Meet Bronwyn, who has a unique story to share on her journey to becoming one of VGW’s Senior Software Engineers and Kotlin Champions. Proving more than anything, that despite our best laid career plans, life always has other ideas.
How I got started
“I was halfway through my PhD in Medical Microbiology when I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy”. A sleep disorder that causes drowsiness during the day, Narcolepsy made it difficult for Bronwyn to be able to perform the lab work needed in her course.
Since she had already collected a significant amount of data, she decided to approach her PhD from a Data Science angle and took a short Python course and learned R, which sparked her interest in programming. “I ended up enjoying [the course] so much that I decided to quit my PhD and pursue programming as a career.”
In 2019, she worked as a mobile app tester while continuing to teach herself programming and in 2020, she was accepted into the She Codes Plus program. “While completing the last project of the Plus program, I was offered a job at VGW in the Global Poker team which I started in December 2020. I was able to complete the associate L&D program within six months, and was promoted to Engineer in July 2021, and then to Senior Engineer at the beginning of 2023.”
Kotlin Programming Language
As one of VGW’s Kotlin Champions, one of the key programs Bronwyn has been working with is the Kotlin programming language. “I was introduced to Kotlin when Poker decided to make the transition from Java to Kotlin in early 2021. I was able to get involved early on, and began writing Kotlin in my first cycle.”
Bronwyn loves Kotlin because it gives the benefits of running applications on the Java virtual machine (JVM) while avoiding the pains of writing Java code. “One of Kotlin’s main goals has been to not introduce new concepts, but to include proven features from other programming languages. This makes Kotlin very feature rich and powerful, while still being pragmatic and easy to learn”.
“It is an expressive, concise language with significant thought put into syntax to ensure it’s highly readable, and fun to work with. The Kotlin developers put measures in place to increase the safety of code and remove many of the common mistakes found in Java.” With multi-platform support, Kotlin can be used to write server, Android, iOS, desktop and web applications.
Our challenges with Kotlin
Some of the challenges Bronwyn initially faced with Kotlin, was with trying to find relevant information online as Kotlin was still predominantly used for Android development rather than server-side. “It was Bruno, an Engineering Manager and one of the go-to’s for technical knowledge in the Poker Team, who championed the adoption of Kotlin in Global Poker”. She said that the transition was relatively smooth, given Kotlin could interoperate with the existing Java codebase they had at the time, but that change management is always a challenge. Her colleagues, Bruno and Edrick, spent time producing proof of concepts, led workshops, and guided the team on how to transition in the simplest and safest way possible.
“Since then, Kotlin has grown significantly and is rapidly becoming a common backend language, with 45% of Kotlin engineers at Google writing server-side code. With the community growing, and support from Kotlin, diverse learning resources are now easy to find.”
The future of Kotlin
Bronwyn is excited about the future of Kotlin and its ecosystem. “Kotlin has already evolved significantly in the short time we’ve been using it in Global Poker. It has already outgrown its initial goal of becoming a replacement for Java, and has fantastic multiplatform support.” She believes Kotlin will continue to grow in multiplatform support and that the community will see improved library availability, going beyond just Java libraries. She also thinks the launch of the Kotlin Foundation’s membership program will add diversity to those who govern the language’s development and support for the longevity of Kotlin.
My advice to others starting out or considering a career change
“Choose a learning pathway that you know you’ll be able to succeed at.”
After already spending 10 years at university, she said she couldn’t imagine going back to complete another degree, which is why she decided to start with self-learning and applied for the She Codes Plus program. On the other hand, she said she has also worked with many people who successfully changed their careers and went back to university to complete a Computer Science degree.
“When you are ready to enter the workforce, apply at companies like VGW which have proven learning and development programs and give you the space to learn, make mistakes, and ask questions in a supportive environment.”
“For those who are keen to work with Kotlin specifically, there are many resources for beginners. Kotlin and JetBrains even provide a free online course. Have a go at building something with Kotlin because having projects to show during interviews is a great asset.”