Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Me

Today marks 10 years since I got my first real job in technology, so I thought I'd share how I ended up where I did.

Once upon a time, I was a high school student and I wanted to grow up to have a well-respected, dependable, well-paying job. So, I started at university on the pre-med track.

I pretty much hated it. But I'm not a quitter, so I only admitted that I wanted a change once I was 3 years into my degree, when I'd completed all of my pre-med requirements.

So, I was ready to switch to something else. But I had no idea what. What was I good at? I wasn't really sure. Maybe I'd try writing.

As luck would have it, a nearby medical technology company was looking for a technical writing intern.

Being a technical writing intern meant helping write user manuals. I didn't like that much. Among other things, it wasn't much fun because you spent a long time laying things out in a desktop publishing program, not really quite exactly sure how they would look in the finished product. You had to wait for every single page of the manual to be done, send things to the print shop, wait a while, and only then finally get to see the real deal.

But the other thing going on at that medical technology company, back in 1997, was that they were starting to provide online access to those user manuals on their website. And that duty fell to the tech writers.

So my boss sat me down with a Laura Lemay book and told me to learn HTML.

And I was amazed. I'd seen all sorts of totally awesome stuff on the World Wide Web. I had no idea it was this incredibly easy to make that stuff.

And quick, too. You could write your HTML and put it up where the whole world could see it immediately—none of that waiting for your manuscript to get printed and distributed.

...

Well, it's getting late, and I realize I don't have time right now to bore everyone with my life's story over the 2 years between when I first discovered HTML and when I graduated from university and got my first job as a Production Assistant, a.k.a. HTML-writer.

Or about how I went from writing HTML to coding in ASP 2.0, to coding in VB6, to coding in .NET C#.

But one of the ironies I reflect on occasionally, is how one of my initial attractions to the web was instant publishing.

And how these days, the projects I work on often take months to go from idea to being live.

Just like those user manuals I wanted to escape back in 1997.

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