I could easily think of two events that dramatically influenced where I am today, finding a third with as major an impact was difficult. I think the third one qualifies as an important enough event, while it didn’t really affect my career, it did influence my community involvement.
I canna take it anymore
I grew up surrounded by two things, computers and science fiction.
My father was a computer programmer in those days (today he runs a software company) and there were computers around from the earliest I remember. From the Sharp that I played Asteroids and The Valley on, to the NCR with it’s beeping keyboard where I first started programming (in a variant of basic), to the 80286 that my father gave me when he bought himself something faster. I’ve always had computers around that I could use. Despite that, I never had any intention of going into IT as a career.
My mother is a trekkie (classic Star Trek only please) so I grew up watching (and reading) lots of Science Fiction. From Star Trek to Dr Who to Battlestar Galactica to the entire science fiction collection at the local library I watched and read everything I could get my hands on, and it wasn’t long before I started reading Science fact as well as Science fiction. By the time I got to high school my career plans were leaning in the direction of Physics and Astronomy. Placing very high in the national Science Olympiad and almost winning a trip to Space Camp just strengthened those intentions. I enjoyed playing with computers, but that was more a hobby (and, by that point, a place to play games)
I entered university with the intention to major in Physics, take a related subject as my second major and then get an Honours degree1 in Physics and find a job in astronomy or physics research. I took Computer Science as my second major because it was one of the few subjects that I was interested in that didn’t conflict with the other subjects I had to take (Chemistry 1 and Maths 1) I spend most of my spare time in my first two years in the Physics department library. I reckon that I must have read easily a third of that library in those two years
Just two problems with that intention. Firstly, there’s almost no demand in this country for physicists other than the universities and the national observatory. Secondly, by the time I got to 3rd year physics, I couldn’t handle the Maths involved. It was part way through the course on Quantum Physics (which contained more maths than some of the 3rd year maths courses did) that I realised that if I couldn’t handle the maths at this point, there was no way I’d ever be able to get a post-grad degree in physics.
I finished the Bachelors degree majoring in Physics and Computer Science and then applied for the honours degree in the Computer Science department
(1) In South Africa the Honours degree is a one year post-grad degree that sits between the Bachelors degree and the Masters degree.