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Michael Lee πŸ•
Michael Lee πŸ•

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What's your origin story?

I’m a sucker for origin stories. Stories about a series of events that has led to who someone is today.

It is an exciting time I think to be a developer. I love that through the Internet and code schools, folks from various walks of life can become a developer. While I took a more conventional route to becoming a developer by attending a CS program at a university, most of my knowledge came from outside of that experience. Through resources found online, jobs and friendships.

On top of that I think the culmination of all the odd jobs I had prior to development also attributes to who I am today and how I approach things at work.

For this reason when a few weeks ago, my Twitter buddy, Andrew Del Prete shared his jobs before development, I thought I’d share some of the jobs I had in hopes of revealing some of my origin story.

The list looks like this for jobs I had before development:

  • cashier for clothing store
  • jewelry sales person
  • shoe sales person
  • valet driver
  • bandai toys sales person
  • wedding photographer
  • cnc operator
  • tutor
  • bestbuy sales person
  • administrator for baby photog

While the only common factor between these jobs is me, I can honestly say working these jobs before development has somehow or another contributed to the set of skills that I use as a developer today.

What are some jobs you had before development? I’d love to get a glimpse of your origin story.

Photo by Gavin Allanwood on Unsplash

Originally posted on

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Top comments (39)

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

My lifetime jobs in order, I may be missing some stuff along the way:

  • Event staff/maintenance
  • Dishwasher
  • Grocery store salad maker
  • Bouncer/security
  • Painter
  • Mover
  • Grounds crew at horse shows
  • Freelance Wordpress development
  • Entrepreneur (sports nutrition)
  • Software developer/technical co-founder
michael profile image
Michael Lee πŸ•

Whoa...I love the transition from salad maker to bouncer/security.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I quit (or was fired) from making salads because they wouldn't give me time off to go to my track meet. I sometimes worked with some shady characters as a bouncer but they were so much better to work for than my jerk grocery store manager!

Thread Thread
michael profile image
Michael Lee πŸ•

I sometimes worked with some shady characters as a bouncer but they were so much better to work for than my jerk grocery store manager!

Ha! So interesting.

Here's hoping the characters you're working with these days are better than both the folks from the days of making salads and bouncing shady characters.

andy profile image
Andy Zhao (he/him) • Edited

Also coming from a non-traditional route. I haven't had much work experience though, so here's a list of everything πŸ™Š:

  • Went to college for 1 year
  • Took a break for a semester
  • Got a job painting houses, and quit after 1 month
  • Took some community college courses for 1 semester
  • Went back to the original college for 1 year, and still could not
  • Also worked for a past-midnight cookie shop and as a cashier for a food co-op
  • Cousins asked if I wanted to live in NYC with them on their couch, for a 20 year old the answer was resounding yes
  • Worked at a restaurant as a busboy for 3 months
  • Quit that and found a new job selling health insurance (6 month contract)
  • Talked to the network admin there, and a few other people telling me "dude coding is amazing!!!"
  • Me being easily convincible said "Oh yeah that sounds great!"
  • Learned programming through online resources until I got into a part time coding bootcamp
  • Also took a temp, full time mail room job at the same time to pay the bills
  • Finished the coding bootcamp, and did the apprenticeship that came with the bootcamp
  • Became a TA for the bootcamp
  • Got hired at!

Now I get to leave comments like this one for (some of) my living. πŸ™ƒ

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Cousins asked if I wanted to live in NYC with them on their couch, for a 20 year old the answer was resounding yes

Ha, this was basically how I ended up in NYC. Bro's couch, age 23 (or 24 I forget).

andy profile image
Andy Zhao (he/him)

Cat, maybe real or fake, dancing on a couch

mibalerine profile image
Milena Balerine

I worked as a geologist studying groundwater quality and later on with soil and groundwater investigation and remediation in industrial areas. After moving to a different country across the ocean I took a coding bootcamp and learned to code!

michael profile image
Michael Lee πŸ•

This is so cool! With a background in geologist do you see yourself now thinking about ways to solve problems you had in the past with code?

the_mhudson profile image
Matthew Hudson

I was taking classes for some COMPTIA certs. There was this nagging curiosity about how electrical signals on copper wires were translated into information we view in a web browser. This turned into a degree in electrical engineering and DSP. The DSP end showed me how much fun programming can be, so now I just do that.

Jobs held during this process (in chronological order):
-Line cook
-Flower Delivery
-Network Admin
-Applications Engineer
-Software engineer
-Software developer

michael profile image
Michael Lee πŸ•

Hey hey Matthew! Thanks for sharing :) What is DSP? I'm digging how electrical signals on copper wires led you on the path to see how it ends up to information that we see via a web browser. I had never thought about that and now you've got me curious. Could you expound on your findings? Perhaps in a DEV post?

the_mhudson profile image
Matthew Hudson

DSP is digital signal processing.
That would be a HUGE DEV post -- but I could certainly break it down into more digestible pieces across a series of posts. That's actually a pretty good idea.

