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I've become what I wasn't supposed to be (medium.com)
82 points by zinssmeister 990 days ago | 19 comments

I started as a painter working for my father at 16. Sometimes I would take a second job as a line cook as well. I loved computers since my first one (Atari 400) but I never thought anyone would ever pay me to work with them. At 27 I couldn't take sandblasting fuel tanks and flipping burgers anymore.

I took a job as a data entry clerk for $6.50 an hour, worked my way up from there while teaching myself to program (after ten years I only now feel comfortable in my ability). I just finally finished a CS degree at 40. I see so many people here accomplishing so much at so young an age. Please don't take your skills and passion for granted.


I was on a path to becoming a professional golfer. I was a highly recruited player coming out of high school, and had full-ride scholarship offers from several schools.

Went to college, majored in accounting & finance. And played golf -- lots of it. Played in national championships, competed abroad, surrounded by coaches who fine-tuned my swing and improved my game. Played with many guys who have been on the PGA tour at different points. I was on a path to the tour, as well.

But it was unfulfilling, and I fell out of love with the sport. I took a job in finance and investing at a small bank in 1991. Working my way up from the bottom, I discovered a knack for technology by automating processes that had been done by hand for years.

Never looked back.


I started out at University studying astronautical engineering.

4 universities and 3 career changes later, I'm a relatively happy code monkey. (are code monkies every totally happy?)

Things change. I'd say it's the very rare individual who gets through life on Plan A (or Plan B for that matter)


I'm a relatively happy codemonkey. I would have been happier as a carpenter, but we gotta play with the hand we've been dealt until opportunity knocks (and that may be plan E or F). I'm in the process of weaning myself away from the codemonkey and back to carpenter (soon cabin builder, hopefully).

Life is funny sometimes.


I started in construction as a steel worker. One life altering injury later I retrained as a code monkey. Much happier, wish I did it first, I always was interested in computers.


What can I say... grass is always greener eh?

It sucks that you were injured, but maybe -- and hopefully -- it's added to your life experience in a positive way. For better or for worse, you are who you are because of your experiences. Good and bad.


My father was a welder/pipefitter. He made it very clear that I needed to go to college and I wasn't supposed to follow him into the construction trades.

"If I ever see you with a welding rod in your hand, I will break your arm".


It's probably not gonna happen this way, but my vision of the future is one where, after just about every career is automated, people take to their hobbies. However, there's a poem by Robert Frost that really makes me wonder why we don't just take to our hobbies now: http://www.etymonline.com/poems/tramps.htm

Here's hoping you manage to unite your vocation and avocation.


Not going to happen. Clashes with one of the few things that are part of human nature - and the nature of any other known "intelligent" algorithm.

If a human -or any of the various intelligent algorithms- doesn't HAVE to do something, it won't do anything at all. It may take a while, but it will happen.

The weird part is, I've seen this process in action. I mean in code it's easy to see it in action. It's very sad to see it in action on a real person. But in university this is what happens to a few mates of me who are rich, but not extremely rich. They were rejected for academic positions, but they really wanted to. One was accepted for a while before he got rejected. They didn't have to work, and still wanted to do research - not the same research the institution was doing, they were working on their own ideas. They started, and they hit problems, as everyone does, really. But nothing was forcing them to advance, and they simply slowed down and dug into a few problems, not really considering narrowing scope or changing direction. And they slowed down until they did nothing -absolutely nothing- anymore. I mean literally wake, eat, watch some tv, take a long nap, some more tv, go to bed, months on end.

That's what drives me to this prediction : if we ever get to the point where most humans aren't forced to do work, we will die - the entire species - in a few decades.


Career plan by age:

* <8: Astro|Cosmonaut (then I realised I wouldn't get in coz of health issues)

* 8-14: Physicist/Engineer (Science! It rocks! But the family got a computer when I was 12 and - shit - this programming crap is fun..)

* 14-19: Programmer (Wrote code that other people used. Wrote code that other people bought. This stuff is still fun, but went to university at 18 - first one in my family to be able to so...)

* 19--25: Academia (Shit - universities are fun. Full of smart, driven folk. Graduated at 21 and hung around as an employee while I figured out what I'd do my PhD in...Started digging into cog psych & HCI stuff as well as development. Then I figured out that I wasn't actually driven enough to focus on one subject for 3 years... and that the UK academic arena was falling into a mess of short term contract driven work... and my contract came to an end.. so... off to industry)

* 25--29; CTO (Not that anybody called it CTO in those days. Joined one startup which crashed and burned. Second one didn't. Went from first "techie" employee to technical director in about four years. Then I was actually bright enough to realise I didn't really like / was-any-good-at managing people and that I didn't enjoy my job. So without waiting for shares to vest (still not sure whether this was a smart or a dumb move...) left to...)

* 29-34: Consultant (Started own company. Had some great clients. Did some good work. Got better at managing people. Had some bad clients. Made some dumb decisions. Crashed and burned with a stack of personal debt. [hire accountants folk - they're worth their money].. which in one of those joyful acts of fate butted up against...)

* 34-36 Carer (Family member became terminally ill and needed 24/7 care, so we kept him at home and out of hospice as long as possible)

* 36-40 Senior Dev/UX person (Back to being an employee again. One agency. Two startups. Debt killing time. Started deliberately raising my profile with speaking, community involvement, writing, etc. coz I knew I wanted to get back to...)

* 40--now Co-founder (Started company again. Making fewer and more interesting mistakes sprinkled among the odd smart decision. Bootstrapping some product ideas that we're funding with consulting work. Generally enjoying stuff...)

Next - who knows ;-)

(NOTE; If anybody still wants to let a fat 43 year old with no binocular depth perception and subject to migraines & misc. other nonsense be an astro|cosmonaut - please let me know ;-)


I have a PhD in Physics. 8 university years to eventually discover that I am not that interested in research for a living (and not that good at it), even though my speciality was great (Astrophysics). Ten years later, I'm a senior programmer with very interesting things to build, and passion doesn't fade.

I don't regret having done all that Physics (it was freaking Astrophysics, dude!), but I know I would have been miserable after a while, not doing what I was really good at.


How did that happen? (similar situation, earlier in the game)


I want to make video games so bad that I eventually learned programming. Programming is fun, but it's nothing like the passion that motivate people to stay up all night and day and code until they drop.

However, my ability to program is the only thing that I am good at and had earned me money so far. Plus, I like it, even if I can't do 16 hours coding marathon.


wanting to make my own video games was probably a big motivator for me as well.


I still remember how much did I ask for a computer until I finally get one at the age of 12, a 8086 IBM PS2!


I started coding in grade 9, but I went to university for medical science, got good grades, did some research, and intended to go to medical school. But, the closer I got to graduation, more and more I started to realize there was no way I was ever going back to school--I just wanted to code and make things. No regrets.


I like the picture. Anyone know what town that is? I wonder if all those trees are private land or state forest. I think everyone should have a picture of themselves looking at the town they grew up in, especially if the town has a picturesque view!


Thanks for that. I'm still working in a "dotcom". Soon, I hope to be working with the likes of you. Could you go a little more into your transition from match.com to yc-startup, the sacrifices and challenges along your way?


that might make another blog post. Or if you have any specific questions, you can email me any time.


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