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Why did you choose your specialty?

#1

vvbudh

vvbudh

Everyone has their specialty, or something they know really well. Where did you come from and why did you choose to specialize in what you do now?


#2

A

AlanD

I started off in banking and moved on to the IT side of the bank after some 17 years. Initially I was more of a "User representative" but got more involved in the systems side. I never learned programming as such, although I did do a System Analysis course. I could understand things like COBOL and databases ( hierarchical and relational), but tended to specialise more in connectivity and "make things inter-operate". I got involved firstly in serial communications, dial-up modems, etc, then into X25, SNA and latterly TCP/IP. I also worked on message transfer, whether using File Transfer, e.g. Network Data Mover, FTP or MQ series, and also protocol conversion - ASCII-EBCDIC, alpha-numeric to hex ( it depends on the code pages in use). At one point I was involved with a system that started as web pages on Solaris, and connected via RS6000 to IBM mainframes running SNA, and also to AS400's. Keeping that all connected was fun.

Hvaing retired from that, I now do general PC support, including Windows, Mac and Linux. I also get a lot of connectivity/networking issues to resolve.


#3

P

PHolder

A family member introduced me to my first computer on summer break going into middle school. It immediately felt "right" to me, so I worked hard to buy my first home computer, and taught myself programming with it. I just don't think I ever felt like I had any other choice... it felt like a calling I guess.


#4

EdwinG

EdwinG

I wanted to work in a datacentre when I was a teenager. So I got a cégep degree in Network Administration.

I've been a SysAdmin for the past 8 years or so doing Linux, Windows, XenServer and VMware. I did server provisioning and datacentre operations for 2 years before that.

Then, like a crazy person 3 years ago, I decided to go and do a baccalaureate in IT Engineering. And I'm still working on that.


#5

Steve

Steve

I didn't really have any choice. It chose me!


#6

Barry Wallis

Barry Wallis

I didn't really have any choice. It chose me!
I firmly believe that although it takes training and discipline to become a programmer, it is something that some people are wired for. For example, my dad was a tax accountant. When I was young and tax season rolled around, I would ask him for blank forms and the instruction sheets. I would then follow the instructions and "do my taxes." It wasn't until I was teenager that I realized that what I enjoyed doing was following an algorithm. Once I got on my first time-sharing system in high school. I was hooked.


#7

vvbudh

vvbudh

It seems like most people here found their place or niche that they just fit right into. But, were the options available at the start, or did you have to push your way into that direction?

For example, Alan, were the opportunities there already to work with TCP/IP and SNA? Or did you have to move yourself in that direction via different departments or creating your own opportunities?


And for those that felt a calling, how did you pursue it when the opportunities weren't available?


#8

Vela Nanashi

Vela Nanashi

I did not have computers when I was a young child, but I was already not interested in what most kids were, I snuck (I am pretty sure that is the word I want, but my spell checker says no, but I will leave it in) out of the children's section of the library when we went to visit it and grabbed a big dusty barely ever used tome of math (I think) that I started reading in the reference section (can't loan those books) and did not understand a lot of it, but it was interesting what small insights I did gleam, and I got myself a thesaurus to look up meanings of words in, then of course the teachers finally located me and scolded me for not picking a children's book with huge print and pretty pictures in it like the rest of the class...

When I got my first computer I wanted to figure out how it worked, and I eventually learned scripting and some programming, I like knowing how things work on a lower level when I am capable of it. I still do not quite get how electronic circuits work on a level that I want, I want to understand a computer and all the things that make it up from the base components up, and I try to slowly accumulate that knowledge, but some things seem out of my reach.

I enjoy all kinds of creative and problem solving pursuits though, and on good days I can create or solve things, those are nice to have, the good productive days :)


#9

G

Graham

It seems like most people here found their place or niche that they just fit right into. But, were the options available at the start, or did you have to push your way into that direction?
The direction and function of my job changed over the years as the technology changed, it was a completely different from when I started to when I finished.

Training in procedures, techniques, quality control and safety was part of working life.

I started working for a Aerospace company here in the UK as an Manufacturing Engineer, there was only Mainframe terminals to view information. When we needed to create or modify data for production routes we had to submit hand written punch documents, if rejected due to errors we would find out a week later and have to re-submit it with corrections. Drawing was done on translucent film which could be traced.

When I retired we were creating production routes on PC's in minutes, creating CAD 3D solid models to produce stage drawings, using the models to create tooling 3D models and drawings, create programmes for CNC manufacture.

When PCs were introduced I given a role in which I could to reset passwords on various systems and controlled read/write permissions on local networked shared folders.

