What's your origin story?

Michael Lee 🍕 on August 17, 2018

I’m a sucker for origin stories. Stories about a series of events that has led to who someone is today. It is an exciting time I think to be a dev... [Read Full]
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My lifetime jobs in order, I may be missing some stuff along the way:

  • Event staff/maintenance
  • Dishwasher
  • Grocery store salad maker
  • Bouncer/security
  • Painter
  • Mover
  • Grounds crew at horse shows
  • Freelance Wordpress development
  • Entrepreneur (sports nutrition)
  • Software developer/technical co-founder
  • dev.to

Whoa...I love the transition from salad maker to bouncer/security.


I quit (or was fired) from making salads because they wouldn't give me time off to go to my track meet. I sometimes worked with some shady characters as a bouncer but they were so much better to work for than my jerk grocery store manager!

I sometimes worked with some shady characters as a bouncer but they were so much better to work for than my jerk grocery store manager!

Ha! So interesting.

Here's hoping the characters you're working with these days are better than both the folks from the days of making salads and bouncing shady characters.


Also coming from a non-traditional route. I haven't had much work experience though, so here's a list of everything 🙊:

  • Went to college for 1 year
  • Took a break for a semester
  • Got a job painting houses, and quit after 1 month
  • Took some community college courses for 1 semester
  • Went back to the original college for 1 year, and still could not
  • Also worked for a past-midnight cookie shop and as a cashier for a food co-op
  • Cousins asked if I wanted to live in NYC with them on their couch, for a 20 year old the answer was resounding yes
  • Worked at a restaurant as a busboy for 3 months
  • Quit that and found a new job selling health insurance (6 month contract)
  • Talked to the network admin there, and a few other people telling me "dude coding is amazing!!!"
  • Me being easily convincible said "Oh yeah that sounds great!"
  • Learned programming through online resources until I got into a part time coding bootcamp
  • Also took a temp, full time mail room job at the same time to pay the bills
  • Finished the coding bootcamp, and did the apprenticeship that came with the bootcamp
  • Became a TA for the bootcamp
  • Got hired at dev.to!

Now I get to leave comments like this one for (some of) my living. 🙃


Cousins asked if I wanted to live in NYC with them on their couch, for a 20 year old the answer was resounding yes

Ha, this was basically how I ended up in NYC. Bro's couch, age 23 (or 24 I forget).


I worked as a geologist studying groundwater quality and later on with soil and groundwater investigation and remediation in industrial areas. After moving to a different country across the ocean I took a coding bootcamp and learned to code!


This is so cool! With a background in geologist do you see yourself now thinking about ways to solve problems you had in the past with code?


I was taking classes for some COMPTIA certs. There was this nagging curiosity about how electrical signals on copper wires were translated into information we view in a web browser. This turned into a degree in electrical engineering and DSP. The DSP end showed me how much fun programming can be, so now I just do that.

Jobs held during this process (in chronological order):
-Line cook
-Flower Delivery
-Network Admin
-Applications Engineer
-Software engineer
-Software developer


Hey hey Matthew! Thanks for sharing :) What is DSP? I'm digging how electrical signals on copper wires led you on the path to see how it ends up to information that we see via a web browser. I had never thought about that and now you've got me curious. Could you expound on your findings? Perhaps in a DEV post?


DSP is digital signal processing.
That would be a HUGE DEV post -- but I could certainly break it down into more digestible pieces across a series of posts. That's actually a pretty good idea.

That would be awesome. I think that would be excellent.

If you'd like to keep it shorter and concise there's also #explainlikeimfive which might be neat too. But I could totally imagine you taking a deep dive in this topic and folks totally geeking because of the depth of knowledge you have in this.


I was a CNA working in memory care, then a chef, then a dining room manager. During a period of unemployment, I started to feel strongly that I needed to change my career, and give my family a better life than we had. I started programming based on nothing but a gut feeling that I should, and I was hooked. A couple months later, I built a CLI application that scrapes music articles off of a website, and I was in love. I'm in a coding bootcamp now and looking forward to learning new skills.


