My story begins way back in the 2004–2005 school year at Rio Linda High School. I was taking two advanced placement (AP) classes: calculus and physics. I had phenomenal teachers: Mr. Bautista and Mr. Gavrilov. I’m pretty sure they could teach calculus and physics to a cat, Schrodinger’s cat, that is.
Mr. Gavrilov had to be one of the most patient teachers I had. I would pester that poor Latvian to the limits with all my questions and imitating his funny accent. I’m kind of surprised he didn’t kill me.
Under their tutelage, I aced the AP exams and landed at my first semester of college at BYU-Provo. I wasn’t exactly sure what to choose for a major, let alone what to choose for a career; it’s not like my 17-year-old self had seen much of the world in the podunk town of Rio Linda, CA. Since I liked math and physics so much I decided to choose physics as my major.
For the next couple years I worked on making my way through the physics department’s major academic plan (MAP). Here is the MAP I was following back in 2005 through 2007:
I got through physics 121 (mechanics), 123 (thermodynamics), and 220 (electromagnetism). As I took these classes, the thought came to me more and more that I had no idea what to do for a career with a physics degree. I didn’t want to be a career researcher in physics. That sounded super boring to me. I didn’t want to do finance type work that I heard some physics graduates went into. I did like optics, however. Maybe I could play with lasers and holograms for a career.
In 2007, I decided to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I spent two years sharing the message of Jesus and His restored Church in Alaska. Those were the most challenging two years of my life, but oh how rewarding it was. I saw plenty of moose and a couple bears, saw the beautiful landscapes on mountain trails, and met some of the most wonderful people.
The Road To Damascus
When I came back to school I looked at more majors and found that electrical engineering had quite a few optics courses. Boom! I found my calling. Electrical Engineering it is.
Six months and two electrical engineering classes later…
I was no longer an electrical engineering major. I used to think electronics was cool back in my physics days. Those two electrical engineering classes convinced me otherwise.
My time spent on the path to electrical engineering was not all in vain, though. To complete the electrical engineering major I was required to take an introduction to computer science course. In that class we covered fundamental programming concepts using the java programming language. I loved it and gobbled up everything that was taught. Switching my major to computer science was one of the easiest decisions of my life.
From this point on I worked on completing all of the courses I needed to graduate. I got an internship at Xactware the summer before I graduated and I somehow convinced them to hire me on full-time a few months later. I’ve worked as a software developer at a few different companies now and I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made to study computer science.
Previously published at https://medium.com/@jonathanwillis_82301/how-i-became-a-software-developer-f06d329dad86