you pick Scala and what kind of problems does it solve for you?

I didn’t pick Scala; Scala picked me. Every Spark project I’ve worked on at Bloomberg has been Scala-based. Working with Scala was a major transition from Python and JavaScript, but my supportive co-workers and other members of the SF Scala community have helped me to develop my Scala abilities and enthusiasm.

These days, Scala remains the default language for Spark tooling at Bloomberg. It’s also my language of choice for programming self-study; Scala’s static typing and succinct syntax allow me to focus on CS fundamentals instead of bugs and boilerplate.

What’s the biggest challenge Scala developers are facing today and what’s one thing that could address this challenge?

The main challenge is that most of today’s experts knew at least one statically-typed language before they discovered Scala. The ever-expanding pool of potential Scala learners who know only Python, JavaScript, and/or Ruby are too-often stymied by “introductory” resources that assume familiarity with Java or C.

As for the solution to this challenge, our community needs to decouple Scala scholarship from legacy languages to benefit from this incredibly diverse pool of talented, enthusiastic, and impressionable developers. This is what I’ll be talking about at Scala Days.

Whom would you like to connect with at the conference?

The folks I’ve met at Scala events in San Francisco have become wonderful friends, mentors, and co-workers. I’m excited about broadening my network at Scala Days and I’m especially interested in connecting with folks who are working to improve access to Scala for newbies.

 

Don’t miss Ely and her session “Teaching Scala to the Statically Challenged” on June 20th at Scala Days in New York. Book your ticket now.

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