That is very cool! Was the CLI for something specific or did you just want to see if you could make a scraper?

Also how's the coding bootcamp going?


Oh the CLI was my first bootcamp project. Sorry, I wrote that comment before coffee. But I also wanted to see if I could do it. It was sort of the turning point for me because previous to that I had been doing a lot of exercises, and it was the first time I built something from empty file to finished application.

The bootcamp is going great! Thanks for asking. I love spending so much time programming, and I really like doing it with a group of people, rather than solo.


High school

  • Dog walking
  • Children's science museum
  • Presidential campaign (I'm from NH so politics are a big thing)


  • Summer camp
  • Political campaigns -- I worked on quite a few of these
  • Computer Science Teaching Assistant
  • Software Engineer -- got that job at the end of my Junior year
  • Kept doing the software engineering job, but also interned teaching middle school math

Post college

  • Software engineering job
  • Teaching for a bootcamp
  • Teaching for company training bootcamps!

It's definitely interesting to read the stories and the things people have done in their lives. While I have had my fair share jobs that fall squarely into the "Other" category, I have been far more focused on tech throughout my life with most of my non-tech stuff happening during high school and a little bit of college. I started working on and with electronics as a sophomore in high school and pretty much knew I wanted to work on with technology from then on.

So, something like this:

  • McDonald's cook (17, still in high school)
  • McDonald's manager (18, summer after graduation)
  • Pasta, salad, and sandwich guy at a Pizza Inn (college)
  • Cook at a couple of steakhouses (college)
  • Waiter (college)
  • Sanitation at turkey processing plant (waiting to go into the military)
  • US Navy Data Systems Technician (this was all electronics)
  • Communications technician (electronics, some software)
  • HMI Engineer (first software job)
  • Controls Engineer (Software, moving back toward electronics)
  • IoT Technical guy (lots of software and electronics == me happy!)

Started my dark journey as a kid in the 70s. Got to turn a hobby into a career.

  • Dad brought home TRS-80s, Apple ][s and, eventually, PCs throughout the late 70s and 80s. Taught myself a couple interpreted languages, a compiled language (was an early language that used an interpreter-style language but was compiled into object code for actual running) and Z80 and 6502 assembler
  • First paid job doing inventory for a shoe store: convinced the owner to computerize his inventory system
  • Went to college. Finished with a B.S. in psychology. While I was there, taught myself C, C++ and became familiar with SunOS, NeXTSTEP, Solaris, VM/CMS and VAX/VMS while doing so.
  • Job market sucked in 1993. Temped - mostly in desktop publishing - until a customer realized I had computer aptitude
  • Got first salaried job doing OCR work for a commercial publisher of aviation-related materials (they converted relevant daily CFR content to hypertext for airlines an equipment manufacturers). Got to do some NetWare for them when their actual IT guy would go on vacation.
  • Decided I preferred the nuts-n-bolts IT work to desktop publish so went back to temping, this time in companies specializing in IT roles.
  • Eventually got a job as a lab SA with Bell Atlantic's new Internet division. Laziness led me to automating all of my day-to-day tasks, so got promoted to operations
  • While primarily a Sun shop, they also had SGI equipment. SGI account manager was impressed with what I was doing to make their stuff integrate well with BA's Sun gear, so got offered a job with SGI.
  • Left SGI for NetApp. Was a bad move because the group I joined was both unstable and underused.
  • Got an offer for an SA/engineering gig with a national ISP. Ended up doing way beyond what they hired me for. However, ISP got bought by WorldCom/MCI. In turn, WorldCom/MCI got bought by Verizon.
  • Friend of a friend was starting a consulting company and knew I was exceedingly unhappy at (now) Verizon. Offered me a gig as their first consultant. Got to travel the US and Europe working on storage and availability technologies (and writing automation) across a large spectrum of hardware, OSes and applications. Owner sold the company. New ownership created an unpleasant culture
  • Found a job through a former co-worker. While he left not long after I joined, found a group of really good technicians and managers. We've been together through three companies, now. Current focus is cloud-enablement and automation — particularly with helping customers try to move onto the DevOps path.