Thread Thread
michael profile image
Michael Lee πŸ•

That would be awesome. I think that would be excellent.

If you'd like to keep it shorter and concise there's also #explainlikeimfive which might be neat too. But I could totally imagine you taking a deep dive in this topic and folks totally geeking because of the depth of knowledge you have in this.

jeremy profile image
Jeremy Schuurmans

I was a CNA working in memory care, then a chef, then a dining room manager. During a period of unemployment, I started to feel strongly that I needed to change my career, and give my family a better life than we had. I started programming based on nothing but a gut feeling that I should, and I was hooked. A couple months later, I built a CLI application that scrapes music articles off of a website, and I was in love. I'm in a coding bootcamp now and looking forward to learning new skills.

michael profile image
Michael Lee πŸ•

That is very cool! Was the CLI for something specific or did you just want to see if you could make a scraper?

Also how's the coding bootcamp going?

jeremy profile image
Jeremy Schuurmans

Oh the CLI was my first bootcamp project. Sorry, I wrote that comment before coffee. But I also wanted to see if I could do it. It was sort of the turning point for me because previous to that I had been doing a lot of exercises, and it was the first time I built something from empty file to finished application.

The bootcamp is going great! Thanks for asking. I love spending so much time programming, and I really like doing it with a group of people, rather than solo.

ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II

Started my dark journey as a kid in the 70s. Got to turn a hobby into a career.

  • Dad brought home TRS-80s, Apple ][s and, eventually, PCs throughout the late 70s and 80s. Taught myself a couple interpreted languages, a compiled language (was an early language that used an interpreter-style language but was compiled into object code for actual running) and Z80 and 6502 assembler
  • First paid job doing inventory for a shoe store: convinced the owner to computerize his inventory system
  • Went to college. Finished with a B.S. in psychology. While I was there, taught myself C, C++ and became familiar with SunOS, NeXTSTEP, Solaris, VM/CMS and VAX/VMS while doing so.
  • Job market sucked in 1993. Temped - mostly in desktop publishing - until a customer realized I had computer aptitude
  • Got first salaried job doing OCR work for a commercial publisher of aviation-related materials (they converted relevant daily CFR content to hypertext for airlines an equipment manufacturers). Got to do some NetWare for them when their actual IT guy would go on vacation.
  • Decided I preferred the nuts-n-bolts IT work to desktop publish so went back to temping, this time in companies specializing in IT roles.
  • Eventually got a job as a lab SA with Bell Atlantic's new Internet division. Laziness led me to automating all of my day-to-day tasks, so got promoted to operations
  • While primarily a Sun shop, they also had SGI equipment. SGI account manager was impressed with what I was doing to make their stuff integrate well with BA's Sun gear, so got offered a job with SGI.
  • Left SGI for NetApp. Was a bad move because the group I joined was both unstable and underused.
  • Got an offer for an SA/engineering gig with a national ISP. Ended up doing way beyond what they hired me for. However, ISP got bought by WorldCom/MCI. In turn, WorldCom/MCI got bought by Verizon.
  • Friend of a friend was starting a consulting company and knew I was exceedingly unhappy at (now) Verizon. Offered me a gig as their first consultant. Got to travel the US and Europe working on storage and availability technologies (and writing automation) across a large spectrum of hardware, OSes and applications. Owner sold the company. New ownership created an unpleasant culture
  • Found a job through a former co-worker. While he left not long after I joined, found a group of really good technicians and managers. We've been together through three companies, now. Current focus is cloud-enablement and automation β€” particularly with helping customers try to move onto the DevOps path.

So, while I have coded throughout my hobbyist and professional life, I don't really consider myself a "true" coder. It's more functional/means-to-an-end oriented. My forays into coding is likely more a symptom of laziness and desire not to manually do repetitive tasks if there's a way to avoid it. As a result, much of the content I post through Dev.To is more oriented towards integration of information technologies than development of said technologies.

the_mhudson profile image
Matthew Hudson

"My forays into coding is likely more a symptom of laziness and desire not to manually do repetitive tasks if there's a way to avoid it."

That's the central theme of ALL programming. :-D
When people ask what I do, my first answer is, "I make computers do boring stuff really fast."

thecodetrane profile image
Michael Cain • Edited

In no particular order:

  • freelance musician
  • college professor
  • high school teacher
  • bartender
  • banquet server
  • janitor
  • mover
  • salesman (cars, windows, and industrial supplies)
  • pallbearer (yes, someone hired me to carry a casket for them)
  • customer service rep
  • bagel shop β€œsandwich artist”
  • dishwasher
  • short order cook

You can imagine I’m quite grateful to be a software engineer now.

cathodion profile image
Dustin King

The first job I had was yard work.

