My 30-Year (On Again Off Again) Love Affair with Coding

My 30-Year (On Again Off Again) Love Affair with Coding

I feel like I've been married to coding, we had a messy divorce, and now we're getting back together again.

I feel like I've been married to coding, we had a messy divorce, and now we're getting back together again. It's my husband, ex-husband, and now future husband. It's been complicated for sure, but also way way fun.

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How it all started

My first computer was an Apple IIc. I got it for Christmas back in the 80s, when having your own computer was a big deal. They were expensive, and you didn't really need one. I was still in elementary school, so we didn't have to type our homework (spoiler: I did anyway). Even at the university level, most people were using word processors or typewriters at that point.

The Apple had a floppy disk drive (5.25"), a cpu, and a separate monitor. A few years later, I would save up enough money to buy a hard drive, but it was all floppy disks at first. It wasn't just that storage was expensive; software was expensive back then too. I talked my parents into buying a few programs, and then I'd check stuff out of the library like a book.

How I learned about development

Then one day, the librarian showed me source code in the back of computer magazines. Magazines had type-in programs, literally 20-30 pages of Applesoft BASIC in the back of the magazine. You'd type it in, hit save, hit run, and have software. I had this friend who would come over after school; he'd read the lines aloud as I typed them in. Seeing how you made software was like a magician pulling back the curtain and sharing their secrets. From that first taste, I knew we would have a long love affair together.

This is where my love, fascination, and obsession with software development came from. I loved using code to solve problems, I loved getting computers to do things, and I loved how they were these boxes that opened up unlimited possibilities for creativity.

Diving deeper at university

I graduated high school in 1995, the same year commercial access to the internet became available. Before that, it was only available to the government, universities, and the military. At uni, where I was studying Computer Science, I really started getting into internet software development. I interned at a web-design company, then taught myself Java when it first came out. I remember pouring over books by Laura Lemay, who seemed to have magical access to hard-to-find information. I remember meeting her at an ActiveX conference once and feeling tongue-tied as I introduced myself to her.

As I taught myself Java, I became active in Usenet groups and then as a blogger. I eventually wrote and co-wrote a series of books on Java, JavaScript, and distributed programming, and other topics related to internet software development.

Dropping out of university

Book writing led to job offers, and in 1997 after being in school for just two years, I dropped out and moved to San Francisco to work at a startup. I was 19, making $55,000 a year, and living the dream. I'd work 10-14 hours a day, go out drinking with friends from work, and then do it again the next day. When we finally sold our company and the acquiring company went public, we all made money … which is what I thought I wanted.

Software development was fun; I loved it. But something changed.

The whole work-yourself-to-death culture started to wear on me—the obsession with money over just creative problem-solving began to wear thin. After working for companies that got sold to other companies, I hated seeing my code get shelved and never being used. I didn't like the person I had become in many ways. I didn't like how obsessed I became with money, status, and buying things. I hated how I was letting my possessions define me as a person.

So, I quit and became a yoga teacher.

Becoming a yoga teacher

First, I moved to Los Angeles; then, I went to Mysore, India, to study yoga and Sanskrit. On the way back to LA from India, I paused in Bangkok for a short holiday, met someone who owned a yoga studio, and took her up on her offer to work for a year. I had never lived in a foreign country and thought I'd have a fun year abroad. I'd learn a new language and culture, make friends and eventually meander back to the USA.

That was 18 years ago.

I moved to Bangkok in 2005, two or three years before the first iPhone would come out and many years before web2 and social media would become a thing. Home computer ownership in Thailand back then wasn't very high, people would play games and check their mail in internet cafes, but that was it.

During my first year here, I rented an apartment with no internet, I'd check my email a few times a week at the cafes, but mostly I disconnected. I'd spend my free time studying Thai, watching DVDs, and exploring being alone. As social media wasn't a thing yet, it meant I had time and space to redefine myself. I existed as someone new; my new friends met me for what I was at that moment.

Nobody was Googling me, looking at my profiles, or checking out what I'd been up to for years … there was so much freedom just to sit back and let this new version of myself grow organically.

I loved teaching yoga and this opportunity to take stock of myself and make changes. But I also love doing 10 billion things at once, and Bangkok became the perfect place for me to do that. Living here is cheap, and I had much free time between teaching, so I started to branch out.

After first learning the Thai language at schools for foreigners, I found a university that would allow me to enroll in their rigorous Thai Language studies program. I studied language, literature, language origins, and classical poetry with Thais from around the country. After four and a half years, I became the only Westerner to graduate from the program.

The Flow Of Things Leading To Things

I did a lot of other cool stuff too. I met a great guy, fell in love, and got married. I directed a documentary film that toured ten countries and won multiple awards. That led to doing TV production work, which led to co-founding a YouTube channel we grew to over 650K subscribers, that led to being invited to join a YouTube global program called Creators For Change, where we got to attend small group workshops and talks with people like Spike Lee and Malala Yousafzai. Then my husband and I even got invited to be on a dance competition reality show.

Through all of this, technology was a big part of my life, but I wasn't coding. I was editing videos in Adobe Premiere; I was the IT guy for the five-person staff of our video production company; I was figuring stuff out and making things work.

