Women Code Hero of the Month – Ashima Saigal

Women Code Hero of the Month: Ashima SaigalWelcome to the second in a new monthly column profiling Women Code Heroes in our Salesforce community!

I have been working with some amazing women through the RAD Women coding program, and today’s Hero is one of my fabulous co-founders!

The amazing, inspiring, peace-bringing Ashima Saigal

Meet Ashima Saigal – Database Sherpa

DatabaseSherpa.comAfter a pretty rocky road in the brogrammer world of high tech, in 2010 Ashima Saigal forged her own path by creating her Salesforce consultancy firm, Database Sherpa. With a company slogan of, “The Wisdom of a Sherpa. The Reward of your Practice,” Database Sherpa provides Salesforce training to nonprofits.

Not only is Ashima a talented coder (and a fellow Salesforce MVP), but she also practices a deep level of mindfulness that I personally feel very grateful for.

Ashima has been working on the Salesforce Platform since before 2010 and holds three Salesforce certifications: Admin, Force.com Developer, and Sales Cloud Consultant. She’s planning on upgrading her Force.com Developer for the Platform Developer I and II certs.

Certified Salesforce Sales Cloud ConsultantCertified Force.com DeveloperCertified Salesforce Admin

Kieren: Ashima, thanks so much for talking to me and being our October 2015 Women Code Hero of the Month! I worked with you, and three other fantastic women, to co-found RAD Women, so I know from experience that you are committed to reaching back to help other women learning to code. I’m curious why you wanted to become a coder and how you got your start?

TI Computer

The TI Computer – Ashima’s first coding tool

Ashima: Oh that is a long story, probably best told in person, but it really began as a child … and my first program I wrote on a TI computer that my dad owned.

Kieren: That’s funny, I also started my coding career with my dad (and a Commodore 64), though I had a small (20 odd year) gap in coding, and didn’t take the route of Computer Science like you did. I read your article about your time in doing your CS degree … sounds quite brutal … tell me about that.

Michigan State UniversityAshima: My degree is in computer science and yes, it was challenging. I have experienced extreme sexism both at University and also in the workplace. But, as they say, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

One of the best things for me about my time at Michigan State University was that I learned a dozen languages by the time I graduated (including LISP, FORTRAN, Pascal, C, C++, PERL, etc). I learned how to learn a language.

Now, learning something new is a bit easier because I understand the basic tenants of most new languages.

Kieren: I really admire how you rose above all the challenges that you faced. So now that you are charting your own course, what is your favorite thing about coding, and conversely what is the most challenging part?

Ashima: I see programming as an art, not a sport. It is honed over many years and cannot be written quickly. I like to take my time when I code (to the chagrin of many other programmers and bosses), but in the end, the code I write is still being used. Why? Because it makes sense, is easy to modify, and is efficient. What more do you want?

So I’d say the best part about coding is it is my creative outlet, and like any artist, the most challenging part is finding time to do it.

Kieren: I completely agree, I sometimes struggle to find time, which is why I love writing this blog and working with RAD Women. It gives me time to do one of the things that I love.  So on a related topic…given that there can be some challenging times in coding, can you share what success mean to you as a coder, and how you support your success?

Ashima: I define success as writing a piece of code that is not only easy to maintain and manage, but also easy to understand. And I support my success by asking for help from others.

Kieren: So in that vein, let’s help out our Women Code Hero readers and share a coding strategy that works for you.

Pseudo-code all the things!Ashima: What I like to do is to figure it out as I go along.

Typically I start with writing out what I need to do in English, pseudo code. It’s a framework to get started.

From that, I notice when code is being reused or when something needs to be done more than once. I also look to see if this is a single process (only to be done for this object) or perhaps it is something I will need to do for any object.

All the while, I’m considering what objects I will need to interact with.

Typically, after writing all this up, I begin with the smaller pieces of code, the helper methods. Once I get those working and tested, I start to build out from there. Testing and working on the code.

Design is an art for sure, and it takes experience to get there. I don’t know how else to explain it, but I feel like it cannot be taught in the same way as languages can be taught. There is nuisance to it and it’s highly personal.

Kieren: It’s great hearing out your thought process. It sounds very logical and methodical … perhaps not unlike hiking a trail, one step at a time. So, Sherpa, if you were advising your younger self who was just starting out on the coding trek, what would you say?

Ashima: I would say that there is more to programming than writing code. You have that talent, it’s worth a lot, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Kieren: Thank you for sharing that! I know that’s something that we all need to find within ourselves. The part that knows we’re good at these things we do (even if we can’t feel it in the moment).

Well, it’s been a blast getting to talk with you today and I’m so happy I have the ability to share how inspirational you are with my readers. If any of them would like to reach out to you, where can they find you?

Ashima: You can contact me at [email protected] and on Twitter @gandhilover.

Kieren: I can’t thank you enough for being the Women Code Hero of the Month! You are a pure joy to have in my life and I’m glad I get to share you!

And to my faithful readers…if you like this, then tune in next month when I’ll introduce you to another of my Women Code Heroes.

If you know a women code hero you think I should feature, drop me a line with your suggestions (please include how to contact them).