Robotics To Mobile: Kamilah Taylor's Road to Success as a Software Engineer
Kamilah Taylor started her career as a software engineer at the age of 9, when she used the Logo programming language to make a little turtle draw lines on a computer screen. She has come a long way since then, but it was in those early years that she developed a love for the creative aspects of code. She enjoyed having the ability to dream up a project and then realize it through programming implementation. That’s also when she started to think robots were really cool, a belief which would ultimately lead her into the Software Engineering career path.
When asked about her early education in coding, Kamilah said “What really got me hooked was an introduction to robotics class that I took in high school. After that I started doing robotics science fair projects, competitions, and even teaching kids how to program using LEGO Mindstorms.”
Fueled by a passion for learning and creating, in 2004 Kamilah began teaching an after-school robotics program where she was able to share her love of the field with students. Soon after, she enrolled at the University of Illinois where she worked as a research assistant, studying the implementation of different processes that could help an artificial intelligence deal with sensory limitations.
Her past experience using Lego Mindstorm to teach kids about programming came full circle when in 2010 she accepted a position as a software engineer at Wolfram Research. There she developed new Mathematica capabilities for remotely communicating with and controlling the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 robot while working on early versions of the device framework in the new Wolfram Language.
The greatest challenge of her career came when she accepted a position as a software engineer at LinkedIn in 2010. There she joined the mobile team to work on the company's flagship iOS App. This forced her to completely shift her focus from robotic programming to mobile software development, simultaneously learning the new discipline while working on a team with high pressure objectives.
Describing the challenges she faced Kamilah said, “In many ways, my background in robotics prepared me for the mobile mindset, but learning objective-c and being comfortable with the entire world of Xcode and client development was something that I had to do on the job. I joined a project where we were making a brand new iOS app (Linkedin’s Connected App), and I had to figure out how to quickly ramp up and contribute to a project with a tight deadline while learning pretty much everything. I survived it, but it took me a while to realize how far I’d come, and to really own that I had expertise in the area.”
Today Kamilah continues to be successful in her career endeavors, with the knowledge and skills to keep up with the top software engineers in the industry. She’s now become so familiar with mobile programming that she is writing her own app with the assistance of designer Alexa Roman. She’s also an advocate for women in the technology field, participating as an active member of Women Who Code, while also helping to co-author a book titled “Women In Tech”, which is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter.
When asked what advice she would give to women who were considering becoming software engineers she said, “Never stop learning. It doesn’t matter what direction you want to take your career in, there is always more to learn, and that’s what keeps me motivated.”
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