This morning, I did an guest lecture for the Advances in Programming Languages course at Edinburgh University. I’ve talked at the University before, as part of the SPLS seminars. So, when I met Ian Stark again at ICFP and he invited me to talk to his class, I jumped at the chance.
Partly, I just love doing talks. But, specifically, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share some of the stuff I’ve learned over the last 12 years since I left uni. I’ve interviewed lots of graduates over the years, and I’ve seen how they adapt to working in industry. I’ve seen grads grow into world class software developers, and I’ve observed some of the common traits and interests that the best of them have.
And so my talk split into three themes. Firstly, I explained why I think learning languages is a worthwhile use of one’s precious/finite time. Secondly, I explored which languages give you the biggest bang-for-buck in terms of expanding your world view. And, finally, I used erlang as a concrete example to explore both the design pressures that influence a language, and to ‘cherrypick’ the key ideas from the language.
My aim was not to convince anyone to use Erlang day-to-day. My aim was to demonstrate that you can expand your mind by seeking out new ideas. Much like riding a bicycle, once you’ve seen a new way to look at the world you never forget it. And Erlang, operating in the difficult realm of high availability software, was full of good examples.
It’s pretty cool to be asked back to the University you graduated from, and to have the chance to share your thoughts with the next generation of students. Thanks to Ian Stark and David Aspinall for inviting me back to the Uni.