Learning about cryptocurrencies

Through all of this, Bitcoin was in the news more and more, then Ethereum and other blockchain technology followed. My husband first told me we should be investing in crypto, but I held off because it confused me. I knew enough about blockchain tech to see that I didn't know what was going on. I didn't want to invest in something I didn't understand and knew it would take me a lot of time to grok blockchain tech.

Then lockdown happened, and I had five months when I couldn't teach yoga, and virtually no video production was happening. So I dug into blockchain technology, sucking up any information I could find online. When I finally started down the DeFi path, I realized I needed to study Solidity. The funny thing is that I had zero interest in getting back into tech. I told myself I'd learn just enough Solidity to understand what was happening, to feed my curiosity, and then I'd go back to teaching yoga and doing creative video work.

The thing about life, though, is sometimes it has its own plan. We can make umpteen five-year plans, vision boards, or whatever … but sometimes life picks you up and carries you someplace new. Twenty-five years ago, when I looked at my future, I imagined a big ass house in San Francisco and a cellar of wine. I saw myself as a coder for life. I never thought I'd live on the 21st floor in central Bangkok, making money helping people learn to move and love their bodies.

The thing is, when you relax into those waves that life presents, sometimes they carry you far from your plans to a place better than you could have imagined.

Getting back to coding

First, those waves carried me far away from tech, and now they're bringing me back. Coding in Solidity and JavaScript reminded me how much I love computers, and then Web3 reminded me of what I loved about Web1. WAGMI is a fun name, and it's the same spirit I felt in Usenet groups 25 years ago. Pushing JavaScript and Solidity to new places reminds me of my work moving Java applets to new places. The work we did to make commercial internet accessible to so many people reminds me of the work happening now to make web3 accessible.

I gave myself the summer of 2022 to get my skills back up to speed. I studied (most of) Alchemy's Road To Web 3 program and (a good chunk of) Patrick Collins's Solidity course.

I created ADAMS COIN, an ERC20 token with tokenomics I thought would appeal to people who like games of chance. Each transfer would be taxed 42%, and then the contract would randomly give that tax to a holder. Then I built on it and created a full DEX where people can swap Goerli ETH for ADAMS, stake, earn compound interest, and claim rewards. I'm really into electronic music, so when I started to study ERC-721, I decided to create a generative art and music system where NFTs represent sound design and color. Combined, they create a meditative soundscape to help you get into a flow state.

I entered the Polygon hackathon and didn't win anything, but I learned much about software development. I reconnected with my love of writing and started a blog.

People often ask me what's changed when I was away from tech. A lot's changed for sure. Coding is more straightforward and accessible, and countless online resources and libraries are available to help. It's also the same; it's a community of brilliant people who care about what we're doing and want to understand the direction the world's moving.

Searching for a DevRel job

With the summer ending, I set September 1st as the day to kick off my job hunt. I decided to focus on DevRel as this magical job description that combines all the random skills I've collected over the years: my coding skills with my content creation skills from my YouTube days, my editing skills from my production days, and even the teaching skills I honed teaching yoga for 20 years.

I knew that searching for a job would be tricky given that I've been away from the industry for so long, so I focused on creating complete projects for my portfolio. I wanted potential employers to see I could do more than follow tutorials, imagine an entire product and find a way to build it myself.

I also knew that, having not interviewed for a job in a long time, I had to practice my interviewing skills too. I improved at each new job I applied for and each interview I had. In my initial interview prep, I primarily focused on technical questions. After a few interviews, I realized I needed to prepare for more philosophical questions like "what do you value in a company culture?".

After talking to around five companies, I applied for a job at Bundlr, a decentralized storage company. It was one of those jobs that looked just right from the first moment I saw it. It's a startup, and all my tech experience has been with startups. It's a technology I'm bullish about, an integral piece of the puzzle as we move to a decentralized world. Having interviewed, I knew they might ask me to create some content about their product instead of waiting for them to give it to me as an assignment, I wrote a blog post days after sending in my application. I started interacting with people on Twitter talking about Bundlr. I made sure to read all their documentation and prepare suggestions for how to make it better.

Then, 5.5 months after starting Alchemy's Road To Web 3 program and 1.5 months after starting my job hunt, I accepted a job to do DevRel at Bundlr.

I approached these last few months as I would any education; I took it seriously and did it full-time. I spent 3-5 hours daily and gave up my weekends to code. It was hard work, but it was fun work. I also spent a total of exactly $0 on educational materials. I didn't buy any courses; I didn't pay for mentorship, and I didn't spend anything aside from all the extra electricity while I was coding:) When I look at how technology has evolved over the last 20 years, I'm most impressed with how accessible information and education have become. That said, I'm also very aware of the advantages. I enjoy being a native speaker of English. I'm looking forward to using my new job to help people with different linguistic backgrounds have the same advantages.

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In life, we can't control when we fall in and out of love; it's just something that happens. I fell hard for coding way back 30 years ago; we had some rough times, got divorced, and now we're making a go of it again. I'm curious to see how things turn out this time. I'm excited to take the 20-year mindfulness practice I've built and have it support me as I get back into coding.

Basically … in the words of my favorite philosopher, RuPaul … "I can't wait to see how this turns out."