Join LinkedIn Learning Developer Instructor for an in-depth discussion in this video Jen Kramer, part of Career Clinic: Developer Insights.
- My grandfather bought a Heathkit, which is a type of computer at that point. Heathkits have, there's lots of different type of Heathkit products, like a crystal radio and so forth, but this was the Heathkit computer, and he started to assemble that. In fact, the very first personal computer I'd ever seen. And it was very large. It had the disk drive with very large disks that you would fit into it, they might have even been added later.
And the screen was about that big, and all it was was one color. And you could type into it and it would talk to you, but it was all command line, there was no other type of interface. My grandmother would scoop us up and say, okay, let's write a program. Line 10, print Jennifer. Line 20, go to line 10. And it would print my name over and over again on the screen, and as a kid in the 70s, that was like, the most amazing thing ever. So my brothers and I would fight over this computer every single time they brought it down and we'd come to visit.
I think it really affected all three of us, myself and my two younger brothers, very deeply. My youngest brother is now working at Arizona State University doing PC help desk support. My middle brother is not working in computers, but he's very fluent and has a lot to do with IT, and then of course, I'm teaching web design. So as I moved through my career in biology, I went from working in the university lab to moving on to working in a commercial lab to moving on to working in science business, and I became a product manager for a filter company called Omega Optical, based in Brattleboro, Vermont.
This is in southern Vermont, in the middle of nowhere. And they make these little pieces of glass that change the color of light. They're on microscopes, they've put them on the Hubble, they've sent them to Mars, all from this one little company in southern Vermont. And what I had to do was keep the website up to date with the latest information about what's going on with, what's happening with the microscope filters. I worked with the IT guy, who, the poor guy had a 120-person company, he had to do all the PC help desk, he had to do all of the networking, and he did the website.
So it was really hard to get his attention. And so I would give him these changes and try to cajole him into making them, and then finally, one day he looked and me and said, why don't you just do this? I don't know what this HTML stuff is, I don't know how to do it. He showed me how to view the source for a web page, told me how to copy and paste and then fill in my own information, and pretty soon those were my happiest days at my job. I was just thrilled to be editing these web pages. So just down the street, oddly enough, here we are in Brattleboro, Vermont, a town of 10,000 people, just down the street was Marlboro College.
They had just started a graduate school program with a Master's in internet strategy management, which was one of the very first internet-oriented business degrees in the country. It was, at that point in time, a little bit of everything. A little business strategy, a little bit of marketing, a little project management, a little bit of technology and web design. So I decided, it was 2000, it was a great time to be out working, the economy was going gangbusters, so I quit my job about January of 2000. The stock market crashed six weeks later, so my timing was awesome.
I enrolled in September of 2000 in school, I graduated in August of 2001. I knew that living in southern Vermont, I was going to have to freelance. Nobody was going to hire me to do websites. So I'd gotten my first client, my very first client meeting was September 10th, 2001. And so we all know what happened the next day. So it was a really difficult time to be starting a brand-new business in a field where I was still figuring things out, but I stuck with it, and it was a wonderful career change.
It's taken me so many great places, and I'm really glad that I did it. So what today's developers are doing is the whole thing is all full stack. You got to be full stack! I'm here to tell you, you don't. You don't have to be full stack. It's okay to be a specialist in one particular area, but you really need to stay up with that one particular area. Don't feel like you have to scattershot and go into a whole bunch of different areas to try to learn way more than you actually need to do. Focus on something that really lights your fire, and then just do it every day.