This is in response to Steve Bryant's original post and idea.
It always puzzled me how my fellow school leavers and peers knew what they wanted to be when they "grew up". With a world of possibilities out there, I found it impossible to set down a definitive roadmap of what I wanted to be and how I wanted to get there. At such a young age, it seemed impossible to be able to be certain over anything. What I did know was that I wanted it to be something creative.
At the age of 5-6 I wanted to be a clown, and was able to juggle with balls, rings and clubs. I drew the line at throwing chainsaws or anything on fire. By age 8 I wanted to be a pilot and join my best friend who also wanted the same. Imagine Top Gun but both of us taller than Tom Cruise. By the time I'd hit high school all bets were off. I'd discovered music, started playing guitar and, as one of only three drummers in the whole school, was playing in up to four bands at any one time. Rock and roll, baby.. rock and roll.
Finishing high school after studying law and art I took the chance to leap into music college in Cambridge, and found myself enrolled in a new music tech course that opened up the doors for fun and adventure. What better course could there be for a 16 year old than to go to school, play in a band, learn to write, record and perform music and have gigs and concerts as part of the coursework!
With the academic path behind me, I didnt want to attend university or further education, opting instead to go for real-world experience and diving straight into work. Although I still had no plans for a career, I knew that I wanted to get the most out of the real world and learn through exposure and experience.
I started my IT development when I finally obtained a PC of high enough spec to do anything worthwhile on - my trusty Spectrum 48K was great for programming and creating rainbow patterns as a kid, but apart from playing Chucky Egg or Daley Thompson's Decathlon there was no other use for it :)
I started off probably in the same way as everyone else by finding various sites and pages and viewing source to find out how it was all put together. It was intrigue and curiosity that fuelled my passion, and I would hack, amend and revise my own variations of these pages locally.
In one job as a production manager for a printing company, I built the company's website and intranet in static HTML and immersed myself in VBScript to develop a complete stock, customer and invoice management database using MS Access. This took forever, but really opened my eyes to database development and optimal ways of creating tasks and queries.
My first official foray into professional development came as a PHP developer, which made sense to combine HTML and dynamic data (thanks to the previous job's experience with developing both separately) and built custom content management systems and applications for some local companies and businesses. This was still an extra-curricular activity, and was simply freelance work as an opportunity to experiment with development.
It took me a long time to discover what I really wanted to do, and when I finally realised that web development was the one thing that truly excited and interested me, I continued studying resources and experimenting with techniques in my own time until I had found the perfect position to get me started officially.
My first ColdFusion position was also my first official job as a full-time developer and was working for the United Nations Environmental Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) in Cambridge.
The day I started, I was shown my desk with two screens (dual monitors.. imagine that!) and my official introduction to the language was my line manager dropping the CFWACK books onto my desk and telling me to start reading. The one thing he did show me was cfabort and cfdump, and from then on I was hooked! The ability to quickly abort and visually see everything being passed around and debug in the browser had me sold. Within months I was writing GIS mapping applications and tools to query and filter vast databases on species and genus. A real eye-opener.
My final day at the organisation was made even more memorable when I was handed a publication regarding Coral Reef Mapping, and found my name in the credits as developer of the database and online mapping tool. The best gift I could have been given from the fantastic colleagues and friends.
Eventually I moved to a position in London working for a dating website agency, and was put in charge of developing one of their sites. Each developer in the team had a single site to manage and maintain. This taught me optimisation, scalability and accountability - being in charge of a website that generated £14k a day meant it had to be working!
I made the jump into contracting and found a position at a global media agency at one of their offices in London. This seriously opened my eyes to dealing with large clients in a fast-paced environment, and was also my stepping stone into Flex / AIR development. Just as Flex 2.0 was emerging I found myself building and maintaining an AIR app for very high-profile communications provider. It seemed like the natural progression as a CF developer to evolve into building RIA tools and merge the flash-driven front-end with ColdFusion powering behind.
Moving to today, I find myself working as Lead Developer at Fuzzy Orange on a variety of applications and projects and organising the awesome Scotch on the Rocks conference. I enjoy writing tutorials and articles covering ColdFusion content, and wrote "Object Oriented Programming in ColdFusion" to further share the awesome-ness that is CF.
I'm proud to call myself an Adobe Community Professional for ColdFusion and a member of the ColdFusion Advisory Board, and am also the manager for the Hertfordshire Adobe User Group. My main passion is speaking and sharing experiences at conferences and user group meetings, and I absolutely love getting to speak with and meet other web professionals. I'm a big believer in open-source development and sharing code, and have released a number of open-source projects available to download from riaforge.org.
Above all else, I really enjoy being a part of the greatest online development community, and being able to collaborate and chat to fellow developers on a daily basis.
It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and a little longer to find myself working with ColdFusion as my language of choice. I'm still driven by the same curiosity and excitement from all of those years ago, and am glad that it never left me. I wouldn't change any part of the path that got me here, and I absolutely love what I do and the people / community I work with.
Now, I just need to brush off those juggling clubs and see if I can work that into my future presentations! :)