My life has changed rapidly.
In 2005, you could find me changing the code on my MySpace page. I don’t think I had any clue I was dealing with ‘code’, and I certainly had no concept of it as a career. It was just something I did, and something my friends had me do cause I could figure it out.
In 2014 and 2015, you could find me idly doing CodeAcademy from my mobile phone to relax at night, never seriously thinking I would be a programmer two years later. (Why’d they scrap mobile??? Miss that.)
My career for a long time was as a technical recruiter. My claim to fame was being particularly adept at complex Boolean searches to find rare certifications and DoD Security Clearance combinations. In my first month doing this kind of work, I hired a guy for a job that had previously been open 6 months with no success filling it.
It is ironic in a couple of ways. Firstly, because as a programmer I would spend similar amounts of time querying databases, just without the dumbed-down GUI job boards offer up for recruiters to use. Second, because although I worked with technical professionals all day long I somehow never made the connection that my querying aptitude was anything significant.
In 2015, my father died after being ill for five years. I was devastated. My devastation manifested in really inconvenient ways as a tech recruiter. I couldn’t talk to people anymore for a living. A large part of being a public facing portion of a company is that you have to be upbeat, patient, energetic….as you can imagine, that is extremely challenging for someone just dealt a personal blow.
My dad’s death and life inspired me. He was a gifted guitarist and painter, and had an English degree. He was an engineer by profession. He raised me to draw in charcoal, and also took me up in a bucket truck at age 7 in his Bell Atlantic attire. (Predecessor to the Verizon behemoth.) When I was 20 or so he also let me shadow him re-doing failed electrical wiring – he was Renaissance in that way, and I guess I am now too Renaissance. As a kid, I was never steered towards math or arts more pervasively. My dad had ultimate faith that I could do whatever I wanted, and it stuck.
I thought after his death, why can’t I be the way I always was as my dad’s kid, having an artsy side and an engineering side? I had all this interest lying there latently, and somehow in dealing with my dad passing it became more important. It is terribly cliche, but when someone passes you start to question whether you are doing something important with your life. And in 2016, with the economy fairly healthy, I didn’t feel as if I was doing people any great service recruiting. The jobs were for the picking by jobseekers, and I just felt neutral about the impact of the work I was doing.
I still find CS degrees appealing and will probably get one eventually, but after my dad passed the feeling to switch careers immediately totally drove me. It had to happen right away. I became obsessive, in fact. I looked at in demand certifications and none seemed like they’d bridge the gap to get me into tech. So I discovered bootcamps.
I narrowly picked programming over Cybersecurity or network specialized training, and I find them all interesting still. I realize now though, that programming was the right choice for me hands down. So here is the meat of it — what will make or break you as a programmer:
- Problem solving junkie. Check.
- Google nerd *EYYO BOOLEAN GEEK* Check.
- Endless curiosity
- You don’t need to know a certain language. You need to know, that a little like mathematical concepts, all things mainly stay the same but just get more complicated as you get better
- You will feel miserable and dumb, and wonderful and brilliant, every day. Maybe back and forth multiple times in that day. (Recruiting prepped me for this.)
They told me from within the bootcamp very emphatically that is ISN’T THE LANGUAGES YOU KNOW THAT GET YOU A JOB. And indeed, my job at a nonprofit uses little of what I originally knew. We use this library called Knockout.js for data binding, the code base is C#, and I also completely left mac development and had to get used to the ugly GUI Windows insists on giving you for EVERYTHING. ON. EARTH. I also spent about half my day in the database, which was a surprise.
I collect weird errors like trophees nowadays. I am equal parts proud and mortified when my machine does something spectacularly weird. I can rehash weird errors like a president in their inauguration rehashing campaign issues. I literally have a book of weird shit that has happened to me, like a scrapbook. For dumb technical goofy nonsense.
All I can say about this, is the change wasn’t easy for me. But I had unwavering faith that this was something I needed to do. For me, programming is a form of mindfulness. It is like running for people who are into that, wish I was among them lol. I dealt mostly without complaint with being a spectacularly idiotic programmer in my infancy, and now I look back and laugh. You have to suck to get any better, and I am okay with that.
To bring this back to my dad and the insane faith in me, I think I said that he never pushed me towards art vs math one way or another even though he was an engineer. What I’ve learned is that the idea of being only artsy or only math-ey an the two being parallel planes that never shall meet, is wrong. Just the same as it is wrong when people assume all of the most brilliant developers have extremely poor social skills.
To this point, what about cooking? Tenderizing meat or cooking heats are very scientific. But in the best restaurants it is an art form. Subjects like cooking, or programming, are the reason I think that anything done with enough precision can be a science, and anything done with enough passion can be an art
Lets think about that for a moment. I don’t think I am so brilliant for coming up with this way of saying it, but I also don’t think it is said enough in those terms. So, yeah. I’m an artist, I’m a scientist of sorts, I am a goofball, and I am my dad’s kid, a programmmer.