How I Chose My Career

coding

It’s the end of the year. Another batch of secondary school students will graduate soon.

Many of them will have a general idea of their career choice. Some will have several options. Some have no choice due to financial constraints. Some have no idea at all.

I don’t envy the position and choices they are faced with. The decision they make will cost their parents a lot of money and will influence the next few years of their lives.

How do you know which career is best for you? How do you choose a career after graduating? How can you find your industry? What are the best jobs?

Do you follow your heart, or follow the dollar sign?

I think about this fact and think back to my schooling days in SM Subang Utama.

I remember many friends who were not sure of their career choice. Some of them went for a matriculation or A-levels program (I suspect) just following the crowd.

The Christmas Present

I was about twelve years old. Uncle Johnny gave me a BASIC programming book as a Christmas present. On the cover was a robot on skis going down a snowy slope.

The book was about 80-100 pages, and it was filled with code that I didn’t understand. I was so fascinated by the games that could be made with this programming language called BASIC.

I looked at the pages and imagined that I was playing the games. I studied the programming code, and then I understood what they were supposed to do even though I didn’t know some of the commands.

Somehow, the logic printed on those pages made sense to me.

I remember Uncle Johnny telling me that a programmer can do many things, can create interesting systems.

At that time I did not have a computer.

My First Computer

We got our first computer when I was 14 years old. It was an Intel 286 16MHz running on 1MB RAM.

I remember spending a lot of time on the word processor writing stories that had elements of Star Wars in them (I was already a level 3 geek back then).

Then my friends introduced me to games. I spent countless hours over the skies of Iraq dispensing hellfire missiles and killing enemy helicopters in an A-10. I terrorized the skies of North Korea in an F-15 Eagle.

I laughed at the mishaps of Guybrush Threepwood, and built formidable turret defenses in Dune 2. My friend MH even figured out how to hack the saved game files with a hex editor to give unlimited gold.

I destroyed countless death stars and star destroyers in an X-Wing. I escaped from a Nazi camp in Wolfenstein 3D.

One thing I learned on this PC: mastering the MS-DOS operating system. Within a year I was reformatting the PC. You will be surprised how quickly you can learn how to configure an OS to maximize memory if you are limited to 1MB RAM.

I remember going for every MicroFest.

The Second Computer

A few years later, the 286 computer was damaged by lightning. My dad bought me a 486 with the luxurious amount of 4MB RAM.

This computer came with a CD-ROM drive, and it had SOUND!

Ahh, the countless hours I spent on Command and Conquer, Day of the Tentacle, and many other games.

I asked my dad to buy me a C programming book I saw in MPH because I wanted to do some serious game programming. He bought it but scolded me for wasting so much money on expensive books and computer software.

I guess from his perspective, he was spending all this money and I was only playing games.

I totally stopped playing games for 1 year to prepare for SPM. What a long year that was. After SPM I booted up my computer and went on a gaming binge for weeks.

My Career Choice

When it came time for me to choose my career choice, I naturally chose software programming.

This was an easy decision for me because:

  1. It was easy for me to think like a computer. Not dumb and obedient (haha) but structured and logical.
  2. I didn’t mind spending the rest of my life working and playing with computers.
  3. People kept telling me that Info Tech was the next big thing.
  4. I had a sense of geeky superiority. I guess the same feeling you get whenever you’re good at something. Others call this confidence.
  5. There were 3 plus zero courses offered at local colleges. I saved my parents money, by not choosing to study overseas.

The Influence of Games

I’m sure you can see how much time I spent on games. My wife totally disagrees with me on this, but I feel that the time I spent playing computer games was not wasted at all.

The positive influences:

  1. I learned what user-friendly software means.
  2. Each game is a new world to explore. I gained so much knowledge that you don’t learn from school books.
  3. I took time to master the hardware and operating systems to get the most computing power possible.
  4. I expanded my imagination.
  5. I learned how to work really fast.

Of course, there are negative influences as well:

  1. Lack of exercise
  2. No social life
  3. Sleeping late
  4. Spending too much time on the computer
  5. Always touching my nose

I will not allow my kids to have as much freedom with computer games as I had. Reasons:

  1. Honestly the games nowadays don’t teach you much. Either its about killing, some animated eye candy, or mindless and tedious Flash games.
  2. Computers are so powerful nowadays, there’s no more need to learn about the hardware or OS.
  3. I don’t think programming will be a viable career choice. Today, there are computer programs that can write other computer programs. In 30 years these will be so advanced that programmers will be out of jobs.

Conclusion

I may sound corny, but I think my career chose me instead of me choosing my career. You can say it is my calling.

I was made for programming. My brain is wired for it. I love doing it and I get paid for it.

At this point of my life, I am doing less of programming. Slowly, my role is to lead others to do the programming rather than doing it myself.

I am no longer able to spend the long hours at work, now that I have a wife and one and a half kids.

I don’t have any regrets. I enjoy my work, and it has been very rewarding. I have been fortunate to find a very good work place.

I hope that I have justified my dad’s ‘investments’ in my computing adventures. Time to repay his generosity in whatever ways I could.

If I had to do it all over again, I would still choose programming.

I have to end this chapter of my autobiography here. I got to check on my Facebook games before I head to work.

Photo By: Celiece Aurea

3 thoughts on “How I Chose My Career”

  1. Hi dino…good post!
    been worked with you for years didn’t know that u were so wired with geek like me…lol…let’s out for yum cha someday 😉

    Adino: I think because I’m too quiet, so normally I won’t share all these things haha

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