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Paula Gearon was searching for machines that can think... and other things I learned recording her DevJourney (#128)

This week, I published Paula Gearon's #DevJourney story on my eponym Podcast: Software developer's Journey. Among many other things, here are my main personal takeaways:

  • When Paula asked as a kid what a computer is, her father responded: "A machine that can think." She soon discovered the Assembly language and was able to do her first programming steps with an electronic kit. And she felt "really ripped-off" because that machine was not able to think at all.
  • The boarding school Paula attended had a computer lab with C64 machines. Paula was able to borrow the manual and learn about BASIC programming in her room, with no access to a computer. Learning the depths of the language this way, gave her an edge for when she finally was able to program on her Atari later on.
  • Dabbling with programming very early and being introduced to technical drawing at school led her to use programming to let the computer draw primitives. This lead to her discovering geometry and trigonometry before it was introduced to her at school. But the biggest learning that she got through this phase, was that computers were the perfect tool for getting very fast feedback. That's also why she loves exploring concepts on the REPL first. Toward the end of her school time, she even won a technical drawing competition. All the other kids were using AutoCAD while she was using BASIC to draw complex forms out of simple shapes. This taught her that "she was not doing what all the other kids were doing, but that's OK." Nowadays, Paula still likes to regularly explore such "unexpected" ways to solve a problem. At least on one occasion, when it came out, she was then offered to do this as her day job as well.
  • Again, Paula described the force of N(network)-Vitamins. She got her first internship through connections. She then got her first job through the internship. This was "one of the most important steps of her career" because she found a lifelong mentor there.
  • She then worked for the government. She got a lot of down-time there and was able to explore a lot of tangents. That's how she discovered web development. This theme of using boredom to do something useful came many times throughout her story as an asset for the future.
  • In one of her last jobs, working with her mentor again, Paula created a new database. The work was open-source and she wrote a lot of blog posts about it. So when the company shut down, she was approached by former customers to continue working on it. That led her to another job, and ultimately the USA.

Advice:

Thanks, Paula for sharing your story with us!

You can find the full episode and the show notes on devjourney.info or directly here on DEV

Did you listen to her story?

  • What did you learn?
  • What are your personal takeaways?
  • What did you find particularly interesting?

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