"but this time it's different..."
I can recall the awe:
"So you're saying...
if I just knew the right things to type,
I could build ...ANYTHING??
That with pure scribbles,
I'd build something very concrete
that would affect people?"
--kid me, before learning to code
Unreal. Pure magic. I could see it all right then & there from that cold TI-84 calculator, pinched in my tiny high-schooler palms: coding is a real-life superpower. Now I don't know whether you had to memorize the Quadratic Formula in Algerba II but I sensed something profound in the fact that I would never need to recall that cryptic equation from memory again. It had become
Years of "problems"
Years of "hard work" just evaporated
The thought of typing something into existence seemed pure alchemy. As children, we grasp for any sign that we are one-of-a-kind, that our story will be told like those before us that we've heard & read about, that we ourselves might be a protagonist.
Santa Claus was no longer real, but at last I'd found a crack in my own reality. Spiderman just went about his days like any other person until he unleashed that very first web. What castles in the sky would this superpower lift me to?
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" --Arthur C. Clarke
Let me just double-down on that transformative idea: coding made me realize that knowledge alone was enough. I always thought about achieving success in life as functions of other things like "blood, sweat, & tears" ...and while this isn't a shortcut, I came to see the pure value of knowledge work. How weird is that? Could it be possible to contribute great change in the world without even needing to be stronger, wealthier, or more attractive? I would imagine this parallel version of me, sitting in the same body but with immensely more knowledge who "just knew the right things to type".
It was like discovering the pencil all over again. I had a digital Pencil 2.0 that could not only draw anywhere, but summon living, breathing, self-sustaining ideas that would march out into the world. I felt like Walt Disney, getting to see his cartoonish drawings animate before him.
Before that spark, I'd always taken immense interest in math (for its elegance, its pure abstraction, & its platonic completeness), but this made that literacy worth pursuing. I forgot how much, as a child, I would insist that math was my first language. These floating tools for thought in my head now had an outlet in the real world. I didn't have to be a secluded academic of a mathemetician; I could use engineer change for the people around me.
TODO: cluster this background into a seperate essay
When I finished college,
I wasn't the average Computer Science student who just showed up to classes & took my tests. I did every single thing I could outside of the classroom to master my craft:
- participated at 30+ hackathons
- gave technical workshops
- kept up with trendiest technologies
- led inter-discplinary teams including artists & designers
- revived a dead club
- shipped 10+ products
I'd collaborated with skilled artists & designers, I'd coordinated teams, & I even worked at a big tech company (not once, but twice).
Personally, I didn't stumble out of college with a degree, but a formidable 3 years of product management experience (especially in rapid prototyping)
But I had enough: I had already climbed the mountain I came to climb
I didn't need to "start my career"
I was ready for the next chapter
When you run out of role models,
you need new blueprints
But where else to look?
- TODO: elaborate
I now had enough tools in my toolbelt, that technical competence was no longer holding me back. I wasn't the type to just sit down & cash in on those skills for the next decade. I wanted more. I wanted to understand "the Business™ side". I wanted to build companies of own so that I could employ all my friends & build the software we saw in the world
...but I had 1 nagging, existential question:
"even if I could build anything I wanted
I only had so many hours in a day"
...which began to domino:
"even if I had infinite time
even if I could manage larger teams [well]
what did that matter ...if I couldn't figure out which problems were most worth solving?"
I needed perspective
& from outside my domain of expertise
- TODO: elaborate
I've always loved software, but I'm big on communication: I want to relate to others outside software. I'm a craftsperson who loves to chat just as much with marketers & salespeople about their craft. My high school tagline was "always ready to pull back the curtain & study the clockwork." That still holds up.
I invested a few years to better understand "business" (I put it in air quotes because that's the keyword, this centralized pocket of mystery & illusions I used to file any non-technical concepts under). In other words, I invested a few years undercover in the other side of organizations where they only think about revenue, product marketing, partnerships, sales, investors, "distribution", etc.
But I never intended to leave my technical background behind. All technical skills have a half-life, and software is on the frontier, redefining "half-life". It's true that the half-life of technical knowledge is shortening, so I want to re-engage with the craft of software as long as I can keep up.
So I might be a little rusty,
but I'm back
& this time I know where we're headed