I think I was lucky that my niche found me, and not me finding it. :)


#10

J

jem

My university major was Nuclear Engineering, and I spent 20 years designing and building particle accelerators. But, I was also playing with computers of various sorts long before Al Gore "invented" the internet. My step father was a tech for IBM, and as a middle school student in the early 70's, I would accompany him to site where he worked on mainframes. Of course, I played with the machines, early text based Trek and such. Played with early Unix/BSD at Berkeley in the late 70's and early 80's, got into both HEPnet and TCP/IP in the early 80's, created ARP storms in the mid 80's (AppleTalk on 10 Mbps EtherNet was just perfect to create storms), finally built up a nationwide broadband ISP in Korea in the late 90's. Have been futzing around with security/hacking/systems all the while....


#11

A

AlanD

For example, Alan, were the opportunities there already to work with TCP/IP and SNA? Or did you have to move yourself in that direction via different departments or creating your own opportunities?

Originally I got involved in running a Viewdata based system. That was dial-up V23 ( split speed 1200 down and 75 up). Diagnosing connectivity issues took me into serial comms, modems settings etc, and even debugging connections using an oscilloscope to see the data lines. I moved into a new department and was asked to look after the local LAN as well as my other work. That was Netware running IPX/SPX. Then we needed to connect to DEC Allin1 ( integrated office suite and email), so I had to do some serial DecNet connections. Next we needed connectivity to an IBM mainframe and that required SNA over X25.

I then set up a support team for a new application we were implementing, which was encrypted async dial into an IBM mainframe via X25 terminal servers and IBM FEP's. Needing to have resilience in the network, I got more into X25. We then needed to connect various other systems to the mainframe using a variety of protocols, all using X25 as the transport but SNA as the networking layer. So I got into understanding how the FEP's worked. Although not a programmer, I did define the requirements and some of it right down at the code/configuration level.

In the meantime, one team needed TCP/IP connectivity into a DEC machine via the Novell LAN and X25 gateways that we had, so I had to learn some TCP/IP. All this was in the late eighties/nineties when it was still fairly new.

It probably helped that my company had the largest private X25 network in UK, indeed one of our staff was on the CCITT Committee that defined X25 standards. By the time that I retired in 2004, we had a worldwide private network, both voice and data. I could take my laptop into an office in Canada, and connect back to my desktop, print on my local printer back in London, access all my files and systems from anywhere in the world with a phone line or network connection.


#12

vvbudh

vvbudh

That's super cool Alan holy crap. X25. Yes, this is the kind of thing I want to know more about. I didn't know that X25 was a thing, I only play X3 and X4 on my computer! Haha! But I believe that's the layer that I'd like to work with. I just like getting computers to talk..

Vela, I read the dictionary! Or manuals of hardware/video games. But learning how things work, that's what I want to know. I'm just so curious. I just want to know why it works and how it works on a very deep level. Electric circuits are interesting, I've got a small little logic gate application that I play sometimes to just have a little practice now and then. Same with Morse code.

Jem, do you know Scout? (Sorry....lol) Did you ever play NetHack?
It's also hard to fathom the design process of a particle accelerator as I have 0 experience with such a device.


#13

Dave

Dave

That's super cool Alan holy crap. X25. Yes, this is the kind of thing I want to know more about. I didn't know that X25 was a thing, I only play X3 and X4 on my computer! Haha! But I believe that's the layer that I'd like to work with. I just like getting computers to talk..

Vela, I read the dictionary! Or manuals of hardware/video games. But learning how things work, that's what I want to know. I'm just so curious. I just want to know why it works and how it works on a very deep level. Electric circuits are interesting, I've got a small little logic gate application that I play sometimes to just have a little practice now and then. Same with Morse code.

Jem, do you know Scout? (Sorry....lol) Did you ever play NetHack?
It's also hard to fathom the design process of a particle accelerator as I have 0 experience with such a device.
If you think THAT's cool... How about X.25 over the air... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AX.25.


#14

vvbudh

vvbudh

Woah, no no no no no no. You' not serious.....Oh no......OMG this is soooooooooo coooooooooooool!!!!!!!!!!

I need to get my General License...

I've always wanted to talk to other people over the air and have my own little HAM radio. I just don't know anyone to talk with. No one I know does anything with HAMs or radio waves! BUT THEY"RE SOO COOOL!


#15

P

PHolder

When I was young and living in the middle of nowhere, in order to connect to Compuserve and other data services, I used to have to use a Canadian phone company service called Datapac. Datapac operated on X.25 and charged by the "kilochar". I got one large bill and that was it for my online activities except for local BBSes. The actual Internet has made it possible for people in the middle of nowhere to reach parity with the people in the big cities.


