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Living by the Code

Before You Begin

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Section 1: 14 chapters
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Getting to Work

Section 2: 17 chapters
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5. An Interview with Sarah Olson
Written by Enrique López-Mañas

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Sarah is a Senior Engineer working on the Trello iOS and Android apps at Atlassian. She has over eighteen years of development experience in a variety of technologies, including Java, WordPress, iOS and Android development.

Connect with Sarah

Twitter: @saraheolson

LinkedIn: in/saraheolson


As a fully remote worker without a commute, do you use podcasts or books, and do you have a preference for either?

I tend to prefer books over podcasts. I’m also much more of a visual learner, so the words stick better to my eyeballs than my ears. A book that comes to mind that’s had an impact on my work is the “Gang of Four” — also known as GoF—book for Java development, where I started. The full title is Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. The insights from the four authors, Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides, are still patterns I refer to to this day.

In addition to the insights from this book, what is something you wish someone had told you at the start of your software development career that you had to learn the hard way instead?

I wish someone had told me: You belong here. You’ll never have all the answers. Feeling like an imposter is normal and there are many others out there like you who feel the same way. Find them.

Do you have any role models, either technical or non-technical, that helped you become a better developer? How did they shape your thinking or daily practice?

I’ve had coworkers who’ve helped me ramp up in new technologies, but no, I’ve never really had a role model or a mentor. I’ve tried to become that person for others, since I never had it. I have spent the past few years building up my network of peers who can help me with my career, and, as a person who has faced barriers and discrimination, that has made all the difference. Find people who have your back and can help you through the weeds.

Sarah’s Recommendation

  • Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software | Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides
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