Meet The Champion: Perl Weekly Challenge - 017

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2019| Tags: Perl, Raku

Welcome to the weekly series “Meet The Champion”.

Last week we spoke to Adam Russell, the winner of Perl Weekly Challenge - 016. Today we are talking to the “Perl Weekly Challenge - 017” winner Yozen Hernandez. I hope you are going to enjoy the interview.

Mohammad: Tell us about your technical background?

Yozen: I have a BA in Computer Science from Hunter College, CUNY, and a PhD in Bioinformatics from Boston University.

I didn’t start programming until college, after constantly changing my mind between several majors. In one of my CS courses, my professor suggested I take a look at their new Quantitative Biology program. The curriculum combined courses in biology, chemistry, math, stats, and CS.

After college I worked as both a researcher and system administrator in Dr Weigang Qiu’s lab, where Perl was used everywhere along with packages from the Bioperl project.

Eventually I got into a PhD program in Boston University and worked under Dr Gary Benson on Variable Number Tandem Repeats. There I really learned a lot about efficient programming techniques in C. In Perl as well, since one of our major projects used it and it desperately needed some improvements to scale up. Also, my last project for my thesis was a website written using Mojolicious!

Mohammad: How/When did you start using Perl/Raku?

Yozen: The Quantitative Biology program at Hunter College, CUNY, had a Perl 5 course as part of the curriculum. Having started programming in C++, I fell in love with Perl and what it could do.

Mohammad: How did you come to know about “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Yozen: I ran across the challenge on the Perl subreddit after subscribing to a bunch of programming and science subs.

As I was getting closer to finishing up my PhD program, I started looking into side projects I could take on to see what I could do to develop some of my skills I might need to get a job. I love Perl, and I put it on my resume as one of my skills, so I might as well check myself to see how well I know it. Plus, lots of people I know in my field joke about how dead it is as a language, and how they’ve “moved on” to things like Python. It looks like it’s doing pretty well for a dead language ;-)

Mohammad: What do you like the most about “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Yozen: How much it lets me exercise the problem-solving parts of my brain.

I came here wanting to basically test my knowledge of Perl and see how others might approach the same problem. One of Perl’s mottos is TIMTOWTDI, and it really doesn’t disappoint in that area. I basically know my way of doing things, but everyone’s solution is influenced by their background or how they like to think about a problem.

I’m always surprised by the solutions some people come up with and so I learn a lot. And not just about Perl, either. A lot of the challenges have to do with problems I simply never thought about before, or for which I never tried to write my own solution from scratch before.

It also “forced” me to start blogging about challenges, which I view as allowing me to exercise my skills in education.

Mohammad: Is there any thing you would like to change?

Yozen: I don’t always have time to do the last challenge, so I’m glad it’s optional. But maybe some other kind of challenge, apart from an API challenge? Maybe alternating with the API challenge on some weeks. I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions at this time on what that alternative would be, however.

Mohammad: How much time you dedicate every week to “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Yozen: It depends. I don’t have much free time right now, so I try to keep it under 3 hours if I can.

I spend most of my time thinking about how I am going to write about the challenge. That also helps me figure out parts that I am having trouble with, since I have to explain them to some general audience.

Mohammad: Do you checkout others solutions and who is your favourite?

Yozen: I do, but there’s sadly no way I can check absolutely everyone’s, so it helps that you and Kian-Meng Ang highlight some solutions so I can prioritize.

I’m not sure I have any “favorites”, so to speak, as they change week to week. I always try to check out solutions by at least Joelle Maslak, Dave Jacoby, Adam Russel and Athanasius, but I’m definitely not limited to just them.

Mohammad: What do you suggest someone just started the weekly challenge?

Yozen: Don’t rush yourself and don’t let yourself get stressed out about having the best solution, or getting called out. Just focus on solving the problem as best as you can.

Maybe also look over the old challenges since there’s often ideas you can “steal” from there, in particular if you just can’t figure something out and need a boost. It’s all good if you give credit, and I think nearly all of us has used StackOverflow at least once before when we were stuck. The point is to learn and have fun, and maybe you’ll find yourself needing help less often.

Mohammad: Do you find the website user friendly? What do you like most?

Yozen: Yes. I like the recaps and reviews by you and Kian-Meng Ang in particular.

I only have a few minor issues and that is that there are tags under the posts, but they are not clickable. Also, on mobile (Android), the “hamburger” menu icon doesn’t seem to work.

Mohammad: Anything else you would like share with us?

Yozen: I really appreciate the fact that this challenge exists and all the work you are doing to keep it going. It helps put to rest that notion that Perl is dead to have even a few dedicated people keeping something this community-friendly going.

That brings the end of the conversation with Yozen Hernandez. Please do let us know your view. We will come back next week with another champion.


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