When I talk to young people entering college or considering their future career, I’m inevitably asked why I picked computer science. This is why:
In my sophomore year at UMBC, I was changing my major from music (piano) to math and, on a lark, took Fortran. Even though I flunked it, programming intrigued me. So, the following semester, I interned at NSA in their cryptography group breaking codes. A couple semesters later, I interned at GE developing networking firmware.
It was at GE where the internship manager asked me what I would do with my music and computers. I told him, “I’ll make the computer sing.” I didn’t fully realize it then but within a few months, I began to see the computer as a malleable but powerful tool capable of doing almost anything. I built operating systems, data transmission protocols, language compilers, I/O firmware and enjoyed every minute of it.
It was fun- lots of fun. But, was that proper criteria for a career?
To find out, I went to two guys at NSA and four at GE who were the best at their jobs. They were always excited about their work. They came a little earlier and stayed a little later. They really enjoyed their jobs.
I asked each one, “Why? Why do you do computers?”. Each person responded the same way, “I like to play and computers are the most expensive toys I can play with.”
I knew I found my calling.
Thirty-five years later, I’m still playing.
Published Feb 25, 2019