I've always loved to create with computers. From writing stories to designing newsletters for my Guiding troupe, I was always making things. Even today, I make digital scrapbook pages!
In high school, I started becoming more and more curious about how things work "behind the screen," so to speak. How do you write code to make a word processor? What's the math behind vector graphics? How does computer hardware, at the lowest level, add two numbers?
I decided I wanted to take computer science in university so I could learn all this and more. I didn't learn how to program in high school; instead, I took drama and music while I still could. But I was pretty sure I'd love the world of code whenever I eventually entered it.
Turns out I was right. I also loved working in the industry during my co-op terms. One of my jobs was at Ross Video, working on software for a video production switcher. The other was at Corel, where I worked on the text engine for Corel DRAW, software I had used for many years in my personal projects.
Nearing the end of my undergrad, the most difficult decision I faced was which of these two companies I would try to work at full-time. I never thought I'd do anything other than go to industry.
I was going to be a software developer.
Until, that is, a professor approached me and convinced me to consider graduate school. The catch? The application for the big scholarship was due in a week. Well then.
Image adapted from Ivory Tower by OfTheDunes
I applied, and I got the scholarship. So I went to grad school for my Masters. I had a great time, and even got my start in outreach, but learned something very important: I didn't care for the low-level, experimental nature of my thesis topic, and wished I did something more applied.
I decided to continue on to my PhD, choosing storytelling in videogames as my thesis topic. I engaged in educational games and computer science education research on the side. I also took the opportunity to gain more teaching experience. I eventually realized that education was my passion and I wanted to teach.
I was going to be a university instructor.
After some contract work, I got a two-year term position as a full time faculty instructor. I made an impact with some innovative course designs and a lot of hard work in outreach and diversity. But when I tried to get a permanent instructor job, I missed it by a hair. Although I was not yet finished my PhD, I didn't really fancy going back to being a full-time student. Instead, I figured: why not go back to industry and be a software developer again?
So off to Shopify I went. I joined the Home team, working on the first page merchants on the Shopify platform see when they log into their admin. I learned both Ruby and Rails, and finally had a chance to try real-world web development.
I quite enjoyed working as a developer, but it was a step sideways from my goal of teaching. However, in the fall, an opportunity arose.
I was going to jump back into education once again!
Starting this past January, I became Manager of External Education Programs. I'm working on some really exciting education projects, including a sponsorship of the Ottawa Network for Education's AppJam. I get to create curriculum, teach, and even create a team of similarly passionate folks here at Shopify.
So while I have taken some steps back in my career, and some other steps sideways, I find myself feeling very fortunate to end up where I am now. So if you ever find yourself on a really windy career path, don't fret: go with the flow, and see where it takes you. You might find yourself ahead of where you expect, even if it you hit your goal at a bit of a strange angle.