Then during college I worked most of the school years and one summer watching computer labs (making sure users checked in/out, helping with using software, etc). For other summer jobs during college, I worked fast food one summer and did data entry from fingerprint cards for another.

After I graduated (with a BS in CS), I did random temp work for a while (at one place I did some more data entry in Excel, and at another I gave surveys to people in a mall). Then I got a job doing phone-based customer service for a bank. Then finally I got a job doing tech support where there was some chance of moving into the "R&D" department where the coding happened, and eventually I did. I worked as a developer for 11 years or so, and now am on a sabbatical, after which I'll probably work as a developer some more (but remotely this time) or possibly try to sell a software-related product of my own.

Before I decided to go to school for CS, I was considering a career in music, and I'd like to get serious about that again, though probably not as my main source of income.

justiny profile image
Justin Young

I was a professional distance runner for 15 years. During "rest" time, I studied development and built wp themes for ThemeForest. Now I'm a developer Emerson Stone in Boulder, CO (where I originally moved with my wife to train at high altitude). I have an degree in Philosophy from Butler University.

aspittel profile image
Ali Spittel

High school

  • Dog walking
  • Children's science museum
  • Presidential campaign (I'm from NH so politics are a big thing)


  • Summer camp
  • Political campaigns -- I worked on quite a few of these
  • Computer Science Teaching Assistant
  • Software Engineer -- got that job at the end of my Junior year
  • Kept doing the software engineering job, but also interned teaching middle school math

Post college

  • Software engineering job
  • Teaching for a bootcamp
  • Teaching for company training bootcamps!
ntnunk profile image

It's definitely interesting to read the stories and the things people have done in their lives. While I have had my fair share jobs that fall squarely into the "Other" category, I have been far more focused on tech throughout my life with most of my non-tech stuff happening during high school and a little bit of college. I started working on and with electronics as a sophomore in high school and pretty much knew I wanted to work on with technology from then on.

So, something like this:

  • McDonald's cook (17, still in high school)
  • McDonald's manager (18, summer after graduation)
  • Pasta, salad, and sandwich guy at a Pizza Inn (college)
  • Cook at a couple of steakhouses (college)
  • Waiter (college)
  • Sanitation at turkey processing plant (waiting to go into the military)
  • US Navy Data Systems Technician (this was all electronics)
  • Communications technician (electronics, some software)
  • HMI Engineer (first software job)
  • Controls Engineer (Software, moving back toward electronics)
  • IoT Technical guy (lots of software and electronics == me happy!)
jumpalottahigh profile image
Georgi Yanev

Wow, so many interesting stories in the post, and I used to think I wondered around for a bit before coming back to software development. Thanks to OP and to everyone else for sharing. Here's my story too -

mfurmaniuk profile image

Starting from early employment

  • Dishwasher
  • College for one year of ME (learned Fortran)
  • Switched to Culinary Arts
  • Chef
  • Barback/Bouncer
  • Tech Support
  • Tech Support Manager
  • Quality Assurance
  • Quality Assurance Manager
  • Quality Assurance/Release Engineer Manager
  • Build Engineer
  • Programmer

Overall self-taught, dealing with whatever tools and languages I need. I've touched so many that they are fairly easy to pick up

thebouv profile image
Anthony Bouvier

Hawaiian Shaved Ice snow cone maker
Clean up crew at a bar / concert venue
Mammography Clinic office helper / misc duties
Stocker at Target / Big Lots
Med school Petri Dish Washer / Cat Brain Cutter-Upper / Oh you do website stuff?
Marketing Agency Junior Web Dev
Marketing Agency Web Dev / SysAdmin / Network Admin
Marketing Agency Geek In Charge and Board Member
Marketing Technology Lead at Fortune 500 company
Marketing Technology Lead at large private company
Director of Emerging Technology at large private company

Sprinkled in there are tech co-founder of two startups that never failed, but never truly succeeded either (though one is still passive income).

100% self taught. Went to college for Religious Studies and Philosophy. I consider myself a hacker, and not a computer scientist. Because of my journey mostly solo, my favorite thing to do is mentor other developers.

jrtibbetts profile image
Jason R Tibbetts

My Bachelor's and first Master's degrees are in Classics (i.e. Latin & Ancient Greek). I never wanted to be anything other than a professor of Greek, but the Real Worldβ„’ got in the way and made me pick a career where I could actually make money, so I parlayed that into a Master's in CS with a focus on natural-language processing and made a career out of that that's lasted 20+ years so far.

If we're listing pre-professional jobs, then I've been a

  • newspaper deliverer;
  • busboy;
  • Boy Scout camp counselor;
  • drugstore clerk;
  • university food–service manager;
  • proofreader of trade and scholarly books;
  • and other things that I've probably forgotten.