Why coders code: 3 senior devs on what got them into programming

James Risley

As a developer, you have plenty of great job options and the ability to work in almost any industry. But there’s usually a story behind the code — the reason you became a coder in the first place and jumped into a job that requires long hours and complex problem solving.

We asked Colorado devs to share the stories behind what got them into programming and what they love about being a Centennial State coder.

 

Answers from Scott Davis, principal engineer at ThoughtWorks. The creative technology consultancy helps companies build out new products quickly, with expertise in Agile, UX, devops and lean development.

Why did you get into coding?

Why did I get into coding? I never had a chance not to … My parents met as IBM employees. They sent out my birth announcement on punch cards — a paper cardboard way of running programs that predates DVDs, CDs, USB thumb drives, hard drives and even floppy drives! We had every new PC that IBM released in our house, starting with the original IBM PC released in 1981. While others kids were outside playing kickball, my dad taught me how to build spreadsheets in VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3, and my mom showed me how to install new RAM in a computer.

Once you decided you wanted to start coding, how did you turn it into a career?

My first job out of college was with a computer training company. I taught classes five days a week and maintained the classroom PCs to ensure that they had the necessary operating system and applications installed for the next day's class. We installed wired networks in all of the classrooms when local area networks (LANs) were first invented, and even installed a private wide area network (WAN) to bridge a dozen classrooms spread across several locations miles apart.

When the internet first started gaining popularity in the mid-1990s, I wrote courseware for the company, taught classes and wrote the company's first website. I was hooked from that point forward.

What do you love about Colorado's coding community?

I love the friendliness and vitality of Colorado's meetup/user group community. I was the president of the Denver Java Users Group (DJUG) and the Boulder Java Users Group (BJUG) for years, and I co-founded the HTML5 Denver Users Group eight years ago. I might be a bit biased, but I don't think there's any better way to stay at the top of your programming game than listening to a cutting-edge technology presentation after work, eating a free meal and hanging out regularly with your peers in the community.

 

Answers from Kristan Elliott, a senior consultant at Avoka. The company facilitates sales transactions for banks and other financial service providers.  

Why did you get into coding?

I got into coding because I was always able to work through computer issues for friends and they soon started asking me for help with their websites. This was a time when coding was starting to be driven by platforms that allowed users to use tools from a business perspective and anyone could use these tools to throw up a site or platform fairly easily.

I was asked by a family member to help them get their business up and running. I created a website, optimized it, and eventually was asked to manage the development of other client sites. I enjoyed Flash scripting and media production for print at the time, and when new languages like PHP and HTML5 started to take off, it was really exciting to be a part of that. I could be on the edge of always learning something new. It was the web 2.0 generation.

I decided to switch majors from biology to technical communications and production. This was not computer science, but as soon as I started building and learning the languages, I loved being heads down.

Once you decided you wanted to start coding, how did you turn it into a career?

I was a driven person with an “I can do that” kind of attitude and had seen many entrepreneurial friends take and make something out of nothing. I learned mostly from the internet and friends about coding. There is no shortage of talent in Colorado for coders or innovators. I soon was wrapped up with lots of technical people willing to take a chance on me, and that is how I wound up at Avoka. This introduced me to the enterprise level development that I knew I wanted to be a part of, as well as a new technology and a product that I could stand behind.

What do you love about Colorado's coding community?

I love how collaborative and entrepreneurial Colorado is, as well as the innovation that is driven from Colorado culture. There are always new groups and events as the Colorado technical community continues to grow and welcome more learning opportunities. The culture in Colorado is to be helpful to those around you, helpful to our community, and always has a natural flow to all things. That is why I love Colorado and working in the tech company.

 

Answers from Curtis Allen, senior developer operations engineer at Robots and Pencils. The app development firm creates custom mobile applications so clients can better engage their customers.

Why did you get into coding?

In high school, I took a C programming class and immediately gravitated towards software development. Years later, while I was pursuing my degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, I enjoyed classes that involved programming the most. In my final semester of my undergrad, I decided to take C++ as an elective and became more fascinated with programing. I knew I wanted a job in software in Denver and found a job that needed a C++ developer to work on geospatial mapping software. After a while, I transitioned to working on Java applications as well.

Once you decided you wanted to start coding, how did you turn it into a career?

While I was attending university, I did two six-month internships, one with a government contractor in Denver and one in Maryland. The first internship was a communication analysis position; the second was in algorithm development using MATLAB. I also did a summer internship with a power company as a substation engineer.

When it became time to start thinking about my future, I found that the work that involved programming interested me the most. I knew I wanted to live in Denver and one of my academic advisors had a connection with a small software company in Denver, so he got me an interview. I ended up getting the job.

What do you love about Colorado's coding community? 

I love the number of easy-to-access meetups in Denver. Whatever the interest — from distributed systems to graph databases — there seems to be a meetup in the area that meets regularly. The software community is vibrant and welcoming — a great place to hone your craft.

 

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