#16

vvbudh

vvbudh

Honestly, I'd love to have my own little ISP. For rural communities, helping people and providing the UTILITY the Internet really is so that everyone can have fair and dependable access to the internet. Without throttling or sniffing DNS packets to gather private information on my customers... Bleh!

My modem would be this.
1602009988364.png


#17

A

AlanD

Honestly, I'd love to have my own little ISP. For rural communities, helping people and providing the UTILITY the Internet really is so that everyone can have fair and dependable access to the internet.
The problem that you would find is that it costs a considerable amount of money to be an ISP. By the time you have paid for connections to your customer's homes/offices, paid for traffic sent from your network to others, built a Customer support system for when things go wrong, built a billing system to get some income, and a myriad of other things, ( telehone lines, staff wages, office costs, advertising, etc) you are into serious cash.


#18

vvbudh

vvbudh

I'm well aware I'm broke and have no way of doing it. I just think it'd be nice if I could.


#19

Philip

Philip

When I was very young (1950's) my father used to take family portraits using photoflood lamps (ordinary tungsten lamps over-run to give a much brighter light at the expense of a greatly reduced life). He had made up a circuit comprising two switches and two sockets enabling him to put two photofloods in series for modelling, then in parallel just for as long as needed to take a photo. I took an interest in it and so was given a battery, one or two bulbs and switches, and some bits of wire to play with. With these I probably learned to read a circuit diagram before I leaned to read English.

In fact, when the class I was in at school was encouraged to start learning to read, it seemed too daunting to me. But then one day I found there were books on electricity in the local library. I devoured them, and in a very few weeks I'd made a great start with reading.

It wasn't long before I'd exhaused the library's stock of books about electricity, so one day I selected another book from the science section. I remember standing in the checkout queue with a couple of slightly older boys behind me. One of them, seeing my selection, remarked "You won't understand that - it's about ATOMS"! In fact, my father, a research chemist, had already explained to me what atoms were.

I graduated from electricity to electronics a few years later when I was given a crystal set kit, and a few years later, my first germanium transistor to make an audio amplifier for it. I continued messing with electronics through my school years, during which I had 2 or 3 articles published in the Radio Constructor magazine, of which I was an avid reader. In my last year or so at school I was introduced to the Elliott 803 computer at a local technical college. Immediately, I was hooked on programming.

On leaving school I enrolled for an electronic engineering degree. In my first Summer vac I got a job at Elliott's and was given some early DTL ICs and a piece of 0.05" pitch stripboard, with which to try and build a hybrid digital/analogue display. The stripboard ws extremely prone to cracked or bridged tracks, leading to a good few hours of frustration. At that point I decided software was for me. A program either works or it doesn't - none of these intermittent faults. (I had yet to experience real time programming!)

I spent roughly the first half of my career in software development - I've always enjoyed coding but have to admit I'm far from a star coder. In the late 80's a redundancy and change of job took me increasingly into the world of information security, up until my retirement some 7 years ago. Electronics, including Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and fixing anything that runs on electricity (unless it also involves water) now occupy much of my time.


#20

Barry Wallis

Barry Wallis

t wasn't long before I'd exhaused the library's stock of books about electricity
That's my relationship with the library as well. I would read every available book on a specific subject and then move on to another: math, magic, hypnosis, bridge...


#21

Bodie_ECV64

Bodie_ECV64

Woah, no no no no no no. You' not serious.....Oh no......OMG this is soooooooooo coooooooooooool!!!!!!!!!!

I need to get my General License...

I've always wanted to talk to other people over the air and have my own little HAM radio. I just don't know anyone to talk with. No one I know does anything with HAMs or radio waves! BUT THEY"RE SOO COOOL!
73s


#22

vvbudh

vvbudh

That's also super cool Philip. I've liked dabbling with electricity and know a little bit from my uncle who's an electrician/jack of all trades. It never really stuck though...but reloading did.

The Do it yourself computing, for the Elliott, that's an interesting idea. I'm impressed that they would have courses to teach their customers how to program.

I'm glad this community is well stocked with experienced and knowledgeable people too. One day I'll be able to say something impressive!


#23

I

iefbr14

I ended up in IT by accident. Literally... I had been working as a studio tech for a television network and was involved in a bad accident which left me too damaged to achieve my dream of eventually becoming a professional cameraman. So, after wasting way too many months trying to find myself a new physically less demanding job in the broadcasting world, I opened a newspaper one day and decided that I would make a career change for whatever field in which there was the most job offers. Turned out it was IT. This was in the early 80's.

