Admittedly, before college, I had never written a line of code other than "Hello World". I studied Computer Science at the University of Southern Maine and learned programming by taking required courses along with several electives.
When I was enrolled in the CS program, math was a large part of the requirements. I took many math courses including: Calculus, Discrete Math, Statistics and even Simulation Modeling. My favorite CS courses were my electives: Machine Learning where we learned how to program a computer to teach itself; Autonomous Robotics where we programmed lego kits with sensors and actuators to follow a line; Object-Oriented Programming where we learned how software is made (in the real world) using Agile methodologies; and probably the most relevant to me, iOS Development where we learned how to make iOS apps using Swift.
Everything I learned at USM prepared me for real world software development. Even though I don't create logic gates, write assembly code, or even write 5 page essays anymore, I do have a bachelor's degree showing I can do all those things and have the skills I use everyday.
I currently work for WEX Inc. as a Software Engineer on the Mobile team, specializing in iOS development at their Global Headquarters in Downtown Portland. After moving in March 2019 from Darling Ave. near the Maine Mall, the energy in the office has become quite refreshing. Being on the waterfront in Maine is great. There are also plenty of places to eat for lunch or after work. Not to mention the view of the Portland harbor is absolutely priceless.
Funny, I asked the same question when interviewing for this position and I'll give you the same honest answer everyone gave me: The people. It's true! WEX has so many bright minds and two heads ARE better than one. I'm thankful to be paired up with one of the best iOS programmers in the world (literally). He has built over 100 apps and has taught me more than I could ask for. At the same time, I've taught him a lot too. This is a job where you need to keep learning every day and not a single person knows the answer to every question. With that said, the workplace is great and everyone is very accommodating at WEX! They give you the best tools to get the job done and all the resources you need to succeed.
I have always lived in Maine. In my 26 years of living, I have visited several places and there is no place like Maine. With such a low population, 83% tree coverage, and 4 beautiful seasons of the year, Maine is truly a Vacationland. Portland is becoming its own tech hub outside of Boston and it's great! Many people I work with live 30-50 minutes from the office and that's because most tech workplaces in Maine realize the need to work from home. Everything is so spread out here and it's nice to get work done in the comfort of your home. Yes, Maine winters are cold. As a snowboarder, I wouldn't trade that for anything. There's nothing better than snuggling up by the heater after playing out in the snow with my dog. Summers are beautiful and so are the off seasons!
To be honest, computers weren't my first interest and still aren't my only interest. Growing up I was heavily involved in music. I love listening to it, playing, singing, recording, and performing. In 8th grade I built my own computer in IT class. It blew my mind putting all the components together so carefully and the level of customization. By the time I was a senior in high school, I received my A+ certification for computer repair and with that knowledge I realized I was less interested in building and fixing computers and more interested in the software that the user experiences. Even after getting accepted to USM, math was a difficult topic for me but I didn't let that stop me. All I could do was to work at it. Eventually I passed all the required math courses to get my degree. At this point I had accomplished so much. I had the minimum credentials to obtain a job in my field and when I graduated I was already working for a software company developing websites. It surprised me that I still wanted more. A mutual agreement led to me leaving that company and working on my app development skills; something I've been interested in doing since the iPhone was released. I built several apps with many iterations and learned a lot. Now I work for a multibillion-dollar company leading iOS development for their suite of applications. Only time can tell what will happen next.