Kelly Benson

When I was little I wanted two things – to be a writer, and to be just like Penny from Inspector Gadget because she had a computer-book. That computer-book looked so amazing, all the lights and buttons and the magical things it could do. I wanted one so much, so perhaps it’s not that surprising I ended up in development and writing code for a living.

But the road wasn’t easy, I grew up in a small country town where little value was seen in higher education. You finish school, you get a job and earn some money. And computers? Pfft, what good are they anyway? How are you going to get a job just playing games?

However I was lucky that although my parents didn’t encourage me or understand why I would want to leave my family and friends to go to a school on the other side of the state, they still supported and helped me once I had made the decision to go.

So off I went and completed a Bachelor of Comp Sci/Software Development without even owning a computer!  That’s right – lots of Sunday evenings spent in the computer labs at Deakin with the other geeks, still dreaming of my Penny computer-book.

After uni I got my first development job. I was excited, nervous and had no idea what to expect as the only jobs I’d had were milking cows and picking vegies, I’d never even stepped foot in an office.

And I was bitterly disappointed, I worked alone under a project manager who was good guy but had no idea what he was doing. If only I’d known the term ‘scope creep’ then! I sat amongst the call staff who were convinced what we were building would replace them so weren’t very friendly. But I liked the coding, the problem-solving and figuring out how to turn some vague request into something functional.

When my contract ended I decided to move to Perth, but when I got there I couldn’t find a job. I went to the beach a lot, took a scuba course, did programming short courses and some self-learning online but after nearly a year I was still jobless.

Suddenly I had three interviews in a week, I was so nervous I could barely remember my name and afterwards was so angry because I was sure I had screwed them all up. Still, I hovered by the phone (yes this was still before the mobile revolution) and when the calls came in I got offered not one, but all three jobs!

The job I accepted was everything I wanted, despite a high pressure project and a steep learning curve I loved it.  I loved being part of a team, having other developers around to ask questions, hold nerdy conversations with and share the decision making. To top it off half the team were female developers (I thought I was the only one!) and I got my first laptop, finally my real life Penny computer-book!

Now I’ve been in development for 15 years, I’ve worked in Perth, London and Melbourne, I’ve taken multiple sabbaticals and travelled the world. If I’m not enjoying my work I ask myself why. What do I like about this job? What am I not enjoying? What needs to change?  Is it the work, the culture, am I getting the support I need? Can I change these things?  If not, should I be looking for a new opportunity?

So is development a career I would recommend? Absolutely!  Despite the horror stories I’ve found the industry to be full of welcoming, supportive, motivated, passionate and fantastic people who value good team culture, problem-solving, new technologies, and sharing ideas.