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03.04.2002

I graduated from the University of Southern California in 1997 with a B.A. in Creative Writing. I got introduced to computers late and didn't even really know what they were or could do until half way through my college years. I got my first computer around Christmas time in 1995. Then I found the web and taught myself HTML and Photoshop (my first web site was a "Fry's Electronics Sucks" page). I started working at GeoCities towards the end of my junior year in May 96. It was early on and I was their 11th employee and had a lot of freedom - I started out in support answering help emails, but was soon doing site maintenance, creating web pages, and promoting content. It was fun because I got to to try out a lot of different things and learned a lot very quickly.

I graduated a year later and moved down to Irvine and started at Computer Image and Design in June 97. In the beginning I did mostly site maintenance and some site design/redesign, but I had a lot of freedom there as well because it was another small organization and was encouraged to grow and learn. I took a UNIX class in the spring and set up my own server and hosted an early version of this site on it for a brief time. I started working with ASP in June '99, and created my first ASP site - www.kroqsucks.com. Once I had the ASP skills, we started taking on ASP jobs at work and most of my time was spent on writing custom ASP applications with relatively small Access databases for small to medium sized companies.

While at CIAD, I also taught myself PHP, took a C Programming class, and launched this site in its original format at the end of 1999. I think running my own server and websites have taught me more than anything else. It's not until you actually start working with something that you really learn it. You can read all you want, take as many classes as you want, but practical experience needs to be a part of your learning experience as well. It's well worth the extra time and effort.

After about two years at CIAD, I left there to move to San Francisco for both personal and professional reasons, and started at eCompany Now (now Business 2.0), a Time Warner magazine. That was an amazing experience. I was really excited about the opportunity, but had turned it down at first because I was afraid of not being up to the challenge, but ended up there in the end after all and was so glad I did it. The launch of the site was the most interesting and stressful thing I'd ever done, but well worth the effort. I spent my first couple weeks trying to figure out what was going on (along with everyone else), then dove right into it and everything was brand new: managing people, coding in Tcl, figuring out StoryServer. We got conflicting information from our "expert" sources about how to configure the CMS and the optimal way to architect the hardware and software for our traffic needs. Dealing with and trying to coordinate the outside consulting groups and their developers was interesting and something else I'd never done before.

In less than eight weeks, we launched the site with our small internal development team of four - none of us knew StoryServer before (and all of my developers were very junior), a couple of very smart independent contractors, two consulting groups and their relatively decent but hardly specatular developers, and our internal operations group. I moved into the Palo Alto office the last couple weeks before launch (literally - I had clothes, shoes, bike, stereo with me) and slept on the floor almost every night. At that point I was mostly coding and not doing so much management, so I coded, slept, woke up, coded. I lived off black, black coffee and sweets. It sounds awful, but in the end, having successfully pulled it off was a huge personal victory and there will always be an amazing feeling of accomplishment whenever I think back on it. But I think the biggest lesson I learned was that I should be fearless - I could get through anything. I could figure out how to make anything work when I needed to, and I loved to do it.

A little after a year at eCompany, I ended up leaving there for an opportunity I couldn't miss to do some travelling. I moved back to San Francisco in September of last year and have been doing contract work ever since, and continually learning new technologies. Right now I'm spending some of my time volunteering at the EFF, learning Python, working on new content for this site, and of course, writing bids for web projects :) If you're interested, more information on my work experience can be found on my resume.

I hope you find this site useful. Questions and comments can be emailed to kathy@hardcoder.com. If you'd like to contribute to the site, contact me as well.

Kathy Ahn

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