Per a suggestion from Steve Bryant, today is "How I Got Started in ColdFusion" day. I've read a couple of other's posts already, including the awesome Ray Camden's, Adam Tuttle (who made me feel so old LOL), all around nice guy Ben Nadel, and guru of ColdFusion performance Mike Brunt. As Steve suspected when he originally suggested this event, the backgrounds and kick off points of various developers is varied and not always what you'd expect. No where near at the level of those guys, but hey, here's my post anyway :)
In middle & high school, I got into computers, from playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Oregon Trail (coming soon to the Wii!), to dabbling with "coding" in Logo and some QBasic. I also had some exposure to the WWW using Lynx, and occasionally Mosaic if you get on those sweet Unix boxes with GUIs. Talk about dating yourself...*ahem* My real love of the WWW and my start in web site design came in 1995 when I was a freshman at North Carolina State University. I'd graduated high school second in my class and entered NC State's Zoology program with dreams of being a wildlife documentary maker, you know those crazy folks in a jeep with a video camera following a pride of lions hunting. Alas, due to life circumstances, my time at school was very brief, and my original dream abandoned. However, I'll never regret it as I cam away with a Packard Bell PC and new found obsession in the Internet and thanks to the free web space and email, my personal web site An Eclectic World. She was pretty basic back then: HTML pages and some images.
A couple of years later, I was in my own apartment with the same Packard Bell, now sporting Internet Explorer 4 and with actual Internet access at (blazing modem speed!!!). Wanting more for my site, I learned how to use third-party CGI scripts, and I made an effort to learn CGI/Perl, but...uh, yeah. I dabbled with PHP, and was able to do some of the stuff I wanted, though I found the language to be clunky and less than intuitive. I did what I had to to get my site doing what I wanted, but I never really "enjoyed" it per say, just the results.
At the same time, I did fine enjoyment in designing and uses databases. I started where most probably did, Access. Yeah yeah, I know, but hey, I still love Access. I think it is an awesome database for the DESKTOP. It just got misused when it hit the web. Since my web hosting was a typical LAMP set up, I also started working with MySQL, building small databases for my personal web site on some of my favorite anime series (another growing love), doing newsletters, running some trivia games for friends, etc. Even before I learned what the terms for it, I was building fairly well-designed relational databases that were pretty close to third form normalizations in both forms. It was just the way my brain worked when I thought about the data.
I guess it was around 97 or 98 that an online friend first introduced me ColdFusion 4.5. It sounded exciting and interesting, and I was probably bored, so I picked up a book for cheap and took a look. Twas love at first sight! The same guy generously hooked me up with some free hosting space to play on and play I did. As I'd found with database design, coding in ColdFusion fit the way my mind worked and I took to it like a bull shark to fresh water. I started doing some freelance work for the same fellow, helping me solidify my basic skills. This evolved into my picking up a few other ColdFusion contracts, which was a godsend when the follies of an interoffice relationship had left me unemployed. Alas, I discovered that while I had great intuition with coding, I had absolutely no knack for sales and finding good clients, so the money was lean. But I was actually enjoying what I was doing!
In 2000, I snagged what seemed like a dream job: telecommuting ColdFusion developer for a company in Maryland for a project for the FAA. Woo hoo! I got to work from home, pretty much set my own hours, the company dealt with all the sales and client crap, and I got to do what I now knew was what I loved: designing web applications with ColdFusion. It helped me hone my skills, get back on my financial feet, and even financed my semi-spur of the moment decision to leave my home state of North Carolina to get a fresh start in life in Texas. Alas, not long after said pricey move, I was laid off when the company folded. They were not quite good at sales either, and of course there was the now infamous bursting of the dot-com bubble.
So I floated around in service industry work (eww) for nearly a year, trying to pick up freelance contracts where I could. Then I landed what really was (and still is) my dream job and is what I consider the true launching point of my career. Namely, I was hired as a "Programmer Analyst II" by the relatively young Extension Information Technology division of Texas Cooperative Extension (former Texas Agricultural Extension Service and now Texas AgriLife Extension Service...). My primary job at the time was taking a static semi-CGI site listing Extension publications for sale and turning it into a robust ColdFusion eCommerce application with an PostgreSQL back end. How's that for jumping with both feet into insanity?! It took me a year to code, take the clients through testing, etc. but shortly after my one year anniversary at the company, my pride and joy, the AgriLife Bookstore (then the TCE Bookstore), launched. It is now on its fourth major version, and it doesn't look or work anything like the original, but that first version still holds a special place in my heart. The Bookstore "team" (i.e. the clients who run it, and myself who coded it) won a Superior Service award (the highest in our organization) and an ACE award for that app.
In the nearly ten years since then, I've done many other applications of course, gone through some job title changes, some shifts in duties (welcome ones that took server management off my hands - something I did but never liked), and am now on my second boss after the one who hired me and whom I jokingly called "my biggest fan" retired. Extension IT is now AgriLife IT and we have a much larger client base. We've gone from developer's being solo operators to having an actual software development group, and transitioned from ColdFusion 4.5 through the versions to 8, and are planning our 9 deployment.
So I have been doing ColdFusion for approximately 11 years as of 2010. I hold an Adobe Certified Expert in Advanced ColdFusion 8 certificate, and briefly debated going for the educator cert. I taught a series of ColdFusion courses, based on Adobe's materials, to the other developers in my shop. Then, as I note in my About Me page, I attended CFUnited and had an eye opening experience: I was no expert, I was "dated" and years behind my peers! One of my teammates (who is also the best development partner I could ever ask for, hands down), had also gone. We got our egos busted, stomped on, and kicked to curb by some of the nicest, most awesome folks ever. It was a much needed wake up call, and we came back full of ideas, energy and determined to catch up and how.
Since then, we've led a revolution in our software developer team and for the first time, I think it would be fair to say we are a professional, enterprise level team of web application developers. We still have stuff to learn, of course, and oh my lord has it been stressful at times, but I'm still happy! Even when I'm using language that would burn my mom's ears off, I'm loving it. That wake up call helped renew my love of ColdFusion, in a time when I can now honestly say I'd grown stagnant, complacent, and even a bit bored.
So there is my lengthy (as always) story of how I came to ColdFusion. Why not share yours? Meanwhile, to show just how much of a geek I am, meet Fusion. Yes, it is short for ColdFusion: