In 2003, I was cleaning my room back at home and found the journals I’d kept at school in 2nd, 4th, and 5th grades. I typed up the entries and created a mini website to showcase them. Aside from changing names and identifying details, I left the entries unedited. Occasionally I like to read the entries to reflect on itty-bitty me and how my perspectives on life have changed.
I happened to be looking through my journal recently, and noticed this entry from October 2, 1992, almost exactly 25 years ago to this date. I was 9 years old and in 4th grade, just a few weeks shy of my 10th birthday. The prompt was: what career would you like to have when you grow up? Entry copied exactly how I wrote it, spelling mistakes and all:
I’d like to be three different carreers when I grow up. An astronimer, somebody who studies geography, and a vetnarian. But I’d rather study geography. I don’t think I could be all three. But studing geography sounds interesting. Or maybe I could be a social studies teacher at a middle school. Then I could go to different places and bring back stuff to teach the class with.
A letter to my younger self…
So, 9-year-old Michelle of October 2nd, 1992, what became of these aspirations? Following is an answer to you from the future.
Your career choices, as you wrote them, are not surprising to me. You always did love astronomy and had every intention to go into space. Um, it’s been 25 years and that hasn’t happened. I 99.9% doubt it will (the remaining tiny percentage is for the “never say never” part).
What about geographer? Yes, you’ve been spending a lot of time looking up U.S. states and other countries in that old 1963 World Book Encyclopedia set (you’ll be excited to learn that we have an online encyclopedia called “Wikipedia” today…but you have no idea what “online” means, either. Sigh). Your favorite part of the articles are the sections that describe the people of each state or country. You still love geography, but you didn’t end up becoming a geographer. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you! You might be comforted to learn that you did get to travel abroad for work. Keep reading!
What about “vetnarian”? 9-year-old spelling mistakes aside, this is veterinarian. You love animals a lot, especially cats. But you didn’t become a vet. You do have a cat named Harmony, however. Taking care of her is the closest you came to becoming a vet, I’m afraid.
Finally, a social studies teacher at a middle school. This is somewhat related to geography. Where did this idea come from? You do come from a family of teachers and educators. Maybe that sparked interest. Well, younger Michelle, you have have thought more about teaching as you grew older, but I can tell you that it probably won’t be social studies. Sorry! You will do some teaching though, through your job, and it will be centered on WordPress and websites. There’s a possibility it could involve teaching middle school students some day.
Speaking of WordPress and websites, this leads me into the career path that you ended up choosing — web development. I know, you have no idea what WordPress, websites, and web development are (I’ll write another letter later to explain…or you can wait a few years and it’ll start making sense). Web design for you started off as a hobby when you were in high school, and in college, you were excited to learn that it could be a career.
Younger Michelle, you’re going to find out that your older self ❤ ‘s working on websites for other people. She likes not only the technical aspects, but also the opportunity to work closely with people from vastly different industries. I (older Michelle) consider myself lucky to get to do this sort of thing every day. I’m part of a special projects team at Automattic (the name of the company I – you– work for) that provides WordPress support to interesting individuals, bloggers, musicians, non-profit organizations, small businesses, and worthwhile social causes. That list is not exhaustive! The work we do ranges from design and development to hosting and maintenance. We do this work not only to spread the usage of WordPress, but also to spread the spirit of open source and to give everyone a voice and a platform.
So, younger Michelle, you didn’t become an astronomer, or a “person who studies geography” or a vet or a “social studies teacher at a middle school”, but your team at work can design, build, and troubleshoot websites for people and organizations who are in those areas. Sometimes, we get a chance to take a “field trip” to someone’s location to discuss their site. Working closely with people from so many different industries is exciting, and it offers a lot of room for learning — about the people themselves, their unique needs, and what knowledge our team can take back toward improving Automattic’s products going forward.
Younger Michelle, I feel like I came to my (your) career in web design and development in an organic way. You sound confident as you ponder what you want to be when you grew up. A quarter century later (almost to the exact day), I wish I could see first hand how you’re reacting as I’ve been telling you where your career has taken you so far. From what I know about you though, I think your favorite part would have to be that I (future you) work for a fully distributed company and my (your future) colleagues live and work in nearly every continent in the world.