I’ve been coding half my life

A post from the archive I wrote when I was 28, about having then been a coder for half my life.

I’ve had a few things I’ve wanted to talk about this week, but haven’t found the time, busy as I’ve been with work, a slightly befuddling social life and of course my big project, But something dawned on me earlier in the week, while chatting aimlessly: I’ve been writing code since I was about 14, which means I’ve spent half my life at the keyboard, from VB6 and aSP, through C# and ASP.NET, to PHP and Python, WordPress and Django.

I fell in love with programming before I sat for my first GCSE IT lesson in nineteen-ninty-something, but had dabbled before, making .bat file quizzes and menu systems, fouling up my computer by dicking around in DOS, and trying to figure out if I could access CITV’s “web site” using a “mode M” that I was pretty sure my RM Nimbus 286 didn’t have. But when I think back, I was never a programmer; I never bought or hankered for books of code. I enjoyed the learning process that came about after breaking something, and I liked making applications like word processors do things they weren’t designed for.

I tinkered through junior and secondary school when my parents bought “the family” (although I had the monopoly) an x86 PC from Time that wasn’t powerful enough to run games with sound (true), then ended up with a Saturday job at a shop where my dad bought me (as this was the first machine that was mine ) a real live Pentium PC. I then went to work for that chap’s brother, doing stuff in Microsoft Access and then VB6. That takes us to about 2004, when I went to “do my own thing”, and become a freelance web developer, when there were not that many around. I left work in ‘05, and was back looking for work the following January. I secured that job after successfully building about 5 websites in my career.

That’s the odd thing. I’ve only been a professional web developer (not counting my misguided attempts to go freelance in 2005, or the odd site I built for my first desk job) for 5 years. Of course I’d built plenty of stuff before that - one of them being something called a “social network” back in 2003, called orbUK, but I’d always had an interest in content management systems, which is what got me the first job with “Web” in my title, in 2006.

Now I’m Technical Director of one of the Midlands’ most respected digital agencies, which means I’m either very lucky - which, outside factors considered I’m probably not - good enough at my job to keep my head above water, or more simply, I just haven’t been found out yet.

I’ve had a few milestone moments in what I laughingly call my career so far: my first Saturday job, my first real job with a longstanding - if rather unimaginative (sorry) - marketing agency, my work with Rhubarb which was a challenge, but one I don’t regret in the slightest, and my joining Substrakt in 2009, the first company I’d ever come to work for that I’d already heard of! But I’m only 28 - my willingness to combine that adverb with that number fluctuates daily - so there’s plenty more ahead.

And to the yawning chasm of the next 14 years I say “boo ya!”
Or words to that effect.

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