I was chatting with a colleague the other day and the conversation turned to discussing how I came to be a developer. I gave him an abbreviated version of the story and he remarked that it was an interesting one, so I thought it might be worth sharing on my blog. It's been a bit of a roundabout path to end up where I am today, but I'm grateful for the experiences I've had along the way.
With my dad's help, I built my first website in the third or fourth grade. I don't remember much about for it except that it was on Geocities and had an entire page dedicated to Space Jam. I'm fairly certain there were some
marquee tags involved. My parents have always encouraged me in my pursuit of technology and they deserve a great deal of credit for where I am today. I built a few other hobby sites throughout middle school and high school for school projects, my "photography," and similar things. Looking back, it seems like this is where I was destined to end up, but I didn't realize it at the time.
After graduating high school, I worked a couple of retail jobs: Selling video games and then selling phones next door. I fiddled with code a little but - mostly writing scripts for automating MUDs - but most of the time I just worked and tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I tried going to college a few times, but never stayed for longer than a semester. There was something else calling me, but I didn't know what.
One summer day in 2007, bored out of my mind on a particularly slow day at the Sprint store, it struck me: I should join the Army. I did a little research and then went down to the recruiter's office. It was a pretty surprising decision for everyone involved - I've never been someone who you would picture heading off to join the military. Next thing I knew, I was shipping off to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to go through basic training and then train as a 13F: A forward observer, the guy with the radio who calls in artillery strikes. I did very well in training (distinguished honor graduate of my AIT - advanced individual training - class) and I thought I had found my calling.
I arrived at my duty station, Fort Carson, Colorado, in early 2008. I was both eager and nervous to go out into the "real Army." After spending time with some of the greatest individuals I've had the pleasure of knowing, I was certain I had found my calling. Unfortunately, fate had other plans: In April of that same year, I broke my hip during a training exercise. That was followed by a long period of uncertainty where I tried and failed to heal which ultimately ended with me being medically discharged in September 2009, almost exactly two years - to the day - from the day I had shipped off to Fort Sill. During the medical discharge process, my unit deployed to Afghanistan without me and I sunk into a deep depression. What followed was a little over a year where I didn't really do much of anything. I knew I needed to find work, but my entire future had just been ripped right out from underneath me.
At some point during that depressed daze, I decided I wanted to get into network security. I had no experience, but I knew I loved technology and wanted to work with it. Unfortunately, my desire and my (lack of) experience were in direct conflict with each other. I finally realized I needed to get my foot in the door somewhere, to do something with technology, no matter what. Nine months after my discharge, I moved back to California and accepted a job at a small print shop turned web design agency named Highpoint. My position was a combination of customer service and quality assurance testing. It was not a bad place to work, but there were a lot of inefficiencies that were still in place from the print shop days. I can deal with a lot of annoyances but inefficiency frustrates me beyond belief, so I set out to automate some of these painful manual processes. I didn't have any grand plan at the time - I just wanted to make my job a little easier.
Luckily, Michael - the owner - saw something in me that I hadn't been paying attention to. After six months, he moved me from my customer service/QA position into a development position and I started working full time on our ColdFusion codebase. I soon rediscovered the enjoyment I had felt building websites all those years ago and knew that this was the path I wanted to continue down.
The rest of the story can be found on my resume and isn't particularly interesting: I worked on full stack applications in insurance for about five years before deciding I wanted to focus on frontend development. After making that decision, I found my current job at DroneDeploy, where I am enjoying myself very much.
I think I've found my calling (again) and I hope I'm able to continue working in software for a long time.