My Path to Software Engineering
I’ve gone between software engineering and film for most of my career. People often wonder about my unusual career path so I’d like to share how I wound up here.
As a kid, the closest thing I did to programming was making custom maps for Starcraft, which is like programming small games. We moved to California the year before I planned to start Comp Sci courses in High School. My new school didn’t offer the same courses so I participated in the film production classes and club instead.
After high school, I pursued Computer Science at a community college. As I finished my Associates Degree in Computer Science, my interests back shifted to photography and video. I took a break from school and freelanced on film sets in Los Angeles before transferring to California State University, Long Beach to major in film production.
In my senior year, I had the opportunity to intern at Light Iron, which was, at the time, a small start-up post-production facility that specialized in color correction. It had 9 employees when I joined (including me) and most of them were founders. The month I started, I attended the premiere of Light Iron’s largest project to date – The Social Network, directed by David Fincher. Though the company was small, they worked on big things. While interning at Light Iron, I worked in many different areas of post-production, ranging from creative to technical. I continued working there beyond the internship and stayed on after graduating from Cal State Long Beach.
After graduation, I asked the Chief Technology Officer if I could transition into a more technical role and he agreed. In my spare time, I learned about software engineering through Hacker News and Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs). Over time, I automated manual tasks and inefficient processes. As the need for automation grew, I wrote applications to handle tasks such as validating integrity of media and archiving footage to long-term tape storage.
I decided to pursue software engineering full-time. I enrolled in Georgia Tech’s Online Masters of Computer Science program when it debuted. I could write applications and I understood some fundamentals from my previous MOOC studies, so I viewed this as an opportunity to “eat my broccoli”. It would be good for me even if it would be challenging for a few years. I moved on from Light Iron to work at a film-tech company as a full-time software engineer and started this blog while working there.
I’ve since completed my Masters degree and worked at a few different places. I’m still at the intersection of film and technology at Amazon since I’m working on Prime Video. It’s been an interesting path.
My take-away is that it’s never too late to start moving in the direction of your passion. Carer paths can be unpredictable and that’s a good thing. I’m thrilled I’m able to work full time as a software engineer and grateful for the good fortune I’ve had.