If you had told me that I would eventually become a computer programmer (and that I would love it) when I was 14, I would have thought you were nuts.
I've always liked and used computers. My parents' had an Apple Classic when I was a toddler, so I can't remember a time we didn't have a computer in the house. When I was in first grade, I remember bringing in the manual for SimEarth when we were told to bring our favorite book in. The picture for this post is from SimEarth, but our computer wasn't fancy enough to have the color version. I've been a computer geek for a very long time.
However, around the time I was a teenager, I decided I was totally frustrated by computers and that I was pretty sure I would hate programming them. I was used to having an old computer that would slow down and crash and hang up and so on, and it would drive me nuts. What I didn't know at the time was that the mindset to solve IT-type problems is very different from the mindset to solve programming problems. Often IT problems are black-box problems, which I still don't enjoy solving.
In college, I started doing programming for use in data analysis. My first introduction to programming was actually using Mathematica where I discovered a for-loop and was pretty amazed that I could print out some digits and have the even numbers move to the right a few spaces. Not all that cool, I know, but it was a start.
My coursework and work study eventually brought more programming into my life. I took a class on digital art where we played with Processing, a computational physics class where I learned FORTRAN, and computer models of ecology class in which we used R. I worked in three different physics labs during my undergraduate career, and the first user interface I designed was in MatLab for a medical physics lab.
In my senior year in college I decided that I did not want to continue on for a PhD in physics. Instead, I decided I would follow my then boyfriend (now husband) to DC. I graduated in 2009, and being at the height of the great recession, finding a job was very difficult. I applied to at least 60 jobs and got no interviews. Finally, I found a job posting on Craigslist looking for a WPF programmer to work at a museum exhibit design firm. I decided that was my dream job, even though I had no idea what WPF even stood for. I cold-called the company (Quatrefoil Associates), and the woman I talked to convinced them to interview me! The interview went well and they hired me on a trial basis. I passed the trial with flying colors, and I have been working in the same field ever since!