You can make a computer do fascinating
things for you – and coding is the secret language. Rod Cope wrote
the first version of OSSDiscovery on vacation. At the time I laughed
and asked if his wife was still speaking to him. But I understood.
When you have an idea, and the ability to make it real, coding is
addictive. A few months ago, I decided to see what Ruby was all
about. It quickly became clear that I’m not good at part time coding.
My family heard a lot of, “just a minute, I just have to do this
one thing …”
I first got to use a computer in 3rd
grade. My school got an Apple IIe and I fell in love with it
immediately. I wanted one. I begged and pleaded and I finally got one
– and then we left it behind when we moved to Spain. So I bought a
book on how to program basic and taught myself to program with pencil
and paper. Soon after that we bought an IBM clone and my mom and I got to
battle over who got to use the computer more. (I also learned you can
do lots of cool things to existing programs. The year we had a computer class in school I got in "trouble" a lot by disrupting the class making my computer play music, flash different text-based pictures, etc. I say "trouble" because I don’t think the teacher really minded as I was having fun with computers.) I quickly switched my
life goal from being a teacher for the blind and deaf or doing
something with math to computers. Computers not only let us do things
faster and easier, but they let us do things that aren’t even
possible without them.
At Rice University, I confirmed I’d made the
right choice. I loved my very first computer science class. Taught in
Scheme, it taught me a whole new way of thinking. I ended
up working in the computer science department, doing research during
the summer for my professor Matthias and being a lab assistant. I made lots of
friends in the lab, discovered the internet and eventually web
browsers (which I declared a waste of time – hey, I knew what I was
talking about!) I also discovered email and those rudimentary social
networking tools that we used to use – like fingering someone.
Through a couple of summer internships I decided that I did not want
to be a sys admin nor get a PhD – I wanted to code. I ended up
taking a job with Hewlett-Packard in Colorado in the Unix lab.
(Another one of my favorite classes was operating systems.) One of the main reasons I took the job was the people – they were all excited
about what they did, working at HP, and living in Colorado. My first
job was on the user interface team. From there I moved through
various different jobs until I ended up managing the desktop team. (I
like to joke that all good engineers get promoted … to mangement.)
And from there it’s history: I discovered open source.