When I was in high school in rural Queensland, there was the obligatory "what do you want to do when you leave school" conversations that had to be had in the run-up to matriculation. For whatever reason - and I don't really know whether to blame the school faculty, the rural sensibilities, or my own strange teenaged assumptions - I came to the conclusion that careers fell into one of two categories. You either did an apprenticeship, or you went to uni. The only apprenticeships I was aware of as being available for girls (all the boys were going to be fitters and turners, and I didn't even know what a fitter and turner was, let alone want to be one) were hairdressing apprenticeships. I didn't want to be a hairdresser. So I decided I'd better go to uni. How I chose my degree is another whole story, that might be best suited for another blog post, but suffice it to say that it took me six years and a lot of money (thanks HECS!) to finally graduate with something that I was proud to have, and that has eventually gotten me into a career I'm particularly fond of.
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
-- Douglas Adams "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul"
I spent most of high school flitting between the library for lunch-time sessions of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and the computer lab for marathon BASIC programming competitions with my friends. Christmas holidays were spent at my parent's old IBM compatible trying not be eaten by a grue. Yet the concept of studying computing was completely foreign to me. I loved making things do stuff, I loved destructing things to find out how they worked, I loved creating stories, and then having 2d10 decide the next plot twist for me. If something went wrong I wanted to know why it went wrong. Quite a lot of the time I broke things just so I could try to fix them (and that hasn't really changed much, I pulled apart my Roomba the other day). It wasn't until I got to uni and made friends in the computing lab there (you know who you are!) that I discovered that IT degrees even existed, I think.
I remember desperately wanting (and eventually getting) a Peaches 'n' Cream Barbie for my birthday one year when I was little. Perhaps if I'd been given computer engineer Barbie instead, my story would be different? I'm not sure, but it's my daughter's birthday soon, and I guess it can't hurt ...
News just in: you can pre-order Computer Engineer Barbie on the Mattel site, for delivery in December. Just in time for Christmas!
Update: ... but only if you live in the US. Bugger.