A few days ago I got asked two questions that I don’t think I gave a great answers to. At their core, the questions were asking me why I do software (of all things) and about how I see myself. As in, if I could give a descriptive summary other than “builds software” – how is it that I see myself. I don’t remember the exact answers I gave, but it resulted in a bit of unexpected self-reflection.
A few weeks ago, I was able to live stream the wedding of my friend Marla out to YouTube. I dealt with the logistics and technical details involved. This included things like renting a camera and tripod, figuring out how to get that video into my computer live, how to get high quality sound, etc. And because I was able to do that, this was able to happen:
Fifty people watched Marla and Josh exchange vows over the live stream that afternoon. Those fifty people will never think twice about bitrate, the native resolution of a Canon XA10, decibels, or XLR cables. They’ll never think about the datacenters and connection points the video ran through en route to their computer screen. But I know with certainty that a grandfather many miles away who wasn’t able to make the trip out found joy in being able to witness his granddaughter exchange vows along with the rest of us.
None of this would have been possible without the numerous software engineers who have worked around the world over the past several decades to bring us to where we are today. I didn’t have any hand in YouTube or streaming technology, but as a software engineer I have the privilege of counting myself among the many who are building toward tomorrow’s innovations. Maybe I’ll make something famous, maybe I won’t. Either way, I get to participate in the conversations and code that happen today. I get to walk in this world where we software folks build these big, impossible things that far exceed the imagination of the generation that came before us. And sometimes, on those very special days, I get to see those things lead to a truly magical experience for someone else.
And as for how I describe myself? I’m a magician.