Ken Youens-Clark - Music Major Turned Scientific Programmer #81


Ken Youens-Clark is a senior-level programmer with 24 years of experience developing software in industry and research environments (scientific programmer). He is the author of Tiny Python Projects published by Manning Publications.

Ken has deep knowledge of the entire software life-cycle experience, from design, execution, testing, release, and iteration. Ken is a creative thinker and innovator, constantly looking for ways to improve upon systems and interfaces. Ken enjoys mentoring younger developers through code reviews, book reviews, and teaching.

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A note from Grant

What do you get when you cross an aspiring musician with a degree in English? Why, a Sr. Scientific Programmer, of course.

Probably not what you expected to hear, but it is indeed the current role of Ken Youens-Clark who took that path and is our guest on today’s episode of Develomentor.

After getting that degree in English, Ken has worked as an Account Executive, an Engineer, a Consultant and a scientific programmer and manager for a variety of companies and labs like, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and his current employer, the University of Arizona.

In addition to all that, Ken has earned his Master’s in Biosystems Engineering and written the book Tiny Python Projects, published by Manning Publications.

-Grant Ingersoll


“I didn’t know I would be a programmer. And I didn’t understand what that would mean as a career, but playing with computers seemed interesting to me.”

“I’ve always dealt with a lot of imposter syndrome at every single level. You go into a place with pretty cool people who have CS degrees, some of whom were from MIT. These people were clearly better prepared for what we were doing, but I think I brought a different way of problem solving.”

“I didn’t really understand maybe how languages were put together, but I could still use them very effectively.”

“I’m not qualified on my own to go off and do research. But I can create the software that other people can use for that.”

“You need to learn how to write 1 or 2 lines of code and then run your program. You don’t write 50 lines of code and get your program to work.”

“Your own personal happiness should come first. That means at home too with your relationships and your health and your mental well being. All of these things need to be in line for you to grow in any sort of way whether it is professionally or personally.”

—Ken Youens-Clark

Key Milestones

  1. What inspired Ken to get into tech after starting off college studying music?
  2. How has being self taught in software helped/hurt Ken throughout his career
  3. Ken found his niche in tech as an academic programmer, how did this come to be?
  4. What are the key skills of a scientific programmer?
  5. While being employed, Ken got his masters degree in computer science. Why did he choose to do this when he was already successful?
  6. What is degree shaming?
  7. Ken loves teaching, what inspired him to want to help others learn programming?
  8. Ken wrote Tiny Python Projects with Manning Publications. Who is the audience and what is it about?

Additional Resources

The first five people who email the show at [email protected] will receive a code good for one free ebook copy of “Tiny Python Projects”.

For those who don’t want to send an email, you can get a 40% discount ON ALL Manning books, including “Tiny Python Projects” by using the discount code poddevmen20.

Click here to buy “Tiny Python Projects” by Manning Publications

Ken’s YouTube Channel -

Connect with Ken Youens-Clark

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