My Own Journey Into STEM

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My Own Journey Into STEM

Needless to say, technology is alive and well in our present age and society. I grew up, and still live in, Los Angeles and I've done so for 3 decades now. So I have the luxury of getting 10 calls a day for someone looking for a full stack angular + .NET coding guru who want's to work for an exciting social media platform. AKA, using some 3rd party API to track users. I'm still waiting for the call where I'm asked if "I'm ready to believe yet" with coordinates to some rainy bridgy area.

But growing up in the early 80's and 90's, slightly before the interwebs took over the world, I got to see an entirely new perspective. A world without "logging" in and "in-app purchases" and "metrics". I saw a "normal" world with Powerpoint and Microsoft word, and it was good. My first "computing" class was in Kindergarten and it involved typing sentences into a rustic 1900's'ish Oregon Trail word processor.


The only thing I can clearly remember from that time, was the sheer panic on the teachers face whenever the application crashed and the "IT" guy came running in to help, equally stumped. Those precious moments in life.

I didn't see another computer for a few years after that. That's when I glimpsed "innovation". A massive floppy disk which an even more massive computer that ate with a crunch "cha-chunk". Each time was exciting, as life and limb hanged on the line. It was a game. It involved construction workers and words. But to be honest, I don't think I ever once read the screen or played it correctly. We'll blame it on faulty UI/UX. But it was fun. It was new. It had a shiny screen mainly and the loudest keyboards known to man.

My Own Journey Into STEM

As I grew wiser shortly after, so did programmers. Which brought the game that would have me sitting in front of a screen for hours at a time. Math Blaster, and Math Blaster Plus. This was the first time in my life where I was curious about this so called computer. It was colorful, it had sounds, and let's be honest, it's a fun game. Good job Blaster Learning System. To this day, one of my biggest achievements has been holding my 2nd grade multiplication challenge for 8 straight weeks. Because good software can teach us a thing or two. The more you know.

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Once console gaming hit the scene, it was settled. My life would revolve around bits and bytes, whatever that meant. I was destined to become a programmer/software developer/computer guy/etc by the age of 5. And the rest is a terribly boring story involving college classes in assembly language and compilers. And I have never learned to make a video game. Not yet. That's still on my list of things to learn and do before 40, so I still have some time.

But for now I make websites and web site related accessories. But that feeling of wonder and delight that I had as a child hasn't yet dissipated. Not completely anyway. Every time I look at what some random person in the world has done in JavaScript, or in whatever language they choose to do their magic in, I subtly grin to myself. And it's that same feeling that I had 25 years ago when I first saw Oregon Trail, and Math Blaster, and my first website. Whichever site that was. It's a mixture of curiosity and confusion. Something that makes my brain for 2 seconds wonder just what the hell I saw.

And to this lowly programmer, that is STEM. Minus the Engineering, Mathematics...and Science too I suppose. It's technology. That's what did it for me back in the day, and that's why I continue to do it now. We now group it with other disciplines in order to make it sound more important. But it doesn't need to be. I don't need to know Physics or Biology to do my job. The Math Blaster team used multiplication sure, but they weren't barraging 6 year old's with quadratic equations.

Not a day goes by that I don't hear about STEM in the media in some shape way or form. The importance of it, the peril we're all in without it and the billions in grant dollars flying around the digital air in order to make it happen. And I can only wonder what effect this will have on technology 20-30 years down the line. But for me, this was my own personal journey into STEM. And at the ripe old age of 31, I've realized that I do it because its fun, and not for any scientific enlightenment purposes. And I think that's good enough in the grand scheme of life.

Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.


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