Growing up I always knew I wanted to do something with computers. I loved that you could create somethings out of nothings. Ones and zeros make a game. Lines and shapes make a drawing. Words and pictures make a website. It was all incredible.

In junior high, we had to take aptitude tests to help us figure out a career path. But seriously why do schools make kids who are only 12 or 13 try to figure out what they want to do FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES?? It seems insane to me now, but back then, I had all the confidence in the world about working with computers.

I’m not sure I knew back then what computer programming was. That wasn’t something taught at my school at the time but when I changed to a new district for high school they DID have computer classes. Of course, I signed up to start taking them as soon as I could.

The first part of the class was learning to type which I had already started. This was incredibly boring, but eventually, we did start to program. My first language was Basic. I don’t remember now the things we were programming but I’m sure it was all very small potatoes.

I loved it though. Thinking about how to make something work and then actually setting out to DO THE THING is so much fun to me. I had no idea what it would be like to be a computer programmer for a real job. I didn’t know anyone who really did that.

My dad worked in computers, which is why we had so many (parts) at home. His job was in networking, so not really programming.

Mrs. Zimmer was my computer teacher in high school and I’m super thankful for her. I never felt discouraged when programming and she never made me feel dumb or less than. I think a lot of women never go into programming because of how their teachers or peers make them feel unworthy. For me, there was no gender divide in the class.

I went to college and studied Management Information Systems (MIS). It was a mix of business and computers. I did consider Computer Science for a time but was intimidated by the math classes.

In high school, I never got A’s in math and I didn’t like the idea of taking a bunch more of those classes. Mr. Stroh, my math teacher for several years in HS, had an awful temper and was known to throw books and chairs in class. He was also my basketball and track coach for a time (it was a small town). So he was super intimidating, to say the least. How could you ask someone like that for help?

In the end, I’m really glad I picked MIS. I loved the business classes and feel like they have helped me a ton throughout my career. Maybe even more than some of my computer classes.

In my senior year of college, I worked in the nursing computer lab which led me to my first job as a programmer. My boss in the lab introduced me to her sister, Vesta Stewart, who ran the software department at the local Veterans Affairs Medical Center. I was able to start there as a MUMPS programmer just a few months after graduating.

I’m grateful to have found my path so easily and hope that my kids might do the same.


Just Write is a prompt-based personal writing exercise created by Ali Edwards.

Grow up