I was a paper delivery kid with a programming side gig

I started working relatively young, picking up standard teen jobs like a paper route or packing shelves. I thought my work life would be similar to my father’s-a mix of blue-collar roles with some odd and creative jobs. Growing up, I loved watching people’s faces when they heard that my dad, often covered in dirt and sweat, once worked on ballet choreography.

I pulled everything apart as a kid. I was endlessly curious about the interior lives of machines. I got particularly thrilled by the computer my dad found when I was six. I still remember the feeling of the sparks firing in my brain as he opened it up and showed me all the parts inside. It was a daring move from Dad, given all the things I had already broken by then.

Our PC pulled onto the information superhighway when I turned 10. Suddenly, I had a whole world at my fingertips to feed my curiosity. The internet was ethereal. I couldn’t pull this apart. But Google taught me to find information, play and, eventually, create entire worlds of my own with code.

Used computers were in council pick-up all the time. I’d ride my bike, foraging parts from the footpath to build my own

Back then, used computers were in council pick-up all the time. I’d ride my bike, foraging parts from the footpath to build my own. Soon, my neighborhood in Mullumbimby was buzzing with rumors of “a kid who is handy with technology that works for cheap”. And just like that, I was hired to remove viruses, replace computer parts and do upgrades. I’d ride around on my paper route bike-parts precariously sitting in the milk crate tied to my bike with my dollar-shop bungee cords.

One day, the lady who managed my route at the local paper put an ad in there for me. Within a few weeks, I had people calling to build websites, blissfully unaware of the sparking, rusty computer I was making them on. Eventually, I got one day a week’s work at a local web design studio, plus some freelance work for a sky diving company. Later, I’d meet one of the many start-up CEOs around Byron Bay and go on to build websites for their clients. At that point, I was 14.

Not long after, work stopped coming in, and I thought my programming career had ended. I’d started working as a cook at the local Thai restaurant and front-of-house at the tuck shop in town. Any work I could get, essentially, for money to buy food and sweetly ask my of-age friends to buy a goon sack.

My school then invited me to join a youth program because I wasn’t showing up to school much. The turning point came when they placed me into an IT traineeship with a web design agency. Working there was amazing. I got the mentoring and training I needed to start an actual programming career.

I was extra lucky with how forgiving the owner was. Even when I was showing up hungover or stoned. He was rightly annoyed but very compassionate and eventually started to mentor me on the business side of web design. Even when I moved to Sydney with a friend, he was incredibly flexible, letting me work remotely and keep my job.

For a while, I commuted from Katoomba to Alexandria at 5am every day-a punishing schedule for a 16-year-old. But it was my first big-time city job, and I was smashing it

Sadly, the part-time work was not enough to cover my rent and living costs. It meant the mentoring my boss had been giving had to end. I managed to get a full-time job in Sydney. For a while, I commuted from Katoomba to Alexandria at 5am every day-a punishing schedule for a 16-year-old. But it was my first big-time city job, and I was smashing it. I was so excited that I didn’t even realize how exhausted I was.

Growing up with my dad showed me the determination you can access when you care about something, and he adored my siblings and me. He always let us know that he’d do anything and work anywhere. That has stayed ingrained in me. He was full of encouragement for us as kids. I wouldn’t have taken risks and overcome my fears without it. His hardiness has accompanied me throughout my life.

I started out as some poor kid living in a small town, and now I have Dad and the internet to thank for a well-paid job and middle-class life. I was incredibly fortunate. I was encouraged by my dad’s odd jobs, somehow being placed in an IT traineeship and then having people take a chance on a kid for years. I’m in my late 20s, I’ve stopped hearing “Whose kid is this?” in the office, and I enjoy my simple life with my partner in a house we never thought we’d live in when we were kids.

Jacklyn Rose is a freelance writer.

Leave a Comment