Well, I’m glad you asked! I like to think that my story is a little unique as far as software engineers go, so I’m not too shy in sharing it. I think it shows that people in this profession come from all walks of life, and the potential to be an engineer exists in everybody.
I grew up in a very small town in rural Iowa. When I say small I mean small. My high school graduating class had 26 people in it, my home town had 151 people in the 1990 US Census. The nearest grocery store was 20 miles away, the nearest department store was a K-Mart and was also 20 miles away.
When I was growing up, I showed interest at a young age in “making stuff” and finding out “how things work”. My parents bought our first computer, a 286sx/12mhz for over $4000 from my grandfather, who at the time was a Zenith repair man and would repair old TVs, arcade games, etc. He was a chemistry teacher and also had a degree as a “transistor specialist” so he knew how things worked as well. At the age of 8, my grandpa taught me how to write “batch files” in MS-DOS. For those that don’t know what these are, they’re basically a file that simply gives the computer a list of commands to run all in one shot. Think “macro.”
What appeals to me about programming? The idea of solving a problem. That’s what engineering is. It’s creativity, application, and results all in one fell swoop – I find it incredibly rewarding. I find challenges the spice of my life, hell I’ve quit jobs because they weren’t challenging enough. In programming, I pride myself in writing code that “makes sense.” A lot of people can write code, a few people can write good code, but I don’t feel there are too many people who can write good code that somebody else can understand without a lot of hand-holding. That’s what I try to do.
Today I work as a Principal Mobile Architect for Microsoft Platforms at a large financial corporation. Prior to this I was a Sr. Software Engineer and then a Mobile Application Architect for a startup in Mendota Heights, MN. When I graduated college I worked for Lockheed Martin in Washington, DC on the 2006 Canadian Census and Research & Development on our very own 2010 US Census. After that I moved to a small web development shop in Madison, WI where I developed websites for the likes of Rocafella Records and Pacific Cycle. I then had my longest stint as a software engineer at Starkey Hearing Technologies where I moved from Sr. Software Engineer to Sr. Software Systems Engineer. It was during my time at Starkey that I became intrigued with mobile applications and began developing them on my own time outside of work. Since then I have created and had 5 mobile apps published on the Windows Phone store, and netted over $1000 in cash & prizes for my efforts. So, naturally, a full-time position creating mobile applications piqued my interest rather quickly and so here I am!
When I’m not chasing around my 3 boys or spending time with my wife, I do still enjoy cracking open Microsoft Visual Studio and trying to realize one of the many app ideas I have sitting in OneNote. :)