“What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you asked me in 2004, I would tell you that I wanted to be a web developer. Unlike most kids, I found my lifelong passion at 11 years old.
Neopets — Age 11
My love for programming stems from a frustration I had using Free Website Builders. At the time, I was the leader of my Neopets guild, Grey Faerie Lair — our group had daily contests, giveaways, daily discussions, and game tips. Within 6 months, Grey Faerie Lair grew from 30 members to over 400 — an unbelievable accomplishment for 11-year-old me.
A guild member suggested I create a website to host all the guild information instead of using the Neopets interface and suggested I use a free website builder like Angelfire, Geocities, or Freewebs. I can’t tell you how long I spent on each site trying to customize my designs. I was an avid Paint Shop Pro user and refused to give up my custom layouts for convenience. That summer, I bought my first HTML FOR DUMMIES book and created my first website from scratch — flashing buttons, tables, marquees, and image mapping galore. When I was done, I presented it to the guild (now with 600 members) and they adored it. At that moment, I knew I wanted to keep doing this for the rest of my life.
Xanga & Myspace — Age 12–14
After a while, it wasn’t “cool” to be on Neopets anymore. I handed over the guild to my vice-president and decided to move on to Xanga and Myspace. During the summer of 2004, I joined a community that solidified my love for design and development: Createblog.com. There were so many talented and experienced people on that platform that would upload Xanga/Myspace layouts and release Paint Shop Pro/Photoshop tutorials. I wanted to be just like them. I remember posing as a 19-year-old on that site so people would order layouts and graphics from me; I mean, who would send money to a little girl? I offered my services very cheaply which, in hindsight, is probably why I made so much business. After my 50th sale, I decided to create my first “venture” — s0freshlayouts. I got to run this “business” by creating custom layouts, banners, and Myspace scripts (hide top 8, add custom playlists, etc) eventually totaling ~$3000 over the course of 2 years.
A Great Teacher — Age 15–18
The summer before sophomore year of high school, one of my best friends suggested I should take Computer Science with him as an elective track. I can’t remember what compelled me to say yes, but I started to fall in love with programming as an art; not for aesthetic. My teacher, Mr. Gary Glebas, actually made tricky concepts (binary trees, encapsulation, algorithms, i/o) digestible and easy to remember — especially since we were programming in C++
Mr. Glebas, if you ever read this, thank you for everything. I couldn’t have done this without you.
The rest is history. I followed the standard path after high school: go to college, get a job.
I’ve been in love with programming since I was a child, and I don’t plan to ever stop. My advice? Work hard. Put in the hours. Do what you love and the rest will follow.