These are to notes for talks I never gave at an ScriptEd Lunch ‘n Learn, I ended up doing something remotely similar to the second enumeration.
They both share the motif of overcoming an improbable environment, by the virtue of having lucky access to computers and knowledge, and being interested in having that access, because other fortunate reasons, like my family.
From Cuba to NYC
1 - Growing up in Cuba(1981-), no one had a computer, and definitely there was no internet.
2 - Even worst, the Soviet Union had collapsed and there wasn’t any food either, and almost never electricity.
3 - In my middle school the computers teacher let us to use the “computers”, this was on 1993, those computers were from 1985, and the TVs were soviet, and as old.
4 - There would be frequent blackouts, they would be unannounced, so the code we didn’t save in the tape recorders would be lost.
5 - When I got to high school I was lucky enough to have almost unlimited access to the computer lab, which had computers a little better than middle school, which I just found out were built in Cuba o_O.
6 - In all the above I had actually very little support from my teachers, other than let me use the computers.
7 - I never actually studied computer science, but did go to college. In college I learnt to study. To learn by myself.
8 - My “break”, my first job with computers was actually as systems administrator. I knew nothing about systems, I didn’t even know what an IP address was, or that it existed. But I was put in charge of a network…
9 - That break came because my MSc was in Metallurgy and this was a steel factory. I could speak in “their language”.
10 - In the new job I had Internet! So I did two things: Learn what I needed to do the job, and started to figuring out what else could I be doing, that was more fun …and profitable.
11 - I learnt Java, which was a cool language at the time.
12 - My true break, a job that took me to Mexico, and ultimately to NYC, was before I had coded any useful app. Ever.
13 - The people who hired me didn’t just handed me the job, I spent months coding their demos. They all worked.
14 - What’s next for me? I keep studying, now I’m focusing on Type Theory and Abstract Algebra. At an enough high level, all programming languages are implementations of the same patterns. It’s easier if one understand those patterns…
Learning to learn
1 - I was fascinated with computers at an early age, when I saw a computer in a science fair. But in Cuba there were no computers available.
2- I was lucky though, both in middle and high school I got virtually unlimited access to computers (within reason).
3 - In middle school we only had MSX-BASIC, so my first programming book was “borrowed” from the computer lab, it was about programming in BASIC. It was a baffling experience. Mostly because I didn’t know what to do with it.
4 - I like to read, and back then I read a lot, mostly comics (Cuban and Soviet) and adventure books(mostly French, for some reason). How to read a technical book? I tried to read it like a novel. It was terrible. So I started to use it like we use Google now, if I didn’t know how to do something, I would go to the book and see if there was any answer.
5 - The book almost never had the answer I was looking for, although, it sometimes helped me to find one.
6 - In high school we had TurboPascal and MS-DOS, high tech! Also there was a very good library …but more importantly, I met others also trying to figure out programming.
7 - We (try to)read the same books, we discussed the mysteries of OOP, without understanding anything. We tried to figure out recursion and graphs, unsuccessfully, but it was fun.
8 - Fast-forward to my last year in college. I didn’t major in CS, I had lost the love for programming in the name of literature, heavy metal, and nerd parties.
9 - I found myself needing to write a software to be able to get my college title.
10 - I learnt VB6, I was introduced to linux, and to Java, and was hooked again.
11 - Since then I’ve read books, pdfs, and of course, innumerable pages of stackoverflow.com.
12 - I frequently buy tech and math books, and still try to read them like a novel. But now I take notes, I try do the exercises. I know that, even if it makes sense when you read it, it doesn’t mean you understood anything.
13 - I rarely need to use anything I learn from those books in my daily work.
14 - Those books have an impact in my mind though. I think more clearly today than ever before. It’s like continuously climbing a infinite stairway, it is hard, but the higher you climb, the wider is your perspective, the easier is to understand what’s going on.
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