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19 Jacinta Richardson

I've been a little reluctant to write this after reading about everyone else's
careers. I feel my path has been too easy, fairly traditional and, as a result,
a lot less interesting. This is way long. If you only care about the real
career stuff just read the paragraphs starting with a *.

I was born to a fairly average middle-class, Australian family. I ended up with
one older sister (by three years) and two younger (one year and two years
respectively). I was the middle child who never really fit in. I tried to be
as old as the eldest (which she resented) and didn't understand the younger two.
In trying to be three years older than my current age, I never learned to
understand my peers at school. I didn't comprehend cliques or even really
realise that I might not be welcome to wander from group to group until grade 4
or 5 (9 - 10 years old). I'm not sure that I even properly understand them now.

I didn't have any interest in computers, science or even reading until I was 11.
On a long trip sometime when I was 8 or 9 I was loaned "The Ship Who Sang" to
read, I thought it was boring because I couldn't get into it. The books others
read at my age were boring because they were too predictable. It was only when
I found some childrens Sci-Fi that I discovered there were things I liked to
read. And then I read voraciously.

Computers weren't interesting because, in my experience, they only existed for
games, newsletters and broken draw applications. Games were usually too
predictable for my liking, but I tried them anyway. I was extremely good at
Frogger at one point.

At the end of year 10 (form 4) we had to pick what subjects we wanted to do in
the final two years of school. This was very important, because the marks we
got in these subjects would determine which university degrees we could get
into. I decided that whilst I was good at almost all of my subjects I only
really liked mathematics and science. This seemed to point towards a degree in
some kind of Engineering (whatever that was). Since my eldest sister had
started a degree in Chemical Engineering, I decided it wasn't too bad an option.

I did well at school and earned a high enough mark to get into almost any
University degree that took my fancy (other than Law and Medicine, that is). I
chose a double degree of Science (so I could keep doing Maths) and some field of
Elec Engineering (any of Electrical, Electronical, Computer and Software). I
didn't have to choose the stream of engineering until 2nd year.


* When I started Uni I knew next to nothing about "computers". My sum total of
knowledge was understanding what RAM and ROM stood for, that the hard disk drive
was where data was stored, various sizes; kilobytes, megabytes and gigabytes,
and the difference between software and hardware. I knew how to *use* them,
we'd had a Commodore 64, then an XT then a 486, but I didn't think that counted.

I did really well. I realised that I was willing to learn about software, and
never picked up an interest in knowing about hardware; so I chose the Software
Engineering stream. It was so much fun knowing that I could get the computer to
do *exactly* what I told it to. So much easier than getting people to do even
almost what I wanted. ;) Generally I experienced positive discrimination, if
anything, but that could also be because I behaved myself and was always
friendly and helpful to the sys-admins.

I met Paul (now my husband) really early on at University. He was instrumental
in introducing me to Linux. I was delighted to have his help setting my brand
new Pentium 100 machine to dual boot. I pretty much exclusively used Linux from
that point on, as it made it very easy for me to work at home on my Computer
Science (and even maths) projects (the Uni was mostly Unix oriented).


* At the end of my second year I applied for an internship working for the
Computer Science department. Unfortuately I don't think I created anything very
useful, but it was a great experience all the same. While doing that I was
encouraged to sign up to be a casual tutor for the following year. I happily
complied and got some great experience teaching first year students how to use
Miranda and Haskell (both functional programming languages). It helped that I
had received first class honours when I had sat the course.


* By the end of my third year (of a 5 year degree), I had picked up some casual
consulting work from a friend of friend. I learned PHP and then later Perl for
this work. I continued to do this consulting ad-hoc for the rest of my degree.
As a result I was able to pay most of my HECS (Uni fees) up front each year,
rather than taking the deferred (loan) option. I also continued first year
tutoring each year.

My final year project was the first time I really noticed any discrimination.
Because I would rather get things done or spend time at home relaxing rather
than going to the pub with my team mates (at the end of a long day), it was
somehow assumed that I was not a team player. Maybe I wasn't. My idea of being
a team player was to get all of my tasks done, help my sub-team get their tasks
done, help the project manager plan the next phase out and handle most of the
client liason. On top of all that I was managing my house (ie doing the
shopping and cleaning etc), working on my other Uni projects, managing my
consulting work, tutoring and occasionally seeing friends and family. This of
course impacted badly on my mark for the project and I was very disappointed.


* Since I failed a few subjects along the way, my final year wasn't quite final.
I still had to do 6 months more of Uni. It was a wonderfully relaxing 6
months wherein I started up a company with Paul and some other friends (and
moved my consulting clients over), tutored almost as many hours as I had classes
and generally had a life. The semester finished and I started doing even more
work for the company. Life was good.


* After a few more months I realised that Paul and I weren't earning as much
money as I'd like to and the work I was doing for the company was boring me. So
I decided to get a job *as well*. I mentioned this to a couple of friends and
had an interview by the end of the week. I started the next week working full
time for the same University I had attended, in it's IT Services department.
Working for the company and for ITS was great fun.


* At the end of the year Paul and I noticed that our direction and the other
people in the company had diverged. So we broke off and started Perl Training
Australia (PTA). Some of my long term clients came with me, and others stayed
with the previous company. I continued to work full time for ITS and casually
for PTA.

A couple of years later, I had a serious bicycle accident which resulted in me
finding it impossible to work more than a few days a week at ITS. I'd just get
so tired. On my off days I did what I could for PTA. After enough time I
decided that I couldn't go back to full time with ITS and leave Paul and PTA in
the lurch so I moved to part time at ITS. 9 months later I tearfully quit ITS
to work for PTA instead.


* Now I'm manager, director, training coordinator, trainer, training materials
writer and developer. Working for myself (and Paul) has been very different.
Unlike a big business; if I spend a day slacking off it directly affects me - I
can see the drop in income. On the other hand, I can control how much I earn,
do the clothes washing during the middle of the day, work out in the sunshine
and take time off..... occasionally.

I'd put something about lessons learned, but I can't think of any right now.

All the best,

Jacinta

--
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