People often ask me how I got into programming. Thinking back, I'm lucky I stumbled across it. My mom is a MUMPS programmer who works remotely. When I was little, I used to watch her programming (exciting, huh?) and I said I was going to do that too someday. But then I grew up and wanted to become other more "exciting" things, like an astronaut, veternarian, or a biomedical engineer. My high school was so small (80 students) that programming classes weren't offered, or else I would've probably taken one and gotten into it sooner. It just wasn't something that I had seriously given thought to until a few years ago.
My first experience with anything code-related was on Neopets when I was about 10 years old. On Neopets, you were able to customize your profile and several other pages with custom HTML and CSS. They even provided an HTML tutorial. I followed the tutorial and soon I was playing around with HTML for hours on end. I even made my own page where I provided custom HTML for forum posts that users could copy and paste to use themselves. It was actually pretty popular back then and I'd often see posts on the forums that were using HTML that I had made.
Then in high school I sort of grew out of Neopets and forgot about it for a while. When it was time to choose a college major, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I thought Biological Systems Engineering sounded interesting. A few months in, I realized I didn't want to work in a lab or do research. I needed to switch my major, but I didn't know what else I would enjoy. I remembered how much fun I had making HTML years ago, and thought to myself that maybe I'd like programming. I switched my major to computer engineering and signed up for my first ever programming course.
I was already super intimidated before even stepping foot into the classroom. First of all, I had never written any code besides HTML before, and I thought that most people in this class had taken programming in high school already and would already know everything. Secondly, I looked at the class roster, and saw that out of 70 students in the classroom, only 4 were girls. I knew there was going to be an unbalanced ratio, but not this much!
Even though I had psyched myself out, I sat in the front row of class and gave it my all. On one of the first days of class, we got out our laptops and followed along with the professor as we put together our first program. I didn't really understand any of it at all (part of the problem might be that this class was in objective C...), but when "Hello world" outputted onto my terminal, I felt like my horizons had broadened and I knew right then that I'd love programming.
It turns out, not everyone in that class had taken programming in high school, and it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. Also the gender ratio is really no big deal at all. I spent many hours in the student resource center getting help fixing segmentation faults and syntax errors, but when it came to exams and the labs, I was always one of the first ones done. Eventually I switched my major again (after the introductory hardware course) to computer science, but now I know programming is how I want to spend 40+ hours a week for the next several decades.
Even though I still have a ways to go, I feel pretty good for where I'm at. The summer after my sophomore year, I landed an internship with a huge company. Then a few months later I started working part-time for an awesome company here in Lincoln (we have an indoor slide and beer, what's better than that?). Currently I'm in my senior year of college and graduating in May. I'm not sure where the future will take me as far as programming goes, but I know I'll be happy doing it.
Questions? Comments? Don't hesitate to contact me!