.tech and i go way back

This piece is cross-posted in Wellesley Underground.

My relationship with technology is intimate and deeply integrated in my thinking and view of the world around me.

In the mid-1990s, my mother started a company called CompuKidz, teaching children how to use computers. She recognized that technology would shape the future and we can best leverage that shift by supporting computer education for children. There was always a computer in our house loaded with creative games and educational programs. I would type stories for hours and then design accompanying illustrations. By the time my elementary school offered a computer class, I was already bored with the introductions. Didn’t everyone’s fingers glide across the keyboard without looking? Who needed help turning the computer on and finding Oregon Trail? Didn’t everyone have a computer in their house that they could use after their homework was done? The answer, I found, was no.

I attended a high school with a Science and Technology program, meaning that in addition to standard high school courses, the program offered specializations in biology, engineering, and computer science. I majored in computer science and learned to program.

Learning to code was a breath of fresh air. Understanding how to communicate with a computer was like learning to speak my crush’s language. We were both logical. We both broke big problems into smaller, sequential steps. We both processed information and assessed the solution. We were finally speaking the same language. Before, I was communicating at my computer but now I could communicate with it. I was in love. I wrote programs for fun, I thought about how everyday technologies were coded, I refactored my code to make it shorter and more efficient. This, kids, is your brain on code.

In my senior year I applied to a bunch of schools, got into them, and narrowed down to two. I could attend Carnegie Mellon University and study with some of the best computer scientists in the world for free, or, I could attend Wellesley and get an excellent liberal arts education, going on to become a lawyer or writer with tons of student debt. I visited Wellesley and knew this was where I needed to be.I made promises to study English and leave computer science behind.

I broke up with computer science in favor of being around an environment that motivated, challenged, and excited me. I vowed to do whatever it took to be around these brilliant minds that would change the world. (Spoiler: my personal mottos are “Why pick one when you can have both?” and “Treat yo’self”. I don’t do well denying myself things.)

Fast-forward to 2008. It was late in my sophomore year and I was preparing to tell my mother that I’d declared a major. Inhale. Exhale. Dial. “Mom, I decided to major in computer science.” I said as I’d been practicing.

“I thought you wanted to major in English and go to law school.” She had a point. But how could I explain that I took a CS class to fulfill a requirement and free-fell back into the comfort of it. I felt guilty for ever having left computer science; you can’t deny a love like that. I couldn’t leave it a second time, so one required CS class turned into two CS classes, which turned into possibly minoring, which turned into majoring.

As my studies progressed, I became more fascinated in what coding could create. How could computer science concepts develop innovative softwares and solve important problems? Next time, I’ll tell you a story about the jump I made from programming to product management and how that journey is going.

For now, I’ll say that I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to identify and cultivate my passion so early in life. If you’ve identified something similar in yourself, we owe it to ourselves, and our respective industries, to never deny ourselves the pleasure of diving deep and not coming up for air.

With a smile,

Monet