An Unexpected Journey*

Susan Brkich with Snoopy and WoodstockI was ahead of my time. Seriously.

Picture it: the mid- to late-1980s: No internet, no HTML, no CSS, no Flash, no Photoshop. No such thing as computer- or internet-based educational courses/software. Just a thirst for knowledge, a love of Italian, a fondness for the simplicity and complexity of structured code that followed precise rules, a desire to build educational software tools without learning binary code.

What was a college graduate to do? Go to law school and become a lawyer.

Wait, what?

Yep. In college, in the midst of learning Italian and computer coding back in the dark ages of mainframe terminals, microcomputers and floppy disks, I took a class that had nothing to do with either: Constitutional Law, taught by the late, great Professor Rumble. That one course turned me onto the logic, attention to detail, creativity and endless learning involved in practicing law. I was smitten.

But then a funny thing happened in the mid-1990s: the INTERNET... and the ability to create completely different websites using nothing more than this structured code called HTML and CSS. All from your own personal computer, using ordinary text editors or more complex software. And there was more: animation with Director (anybody remember that?), Flash, animated GIFs -- oooh, fun!

It all required logic, precision, attention to detail and an ability to follow certain rules in order to make it all work -- but not necessarily in-depth programming skills or a talent for drawing or illustration (which is GREAT, because I can't draw much more than skeleton layouts, stick figures, and flowcharts without considerable help).

A couple of classes later, I found a new passion. Quit that lawyer job and jumped in with both feet. I was off to a good start, building e-learning courses in Flash with a start-up called DigitalThink, when the dotcom bubble burst. I took some time to explore working and living in Italy, did some contract legal work to pay the bills, then landed at my undergrad alma mater, where I'm still learning new technologies, tips and tricks of the trade. Bonus: I can audit classes I never had time to take when I was a full-time student.

*Title borrowed unashamedly from The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein