Four years ago, Andy Van Dam let me give a small talk to his CS 15 class. I stood in the auditorium, in front of 200+ students, and had a momentary epiphany.
I told the class:
You are the luckiest people on the face of the earth. When I started my career, working on computers meant building systems for banks, or weapons to kill. Software has now become embedded in every aspect of our lives. Everything you want to do has a software angle. You can save the world, or build a weapon, or save a child and still work on software. You can follow your passion and dream and work on software. And I am envious of you.
I think I said it better than Andreesen. But I am not a venture capitalist and the inventor of the web browser.
The point is that if you want to write software for a living you can do anything you want.
My son keeps asking, what do you do for a living daddy? And I keep trying to explain software. Try getting a child to understand what writing software is.
Every night, I read a book to my son. And today we read about the Curiosity rover. And I remembered that Jim Kurien, an old Brown University friend, had written software for that program.
And my wife said:
See, Nicholas if you write software you can work on robots that go to Mars.
And my son full of awe and admiration and eyes bigger than saucers asked:
Daddy, Daddy, do you work on robots?
For a moment, I was his hero and cool. My work wasn’t something that took me away from him, my work was something special. Software was special. The lightbulb of why I did what I did went on.
And I said:
And my son looked as if I was the dumbest man on earth. Because if I could work on robots, why would I not be …
And then I turned to my wife and said:
I hope you like LA. You know, the headquarters of SpaceX.
All humor aside, I am happy with my job, and I love the problem I am working on, creating a unified virtualized hybrid infrastructure. Not as sexy as the Curiosity Rover, and probably not as transformative and just as exciting to me.
And hopefully, my son will learn that lesson in life. That what is interesting to you is all that matters.