So, while I have coded throughout my hobbyist and professional life, I don't really consider myself a "true" coder. It's more functional/means-to-an-end oriented. My forays into coding is likely more a symptom of laziness and desire not to manually do repetitive tasks if there's a way to avoid it. As a result, much of the content I post through Dev.To is more oriented towards integration of information technologies than development of said technologies.


"My forays into coding is likely more a symptom of laziness and desire not to manually do repetitive tasks if there's a way to avoid it."

That's the central theme of ALL programming. :-D
When people ask what I do, my first answer is, "I make computers do boring stuff really fast."


In no particular order:

  • freelance musician
  • college professor
  • high school teacher
  • bartender
  • banquet server
  • janitor
  • mover
  • salesman (cars, windows, and industrial supplies)
  • pallbearer (yes, someone hired me to carry a casket for them)
  • customer service rep
  • bagel shop “sandwich artist”
  • dishwasher
  • short order cook

You can imagine I’m quite grateful to be a software engineer now.


I was a professional distance runner for 15 years. During "rest" time, I studied development and built wp themes for ThemeForest. Now I'm a developer Emerson Stone in Boulder, CO (where I originally moved with my wife to train at high altitude). I have an degree in Philosophy from Butler University.


The first job I had was yard work.

Then during college I worked most of the school years and one summer watching computer labs (making sure users checked in/out, helping with using software, etc). For other summer jobs during college, I worked fast food one summer and did data entry from fingerprint cards for another.

After I graduated (with a BS in CS), I did random temp work for a while (at one place I did some more data entry in Excel, and at another I gave surveys to people in a mall). Then I got a job doing phone-based customer service for a bank. Then finally I got a job doing tech support where there was some chance of moving into the "R&D" department where the coding happened, and eventually I did. I worked as a developer for 11 years or so, and now am on a sabbatical, after which I'll probably work as a developer some more (but remotely this time) or possibly try to sell a software-related product of my own.

Before I decided to go to school for CS, I was considering a career in music, and I'd like to get serious about that again, though probably not as my main source of income.

  • Carpenter/general grunt work.
  • College at a good state school for CS.
  • Too hard, dropped out and worked at Toys R Us (RIP).
  • Went back to school at a meh-to-bad state school for IT.
    1. Then Econ and IT.
    2. Then Econ.
    3. Then Econ and CS.
    4. Then CS and Biology.
    5. Back to CS and Econ (minor this time)
    6. Last possible day without having to take another semester switched to CS and Geography (intended to double major, but got job offer so I just minored in Geo and saved my money).
  • Startup, laid off. Now at an established manufacturing company.

Still not in the developer role I would like to be in but here's what I've done so far:

  • Staff @ Lumpy's Burgers
  • Assistant Manager @ Lumpy's Burgers (I was 17 managing 30 year olds. They Hated It)
  • Social Media Manager @ Lumpy's Burgers
  • Gas Station Attendant
  • Multimedia Design Intern @ American Society of Radiologic Technoligists
  • Flow Team Member @ Target
  • Backroom Team Member @ Target
  • Marketing Director @ Shoolu.com

Definitely Hoping to get into a more code based position and less in the marketing side of things. Been making websites since I had a single HTML page on NeoPets.


I started coding at age 11. We had just gotten new computers in the town I grew up in. They are at the library. I had always been in to games on the atari and my tandy 1000 computer. So when we got new computers, I was stoked!

So I started surfing the net which wasn't much of one back then. I was amazed by how the web pages were built. So I learned what made them work... html.

Sure people say HTML isn't programming, but it was for me back then. I got in to web design, then in high school taught some classes along with my science teacher.

He encouraged me to goto college for it.

2002, I learned about PHP and MySql. I was obsessed!

Fast forward to today, I'm 35, been coding professionally for 15 years now.

I've coded in PHP, JavaScript, Python. I've built some multi-million dollar apps for business and I have about 30 unfinished projects of my own :P

Still love to learn every day, and other than the 3 months of class on PHP in 2002, I'm fully self taught.


