You never start from nothing

Ten years ago, I sat in a conference room with a group of ambulance officers and paramedics. My clearance papers were on the table – a collection of training data that, taken together, was the basis for my being allowed to run the show in the back of an ambulance, alone. After I received my clearance that day, the brass left me with a parting thought: Remember: You’re never alone out there. A paramedic unit is just a radio call away. Medical control is on the other end of the phone. Your driver can help you. Ask the dispatcher, and you can even have a helicopter in fifteen minutes. But you’re never alone.

A year ago, I started a new chapter in life – pursuing a master’s degree in software engineering. My reason for returning to school: I could do a clean-sheet design for a piece of electronic hardware, but the same wasn’t so for software – and there was software in nearly everything I was creating. So, I left my cooshy job, turned in my comfy car and spent the year that followed studying my ass off.

As of yesterday, that chapter is over. My degree is finished, 64 credits and 12 months later. And I realize, in much the same way as I was never alone in my decade as a medic, that you never really start from nothing. In the software world – as in the engineering world in general – you build on the shoulders of the great people who came before you. Gauss, Tesla, Maxwell, Ohm and Shockley were all with me as I designed circuits, just as Gamma, Bass, Booch, Pressman and their cohorts have my back when it comes to creating software. Among other realizations, this past year has brought me the understanding that there’s no such thing as a clean-sheet design in the first place.

Next week, I’ll start a new job, working on new projects in the company of new friends and partners in innovation. It’s an exciting time, built not just on the foundation of intellect and creativity, but also on love and support: so my family and friends, and especially my Dad and Kelly, deserve the most thanks of all.

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