Engineer Spotlight: Zach Shipko

by Christine Rose and Zach Shipko on Jan 5th, 2023

Tarides engineer Zach Shipko answers a few questions about why he decided to learn OCaml and why he's particularly excited about the OCaml 5 release. In celebration of OCaml 5, we've interviewed several engineers about their personal experience with the language and what features they enjoy. It's a great way to get some unique insight into the language from someone who works with it on a daily basis.

Christine: Why did you decide to become an OCaml programmer rather than Python or C++?

Zach: I don't really see myself as an "OCaml programmer" because I use Python, C, Rust, Javascript, and other languages quite frequently. It's my interest in many different programming languages that led me to OCaml!

C: What do you like best in OCaml?

Z: One of my favorite things about OCaml is the amount of thought put into new language features. Because of this I think the whole community values the importance of API design and correctness.

C: What’s the coolest thing you've made with OCaml?

Z: I have been working on libirmin, which provides C bindings to the Irmin API, making it possible to use Irmin directly from C and other languages. This uses Cstubs_inverted to wrap OCaml code in C functions. I don't know how "cool" that is, but everytime it works I am pleasantly surprised.

C: Why should engineers learn OCaml?

Z: Learning a new programming language can help you see problems from a new perspective and it gives you another tool to reach for when needed. OCaml has lots of nice features (pattern matching, functors, ...) that make solving certain problems more fun.

C: What are you most excited about in OCaml 5?

Z: Other than being able to use multiple cores, I am very excited about Effects (and eventually typed effects). It is an entirely new paradigm for writing applications with a lot of research behind it. To have a usable effects system in a general-purpose language like OCaml is a huge accomplishment!

Zach emphasises the importance of expanding your horizons as a programmer, learning new languages to give you fresh perspectives and insights. Perhaps especially when learning a language like OCaml. Like the esteemed Alan Perlis said, "A language that doesn't affect the way you think about programming is not worth knowing."

Zach also studied photography and digital media in college. He took the pictures at the top of this post and said he "typically picks photos like this to have some nature to look at on programming websites."

Read Jules Aguillon's interview from 27 December 2022 to learn about his journey to OCaml. Next week, look for our final Engineer Spotlight interview with Sudha Parimala, as well as a post from her on the Benchmarking Game.

Feel like learning OCaml? Get started with the tutorials and the Real World OCaml book. Learn more about effects and other things OCaml 5 has to offer? Watch KC Sivaramamakrishnan keynote and check out the speaker deck for his talk as well.

Contact Tarides to see how OCaml can benefit your business and/or for support while learning OCaml. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to ensure you never miss a post, and join the OCaml discussion on Discuss!