Why I Decided to Learn Software Development

It was a long time ago actually that I took a nascent interest in coding at all.  In the spring of 1996, I completed my high school freshmen enrollment schedule before graduating middle school.  The fall came, and I found myself in a computer programming class learning BASIC.  At the time I felt intimidated by not only the programming language, but especially the other students who seemed to have prior experience and were keeping up with the teacher. It didn't click for me at that time. I visited my guidance counselor and got out of it. It would be years before I'd ever seriously look at code again. Instead, I took a serious interest in music for the remainder of my high school years, all the way through college and meanwhile harboring a deep love of tech. 

In 2005, I graduated from the University of Florida as a music educator. Five years later the county cut my music position after I enlisted in the U. S. Army Reserve in 2010. So from 2011 onward  I spent years on and off active duty, bouncing between the Middle East and the United States from 2012 until the present.  Throughout all of these years I really wanted to code. In fact, it grew to the point that I knew I didn't want to teach anymore. I still felt that it was beyond my ability until I met my good friend, Staff Sergeant Myers, who encouraged me to take the plunge because he had seen my raw potential in tech whether as an information technology professional or software developer.

In short, while I deployed to Kuwait in 2016, that year proved to be what I consider the most crucial year for tech and my country (US), whether one was a systems administrator, cybersecurity professional, and/or a coder. In my eyes, 2016 was a pivotal year where the virtual world and the real world coalesced, or maybe even collided, in perhaps a perfectly unintended way. I was both riveted and dismayed by the entirety of 2016, and the role tech had within it.  Something ignited within me that year, such that I formed a plan to get educated and experienced in tech some way, somehow.   

My values were ignited that year and were challenged! And my passion for tech suddenly had deepened with meaning and purpose. All I needed was the means to act on my vision to create, that is, to code and collaborate on health-conscious technologies. Why? 2016 was a call to action. That year showed me that the unintended consequences of things we develop without any ethical foresight and preemption could have real-world implications--particularly in the areas of privacy, security, and epistemology or truth. That year also proved that software developers (or engineers) have a philosophical imperative to create with a conscience. Apple made a subtle but powerful video advertisement titled, "Designed by Apple in California."  One portion of the video asks the following: "Will it make life better? Does it deserve to exist?" One can hate Apple's high-walled ecosystem of products, but we certainly cannot doubt their intention and caring thoughtfulness about user experience.

Finally, the current business model for the most popular web platforms enlivened me to the importance of the way web technologies are designed. For instance, I would encourage moving away from user interfaces and experiences that are inherently meant to commoditize the user. What do I mean? Perhaps define and create better social media platforms that do not psychologically and physiologically exploit the user's baser instincts (e.g., dopamine-fueled scrolling on bottomless feeds and a token economy of "Likes.")  To wit, I think existing web and mobile technologies are amazing!  But I believe that we can do better, and I would like to be part of shaping a future that cares about the mental and social well-being of the user.  I believe learning software development enables me to have a seat at the table and even perhaps help to remake the table for a better social web and real-world experience.