The first time a teacher ever told me that I stood out among my peers at school, I was not told that I would make a good programmer. I wasn’t even in Math or Science class, the classes most often associated with computers and programming.
Instead, I was in English class. After reading aloud a creative story I had written to the rest of the class, my teacher told me that I would make a good writer. I took the advice to heart—maybe even more than I should have—and was bent on becoming a fantasy novelist for all of my teenage years.
At the time, it seemed like the right course for my life. I loved reading fantasy novels, so much so that my copies of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings would fall apart in my backpack. I read so much that the rules of spelling and grammar were burned into my brain, helping me to win the Spelling Bee in sixth grade.
But I made a mistake in taking the teachers’ advice too literally. I thought one offhand compliment had dictated my destiny, and that since I was good at writing, it was what I should do for the rest of my life. So I kept on writing stories even though they never really fulfilled me, went to college as an undeclared freshman because I was filled with doubt, and hopped between about a dozen different jobs trying to figure out who I was (I’ve been a cashier at Toys R Us, 7-Eleven, and Target; a salesman for Comcast; a taekwondo instructor at ATA Family Martial Arts; a delivery driver at Silver Mine Subs; a grill cook at Qdoba; a dough cook, pizza line cook, and host at Old Chicago; an opinion columnist at The Rocky Mountain Collegian; a sales associate and assistant manager at Simply Mac, the Apple retailer; and a sales associate at T-Mobile during my time in the workforce).
With every passing year, I struggled harder and harder to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. The pieces were all there: my talent in writing was not a sign that I was creative, but instead evidence that I had a mind for rules and structure that others didn’t (given my obsession with organizing books and movies alphabetically and chronologically as a kid, this came as no surprise to anyone who knows me but me). I loved electronics, particularly those made by companies that focused more on quality than quantity, from a young age—first with my Nintendo consoles, then my first Apple product (an iPod Mini), and nowadays my MacBook, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch. I had known for years that whatever career I might have, I wanted to make a positive impact on the world, and that the intangible impact of entertainment or the minor impact of a job as a sales associate or a waiter would not satisfy me. And after watching my parents struggle with their finances and accruing a mountain of college debt myself upon graduating from Colorado State University with a Communications degree, I knew I would not settle for a job that left me struggling to pay my bills each month.
I wanted a job that combined all of these elements. I considered every path imaginable—and time and again, despite my doubts about the daunting task of learning to be a software engineer, I kept coming back to the world of programming.
Now it's time to move forward.