Everyone has stories to tell. In fact, one of the best secrets to dating is to realize that simple fact and give your date a chance to tell their stories, and for you to show genuine interest in listening. This is one reason the web has blossomed so much: we all have something to say and really hope at least one other person out there wants to hear it.
Likewise, us IT professionals have our stories on how we got started in this field. Recently a thread along this vein was started at the SecurityCatalyst community and Rebecca Herold tagged me to put my story up. So here it is!
Part 1: the geekdom
I’ve long been a geek. I have always been a video gamer (since Atari), I love arcades, and I enjoy science and puzzles. I got my first computer, a Pentium-60 just to play Doom and a handful of other games at the time (Wing Commander, Descent, Hexen…). From there, I really took to computers but I never evolved beyond gaming and online chats.
Part 2: college
I started college in the fall of 1996 at Iowa State U. My roommate and good friend, Ryan, got me interested in having my own web page, so in the winter of 1996 I started learning what View Source did and how to write my own HTML markup. I’ve had a web page ever since. This, along with my addiction to Quake (the first one, you noobs) was my main involvement with computers.
I started out college by going about 2.5 years into Environmental Science. Yes, I wanted to save the whales (and otters!). But I faced some harsh realities during those early, largely unmotivated years. I knew that that field was not quite what I was looking for, was highly competitivem, and really would never be lucrative in pay. And as much as I have a passion for that area, I realized I could do just as much on my own as a hobby or lifelong interest as I could do pursuing it for a career. I spent a semester or two doing some deep soul-searching for what I wanted to do. Eventually I realized that I loved computers and had a bit of a knack for them; I was a go-to guy in my dorms for computer questions. (Years of computer gaming can really enhance your troubleshooting skills…) So I switched majors to Management Information Systems, lost 45 credits that didn’t apply in the transition from sciences, and graduated in 2001 by taking the max number of credits for my remaining semesters. Needless to say, I was very happy even though I walked out into the IT world the year after the .com boom busted.
Part 3: security
Upon graduation I really wanted to get into web design and coding, but with the dot com busting, the IT class of 2001 was really not a lucrative class like the previous years. I spent a lot of my time during job searching to hone my skills and learn new things.
On a whim, I picked up the book Hack Attacks Revealed by John Chirillo. I was immediately hooked and knew that I could happily trade web coding for systems management and eventually security. Since then, I’ve been working in this area and pursuing the field ever since. Picked up my first real job in early 2002. Within a month of working on the technical support team, I was offered a place on the web dev team, but turned it down to hold out for another role I knew would soon become needed: systems administration. I got that a year later, in 2003, and have since been a sysadmin with a big interest in security.