"What three events brought you here?"
lied told stories about this in the past. If you've read my previous posts about my career (in particular, this one), you'll know that I'm Canadian, gave up NHL dreams early, took Economics in College, started earning a living with computers in desktop publishing and later web design, and soon after graduating moved to Rhode Island (where I still live to this day). It will be tough to pick out three solitary events along that timeline that dictate who I am and what I'm doing now, but I'll try.
My first real computer
In college, I overpaid (and I mean really overpaid) for a used 486 from a "friend" who I thought was giving me a good deal. Mind you this was before Dell and Gateway, and before online stores, when you could only buy computers directly from the local computer nerds or Radio Shack. It was a pretty crappy computer, even at the time. Still, it really sparked my enthusiasm for using a computer for good, and not for evil; to stop doodling silly Don Martin faces on paper, and start doing it "for real" (albeit digitally) in Photoshop. The turning point in my career was when I realized I could get ahead in school not by getting smarter, but by making things look better: in a lot of cases, it's all about presentation. The computer seemed to me to be an easy way to bypass all the hard work, and get by on (mostly) looks alone. Now in my current position, my peers and managers can see through all that kind of fluff, so it doesn't fly anymore… they want substance, and can tell when they aren't getting it. But as a kick-starter to how I became marginally tech-savvy, it certainly got me on my way.
The dawn of the Internet
Do you remember Geocities? I do! I built my first homepage there. It was predictably ugly with a grey background, blue underlined links and a literal puke pile of animated Simpsons logos – I believe there was background sound as well. (I know this paraphrase came way later, but imagine a web page saying to you, "Hey Marge, did you know they have the Internet on computers now?") This in itself wasn't the event… but my amazement with the ability to instantly communicate with people all over the world, even if I was bragging about something as meaningless as my latest Tetris scores, was the start of something huge. I jumped from normal desktop publishing to web design and eventually, as my previous recounts detail, this landed me a job here in Rhode Island.
My first professional database
One of the first projects I worked on when I moved down here was an e-commerce site for a condom company (Global Protection Corp. who, it looks like, hasn't updated their web site since 2003). We did all of the scans and photographs for the product gallery, so we received boxes and boxes of this stuff. (Sadly, much of the free product went unused, but it was fun nonetheless.) Anyway, free lubes and condoms didn't have any direct impact on my career, but that first taste of data modeling certainly did – I still remember thinking I had "graduated from spreadsheets," and can still feel the sense of accomplishment when the web site was taking orders successfully and not falling over in the process.
I'm going to be nice, and not tag anybody. This meme has already made the rounds and I think I'd have a hard time finding anyone who hasn't already been tagged anyway.