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:
- It was easy for me to think like a computer. Not dumb and obedient (haha) but structured and logical.
- I didn’t mind spending the rest of my life working and playing with computers.
- People kept telling me that Info Tech was the next big thing.
- I had a sense of geeky superiority. I guess the same feeling you get whenever you’re good at something. Others call this confidence.
- 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:
- I learned what user-friendly software means.
- Each game is a new world to explore. I gained so much knowledge that you don’t learn from school books.
- I took time to master the hardware and operating systems to get the most computing power possible.
- I expanded my imagination.
- I learned how to work really fast.
Of course, there are negative influences as well:
- Lack of exercise
- No social life
- Sleeping late
- Spending too much time on the computer
- Always touching my nose
I will not allow my kids to have as much freedom with computer games as I had. Reasons:
- Honestly the games nowadays don’t teach you much. Either its about killing, some animated eye candy, or mindless and tedious Flash games.
- Computers are so powerful nowadays, there’s no more need to learn about the hardware or OS.
- 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.
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