Strange Loop

September 12-14 2019

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Stifel Theatre

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St. Louis, MO

Voice Driven Development: Who needs a keyboard anyway?

As a programmer, being unable to use a keyboard can seem like a career-ending limitation. I was facing that reality a year ago due to Repetitive Strain Injury, when every productive day was a step back for my health. In a futile, last-ditch effort at saving my career, I turned to speech recognition. Unexpectedly, not only was I able to return to pain-free productivity, but I found voice-driven development to be enjoyable, efficient, and a source of renewed excitement for programming. Speech recognition isn't exactly known in software development circles as a workable approach to programming, but it's better than you (probably) think! Far from imposing a tedious workflow with a specialized set of commands, speech can enable flexibility and optimizations that are difficult to achieve with a keyboard, and does not get in the way when adapting to new technologies, tools, or languages. This practical, demo-driven talk presents the approach and tools that have allowed me to continue on with my career. I'll present real world experience with speech-related topics like disambiguating homophones on the fly and teaching the voice engine new technical vocabulary. Beyond technical aspects, I will share my experience guiding a team to support this working style, and challenges to adding a microphone into an open office environment. Speech not only removes the compromise between health and career when an injury is present, but can also augment and improve the workflow for a wider audience.

Emily Shea

Emily Shea

Fastly, Inc.

Emily is a Senior Software Engineer at Fastly, where she works on the platform for delivering core CDN configurations, and develops in Perl using speech recognition. In a past life, she worked in HR at mobile gaming companies. Emily holds a BA in Architecture from UC Berkeley, and in her spare time likes to hang out in parks with her dog, named Chicken.