Finding Your Lightbulb Moment

I feel lucky that I have had a very diverse career where I have worked in many industries from Computer games at companies like Argonaut Software, Core Design, Electronic arts through to financial services companies like Egg Bank, and Dollar Financial and then in healthcare at Boots / Walgreens. Now I am working for a young and very exciting tech start up called Buying Butler.

Last week I was looking back to when I was a kid and tried to remember what that lightbulb moment was that set my career on its own trajectory. What started it all off? When I was a kid, around 14 years old I wanted to make computer games and Me and a good friend, Chris, would spend most of our spare time working on these games, but this was just a hobby. For me the catalyst that started my career moving when either me or my Dad, I can’t remember specifically who it was, found a small advert in a computer magazine from small start-up publisher looking for people who had developed computer games.

dark mission

One of my first computer games, Dark Mission

This was in the Commodore Amiga days. We got in touch with them and showed the game me and Chris was working on called Dark Mission. It was an isometric shoot-em-up / adventure game very heavily influenced by the film Aliens.  This small publisher called GKS Design wanted to release our game. I don’t think I have ever been so excited. This was around the time of us doing our GCSE exams at school, so we would split our time studying and developing this game.

To cut a long story short, GKS Design never published the game and they went bust after owing advertising money to a magazine publisher, but this experience was the spark that set me on my path. I wanted to make games, and I worked in the games industry for many years  before switching to a different industry. The experience of answering that magazine was my lightbulb moment that set me on my particular trajectory.

This got me thinking. Education is important. It is important to go to school and do well, and this is certainly how I want to bring up my kids, but me and all my friends had the same education early  on yet we have all gone down very different paths, and it is these lightbulb moments of inspiration that you have that forge your future careers and success.

Fast forwarding to modern day, I have been thinking about how this can apply to my kids who at the time of writing this are 7 and 4 years old. I actually think my daughter Amy has had her first lightbulb moment. I think she is too young that this is an event that will forge her future career, but it is a small seed. Last year in 2015 we did a family trip to the National Space Centre here in the UK. It is a space exploration museum.  It is a really fun place to visit, but on that weekend they had a maker / creator fayre on, so there was lots of tables with Raspberry Pi’s, electronics kits and 3D printers. With the 3D printers my daughter was captivated because on one of the tables they had an example of a Cinderella style crystal slipper that had been 3D printed. Amy absolutely loved this and has been on at me to buy a 3D printer so she can make stuff like this. I expect to dive into the world of 3D printing this year so she can explore this more.

The other activity she tried at this  maker fayre was programing. One of the tables had a Raspberry Pi connected up to an LED light board. I think it was an 8×8 board of LED’s. The guy manning the table helper her write a small program that scrolled the words “Happy Birthday Daddy” on the LED board (it was my birthday that day). It was very much a hello world program but she absolutely loved it.

My daughters first programming experience.

My daughters first programming experience.

Since then she has started learning to program in Scratch at school and she is now starting to get interested in the idea of coding which is great. Before we went to the Space Centre she had never really shown any interest in technology, but since then she has started getting a little more interested in it and talking to me more about it. Whilst I wouldn’t say this is a career defining lightbulb moment it has certainly sown a seen which has started to captivate her interest.

The point of what I am talking about here is that everyone has 1 or more defining moments that shape their career, and as a parent I think it is important to help your kids define what they want to do in the future by helping them with opportunities. When I was a kid, home computing was in its infancy so there were lots of opportunities to shine in technology, but now with technology being so permeated into our everyday lives Kids need to become very good at technology and as parents we should help them find their lightbulb moment by exposing them to opportunities and interesting projects. With my daughter I have no idea if she will want a career in technology, but it is important to have exposure to technology and programming at an early age so they are familiar with what’s possible and hopefully this help define her in the future.

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