Years ago I was browsing computers at Best Buy (back when people actually went to stores to shop for such things) and a young salesman inquired about my experience with computers. When I indicated that I wrote software for a living, he was shocked. "But you look so normal!" he exclaimed. Few people are willing to be so blunt, but I often get a doubtful look when I disclose my chosen career path. Today software engineers are less stereotyped, but I expect that I still don't fit even the more relaxed stereotypes. Although having an Indian surname probably helps somewhat. ;)
I grew up when computer science was in its infancy. It wasn't "cool" to be a computer scientist in 1988 but that's the career path I chose, anyway. I couldn't know when I was programming on my TRS-80 in my parents' house that one day I'd have a career as a web developer because the internet hadn't even been invented yet. Being a computer programmer during the rise of the nascent internet was exciting. Each day it seemed there was some new invention that made us engineers gasp at its novelty. I was fortunate to have been born at the right time to watch technology from inside the industry as it grew from something only geeks did in their basements to the ubiquitous presence it is today.
My career in software engineering spans many technologies, platforms, and philosophies but what still captivates my attention about my work is the precision of analysis coupled with the beauty of creativity and excitement of innovation. The field is vast and one need not be stereotypical to enjoy the challenge and pride that being a software engineer brings.
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Some photos courtesy of Paul Cress