So I took an IT course at the Control Data Institute and, one month after graduating, I landed my first job in IT for a financial institution. Things went on like that for 20+ odd years working for large mainframe installations in banking, insurance and public services, as an employee for several employers and eventually as a contractor. My preferred programming language was IBM Mainframe Assembler but, like everybody else, I worked with whatever environment, application and programming language I needed to. Great way to expand one's knowledge.

Loved my career. I'm retired now and I wouldn't go back even if I was very lucratively asked to. Over the years, the working place became a pressure cooker polluted by way too much bureaucracy. When I retired I had become fed up with too much pen pushing and not enough computing. Too bad.


#24

Geano

Geano

For me science, and technology has been a strong passion of mine. I truly love it, and using my knowledge to help others, My specialization is at this point is technologist. For me that means learning, and understanding tech from a scientific prospective.


#25

albion

albion

Because it was better money than the cooking job I had at the time? Anyone else do well in IT without a degree?


#26

danlock

danlock

You'll probably find that most people's specialties are not what they once thought they would be, or were happened upon while they were chasing a different specialty.

It's kind of a thing where you end up in a particular situation in life and specialize in something because that's where life led you or where your circumstances placed you. There's often a combination of things that occurred during your growing years (early to mid-childhood) and other things that happened to you or sparked your interest (or disinterest) during your teens and later. Often, people find themselves in different professions than they thought they'd ever be in (particularly when their professions and specialties do not align!). People sometimes leap completely out of their situations and become something different, too.

If the previous paragraph read like a contradiction, that's because it was, in a way. It's hard (some might say impossible) to specify in a few sentences what causes different people to specialize in different things, or work professionally at whatever job(s) they like doing, whether or not those jobs use their specialties.

Throw in a few wrenches and unexpected events (or not... it wouldn't be true to life if it were predictable for everyone!) and a person might end up doing almost anything on a professional basis during life, or even several different things over a lifetime.

An uncle of one of my parents worked the same job every day for all of his working life. When he retired or died (whichever it was... he outlived many of his family), he had been to work every single day and had never taken even one day off, so the company owed him a bunch of money for the time off which he hadn't taken off!

I'm too curious about everything to be satisfied with something which sounds as mundane as that sounds. I like routines; they're comfortable. I think that's common for a lot of (or most) people. That sounds like a routine which was pretty mundane, though. I'm sure he had other things that happened in his life, but I don't know specifics. For me, too much routine is hard, especially if I don't have a chance to continuously learn and grow wherever I am and whatever I'm doing.

(sorry for any grammatical, logical, or other errors; I don't proofread my typing as well as I should when it's as late as it is for me right now)


#27

Barry Wallis

Barry Wallis

Because it was better money than the cooking job I had at the time? Anyone else do well in IT without a degree?
I did. But I got into it professionally in 1973 when companies were desperate for programmers. I joined Prudential Life Insurance and they put me through their internal programming courses.


#28

Robert Hickman

Robert Hickman

I started out trying to work in IT from an initial intrest in programming, and teaching myself various languages while growing up. I then did a IT course in a collage in the UK (i think what would be called a community college in the USA), and ended up helping the teachers create teaching materials for one of their programming courses.

Following that, i worked as a web developer for about a year, and subsiquentely exited IT as i found it too socially isolating, and i could see how being stuck on a computer was damaging my physical health.

I have been self employed for the last 8 years doing a range of different things, firstly around making italian ocarinas (a ceramic musical instrument), and working to raise awareness of it as a serious instrument through writing books (art of ocarina making, serious ocarina player). Im not sure exactly how i ended up in such a nieche specilisation, but it fits well to my skillset somehow.

Ive covered all of the programming needs of this small businiss myself, as well as doing some freelance programming projects for others, so i am still firmly involved in IT, dispite most of my income coming from working with ceramics.


#29

I

iefbr14

Anyone else do well in IT without a degree?

Here! The only IT course I ever attended was at the Control Data Institute which was a short 6 months affair, very far from a college degree. Covered the basics of IT with 3 programming assignments, two in Basic and one in Cobol. I learned 99% of my craft on the job, right from the start and never ended learning until I retired. That's what I loved about IT, especially in my early years when bureaucracy wasn't so pervasive as it eventually became in my later years. My happiness came through design, coding, testing, pushing hardware, etc... Filling reports for management was never my cup of tea.


#30

A

AlanD

Anyone else do well in IT without a degree?

I did. I sort of drifted into IT from the User side. The only training courses that I did were a one week Systems Analysis course, and 2 days out of 3 on an IDMS database course. The rest was all self taught or picked up on the job.