My Bachelor's and first Master's degrees are in Classics (i.e. Latin & Ancient Greek). I never wanted to be anything other than a professor of Greek, but the Real World™ got in the way and made me pick a career where I could actually make money, so I parlayed that into a Master's in CS with a focus on natural-language processing and made a career out of that that's lasted 20+ years so far.

If we're listing pre-professional jobs, then I've been a

  • newspaper deliverer;
  • busboy;
  • Boy Scout camp counselor;
  • drugstore clerk;
  • university food–service manager;
  • proofreader of trade and scholarly books;
  • and other things that I've probably forgotten.

Hawaiian Shaved Ice snow cone maker
Clean up crew at a bar / concert venue
Mammography Clinic office helper / misc duties
Stocker at Target / Big Lots
Med school Petri Dish Washer / Cat Brain Cutter-Upper / Oh you do website stuff?
Marketing Agency Junior Web Dev
Marketing Agency Web Dev / SysAdmin / Network Admin
Marketing Agency Geek In Charge and Board Member
Marketing Technology Lead at Fortune 500 company
Marketing Technology Lead at large private company
Director of Emerging Technology at large private company

Sprinkled in there are tech co-founder of two startups that never failed, but never truly succeeded either (though one is still passive income).

100% self taught. Went to college for Religious Studies and Philosophy. I consider myself a hacker, and not a computer scientist. Because of my journey mostly solo, my favorite thing to do is mentor other developers.


I've had a lot of different jobs but I'll list a couple.

  • 12yrs old I started working with my grandpa collecting cans and scraping metal

-16yrs old I started working for a moving company called 2men and a truck

-18yrs started working at warehouses

-23yrs worked doing upholstery

-24yrs old worked as a problem solver for amazon

-late 24 - 25yrs old started doing odd jobs and landscaping

Throughout those years I also would work a lot of warehouse jobs doing general labor or forklifing along with some construction jobs. I also worked for BNSF railroad at one point


My first contact with a PC was a 20 pound laptop from Compaq when I was 4 years old.
Played around with Linux and rooting iPhones (the first model) while in high school. Got a BA in Political Science from Zagreb University and an MA in PolSci from CEU Budapest. Started learning programming while finishing my masters. After various oddjobs I got a Java OCA certificate and started my first dev job. A year later I got my OCP and went in to e-commerce development. Been doing that since then.


Starting from early employment

  • Dishwasher
  • College for one year of ME (learned Fortran)
  • Switched to Culinary Arts
  • Chef
  • Barback/Bouncer
  • Tech Support
  • Tech Support Manager
  • Quality Assurance
  • Quality Assurance Manager
  • Quality Assurance/Release Engineer Manager
  • Build Engineer
  • Programmer

Overall self-taught, dealing with whatever tools and languages I need. I've touched so many that they are fairly easy to pick up


I was pre-med in high school (Was taking dual credit courses). Was a gamer, and started my own Garry's Mod servers and was interested in add-ons for my server and of course I was curious as to what went on behind the scenes and started learning LUA. Ended up falling in love with this process and changed my major to comp sci right before college. First year in college went to a local university and just did odd jobs (Yard work, cutting grass, etc.). Ended up not liking the university and realized that I did not receive the scholarship money so I went to a different university where I received these things but was 2 hours away. Ended up applying for a position at a cell phone repair shop. Worked there for 3 months and got promoted to an assistant manager and stayed there until my 1 year anniversary came around and ended up getting recommended an internship at a local software engineering company. Bit the bullet and switched and worked there. After a while I got recommended for two projects through the NASA space grant (Might do a post on those, not sure yet). But one was for the solar eclipse that was last year. Ended up getting to stream a high altitude balloon onto NASA's website. Other one was a star detection system on a rocket that went into orbit for a few minutes.
Senior year of college (fall 2017) started and I started looking for positions and one of my professors recommended I sent in an application to where I am working now. Ended up getting a full-time position offer that what I felt like was the right career move over the offer from the place where I had my internship and have been here for a little over 2 months and I am loving it so far.

