What Cocktails and Coding Have in Common

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If I were to describe how I ended up as a bartender or in front of the desk as a developer experiencing PEBKAC (problem that exists between keyboard and chair), I would describe it as engaged stumbling with a general direction of where I would land. I graduated a few months ago from Georgia State University with a degree in Computer Information Systems. I love learning and if I could’ve been a student professionally, I totally would’ve been. Instead, I find myself in professions that keep me on my feet, confuse me, and impassion me all at once.

Most people don’t think about the similarities between making cocktails and coding, but there are some unlikely connections. Here are a few:

  1. Mise en place – the way you assemble the ingredients is key. A misplaced hyphen instead of an underscore? Nothing shows up on the page. Similarly, a simple shake can ruin a spirit-forward Manhattan. [See some nerdy cocktail science here.]
  2. Both skills are a lot like cooking. While coding, you blend different programming and computer languages, like you mix citrus, syrups, bitters, and spirits, to achieve a cocktail that looks, tastes, and feels great.
  3. Being a woman in either field is tough. I entered the service industry as the first female bar-back where I worked. The feeling of constantly needing to demonstrate my competence was apparent behind the well-intentioned and seemingly innocuous helping hands of my male peers. While I’m fortunate to work in an inclusive environment at Sol, statistics about women in STEM are disconcerting. The good news is that those numbers are changing and workplaces are improving as more women enter these professions.
  4. You don’t need formal training to be awesome, but you do have to go deep. And sometimes you’ll find yourself in the weeds. Getting deep into something is the only way to learn how to do it right. Learning to bartend was challenging, but before I knew it, I managed to get through the toughest shifts without breaking a sweat. Now I apply the same approach to coding.
  5. You have to ask the right questions. When someone orders a martini, you have to discern: Gin or vodka? Dry? Dirty? With a twist? There are so many variations. With building a website, it’s important to ask the right questions about functionality to make sure you deliver what the client wants.
  6. Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Remember that customer who came in three months ago or that plug-in you just installed? Whether you’re updating people or updating content, maintenance is part of the job.
  7. There’s no limit to the creativity you can bring to the job. Developing reminds me of a game that I used to play behind the bar called Cocktail Chopped, which is the bar version of the TV show by the same name (minus the word ‘Cocktail’ of course). You’re given a set of ingredients, which in development are the functional goals the client wants to achieve, and then it’s up to you to make those ingredients work together. Both challenges are a lot of fun and you’ll surprise yourself with what you come up with!
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