readerjane: Book Cat (Default)
[personal profile] readerjane
[personal profile] ejcaldera also asked, "What put you on the path to working with computers for a living?"

Short answer: because I am a Jedi like my father before me. :-D

Long answer: When I started college, I was an undecided major. Nowadays this seems like foolishness. Why invest all that money in a bachelor's degree if you don't even know what you're going to do with it? But in the time/place I grew up, what you did after high school was college. I figured, I'd take the required General Ed courses, and figure it out from there.

I started out thinking I might major in foreign languages, since I'd done well with that in high school. But when I added German to the French I'd already studied, it seemed overwhelming. Three genders for nouns, really??

My college was just starting to offer computer science courses. They didn't have enough of a curriculum yet to offer a full CS major. What I actually graduated with was a half & half CS and Math degree. I'd had a bad experience with a Basic class in high school (teacher was reading the textbook two chapters ahead of us; I missed a week of school and when I came back he'd erased all the floppy disks for the class, including my work toward my final project; he blamed me). So I didn't expect to be thrilled with the college class, but it seemed like a practical skill in a world where computing was a growing thing.

My prof, Doc, was wonderful. He made it make sense. He made it fun. There was this beauty in telling a machine what to do: a complicated machine designed by people who thought in strange ways that had their own internal logic but made little sense to the outside world. It was like learning to speak to an alien. An alien that got offended if you left out the tiniest little semicolon, but that, if you coaxed it the right way, would move mountains for you.

Doc was the only computer science teacher on the faculty that year. So by default, once I'd declared my major, he was my advisor. By the time I graduated there were several CS profs, but Doc taught the majority of my classes. When I brought my major-declaration form to Doc for his signature, I mentioned that I'd thought I was going to major in foreign languages. He smiled and replied, "This is languages."

When I graduated, it turned out that half a computer science major wasn't enough to make me eligible for many CS jobs, especially when my brand-new husband still had a year of undergrad studies to go and we had no idea what part of the country he'd be attending grad school in. I wound up taking a long detour through customer service and the Mommy Track.

But when my boss needed an orphaned database expanded, I had the skills and the ability to teach myself more, thanks to Doc. That boss got promoted, and as his area of responsibility grew, so did his need for tracking & reporting.

I didn't set out to follow my Dad's footsteps. He worked for the alumni association of the college he and I both attended, building mailing lists. If the football team wanted to contact all their alumni, they went to him for the mailing labels. His work was manual at first. Dad learned SQL only near the end of his career, when electronic tools were first appearing on the scene.

But the service I perform is very like his in kind. Who are the constituents who meet these parameters? How many of this kind are there, and what percent are A vs B? Make it make sense for us. Give us the input that will let us decide X, let us accomplish Y.

It's a good calling to have.

Date: 2014-01-07 02:55 pm (UTC)
quinara: Sheep on a hillside with a smiley face. (Default)
From: [personal profile] quinara
I always say that in a parallel universe there's a me who did Computer Science instead of Classics (or more likely Maths->CompSci) - and now I just live with one and prat around with Javascript! But computers are such beautiful things, even when they're incredibly frustrating. You know they have absolutely no sympathy for you or what you're trying to achieve, so when they actually do what you want it really is an affirmation that you've managed to express an idea in a foreign language.

The only side I think I never would have had much truck with is the laddish how-much-can-you-get-in-one-line side of things. Conciseness is of course a virtue, but I've known mathematicians and computer scientists who've taken it way too far... Do you ever encounter that in your area?

Date: 2014-01-07 06:13 pm (UTC)
ejcaldera: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ejcaldera
LOL on three genders for nouns (says the German minor). I often wondered whoever decided that certain inanimate objects were feminine or masculine.

Thanks for the answer to my question. I always find it interesting to learn how people got to where they are now.

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