  • Lawn mower
  • Fireworks stand - stocking and cashier
  • Fast food worker (did most everything in the store)
  • Roles in my Dad's shop
    • building shipping crates (wood, cardboard)
    • cutting and forming polycarbonate (hard plastic)
    • painting prep (spraying goo, waiting to dry as a thin film, then cutting out areas that need to be painted. or applying vinyl and peeling out areas to be painted)
    • some metalworking (bending, cutting, welding)
    • shipping clerk
    • graphics - turning customer artwork into paper patterns, wooden letters, or vinyl
    • wholesale sales

  • PC technician

  • IT support

  • Systems admin

Oh, how time flies. Really interesting to read about everyone's progress through life. I'm probably forgetting some parts, but here's mine:

  • Swept floors at my folk's office.

    (Started to really get into video games, the web, and computers, as I couldn't be outside much due to allergies).

  • Moved to a new city, swept floors and helped out at my folk's new shop/office.

    (Did lots of banner graphics on Final Fantasy related forums)

  • Swept floors at a supermarket.

    (Started getting into making those banners with HTML/CSS instead. Got hooked on frontend, thanks to Coyier and CSS-Tricks)

  • Started making basic websites for locals

    (Horrible ones, but got my first frontend paycheck, which was a blast)

  • Waited tables at a Dutch pancake house (in Denmark, what?).

    (Began designing and developing websites for more small businesses and lots of business cards, brochures etc., my folks included.)

  • Got into Wordpress development for clients with a friend for a year.

  • Assistant at a print shop for a year before university.

    (Cut and rounded corners, by hand, of countless business cards for LEGO executives)

  • Started to really get into freelance frontend development during uni. Lots of Shopify shops and Wordpress sites.

    (Started studying Digital Design, which was a sham, started studying Information Science instead)

  • Started a SaaS startup as a technical co-founder with 2 buddies, which failed

    (Idea management tools for schools and local governments weren't as hot as we thought).

  • Pivoted and started a new SaaS startup helping startups, students and businesses with pitching.

    (With the same buddies, still going strong).

  • Helped out a bunch of larger companies with getting up to date with new technologies.

    (Dinosaurs seemingly like paying young nerds who can combine frontend, digital design with startup experience. Who knew?)

  • Freelance frontend/UX/UI developer/consultant/something who builds new digital tools and products for large companies. Currently developing tools for improving workplace happiness.

    (Still sweeping floors, but only in my home office 😉).


Such a great thread, thanks. Here is mine:

  • Born in small town in Mexico.
  • Learn English instead of partying during high school.
  • Moved to Mexico City in order to get a College Degree in Robotics.
  • Started reading 2 books a month during my 6th semester at IPN and decided to change majors to Administration in UNAM. Both schools are a big deal in Mexico and free. The idea that I got is that your degree does not define you and you can always reinvent yourself.
  • During my second semester I started to learn Web Development out of curiosity.
  • Immersed myself in code for three months and got a job.
  • Quit my first job after a week because they would refuse to use git and insist on supporting IE8. This was around 2015 on a eCommerce site, the client did not required IE8.
  • Never stoped learning.
  • Now I'm working as a Senior Front End Developer, creating a side hustle and reading at least 2 books a month. I've read 26 during 2018.

Wow, so many interesting stories in the post, and I used to think I wondered around for a bit before coming back to software development. Thanks to OP and to everyone else for sharing. Here's my story too - dev.to/jumpalottahigh/how-i-got-in...


I was in limbo after graduating from high school, and spent six months at home. I couldn't decide what to study, as I found business majors too boring and I wouldn't glance at engineering majors because I was done with math and physics.
After getting yelled at by my older sisters to get off my butt and enroll in university, I went again and took a look at all the majors and thought that software engineering sounded awesome.

Two days later, I was a software engineering student.


I think a CS degree is not needed for a dev career either, but it helps to shape your skills more like a T.


hmm i started right into software development. before that i was student 😎


Electrical engineer who got fired for doing personal dev work while on the engineering clock.

Couldn't find a job, so I started a business for dev.

8 years later, here I am.

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