Meet Shelley Walker – IT Analyst Designer

17th September 2021

Where it all began

The topic ‘Be Inspired’ made me look back at what it was that originally got me into working with software… it also got me intrigued to ask my colleagues what their origin stories were – X-Men/Marvel style but without the costumes.

The answers were all completely unique and absolutely fascinating – from a little girl who watched a film about hackers and wanted to be as cool as them, to a young boy who passed over story books in favour of a coding book and a schoolgirl who discovered that ‘AND’ and ‘NOT’ logic gates were way more fun than your normal puzzle books. All of us, teenagers who wanted to know how the games worked beyond the parts we could interact with.

No two stories or pathways to our current careers were remotely the same, and yet we all had one thing in common. As each person told their story, a light shone in their eyes and their voices became animated as they relived their lightbulb moments. Those points in their life when they realised that it was possible to make things happen using only your mind and they absolutely wanted to be in on that.

Where it all can lead to

Fast forward a few years to my very first day in my very first real job (junior software engineer for a Telecoms software provider), we were introduced to C++ programming by a long time served industry stalwart. He told us something that resonated hard with me, that absolutely anything, literally anything you can think of, is possible with software – the only limitations are imagination, time and investment.

An intriguing idea and one which you only have to watch sci-fi movies from a couple of decades or so ago to confirm – how much of what was dreamed of back in those old films have we not only already created but surpassed the boundaries of the imaginations of the script writers?

What do we do?

Of course, our lives aren’t actually like those of the hackers on the screen – we don’t really lounge around with our feet up, cool beanie hat artistically defying gravity hanging off our heads, managing in just a couple of strategic keystrokes to expose the deepest secrets of government and people’s personal lives.

“literally anything you can think of, is possible with software – the only limitations are imagination, time and investment.”

As another colleague explained to me, we have something arguably even better – we get to understand how the infrastructure of the world around us really works; when you pick up your phone to make a call – we know how that signal travels through all sorts of systems, getting processed in lots of ways until it ultimately results in a (hopefully) fun gossipy catch up for you and a decrement or charge on your account for your service provider.

We can spot as we drive into a car park that it has ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) to detect if you try to skip without paying the parking charges and start plotting out how we’d make such a system work if we were the developers of it.

A good friend of mine put it very succinctly on one of our recent catch-ups ‘You guys can see The Matrix’. Not the whizzing screens of characters obviously, unless we’re staring at a spectacularly ugly bug in our code, but we look at the technology around us as a series of jigsaw pieces and imagine how they could be moved into different places to create different pictures. That still gives us exactly that same sense of wonder as when we first became inspired by the possibilities of technology all those years earlier – and we still want in.

If you’re wondering what happened to the schoolgirl with the ‘AND’ and ‘NOR’ gates? She’s now a full stack java developer specialising in automation and whenever she’s asked what she does for a living invariably has a happy smile on her face as she replies, “I get paid to do my favourite kind of puzzles every day”.

National Coding Week: 13th September 2021