According to TechRepublic (2020), there are over 557,000 tech businesses in the US, and over 13,400 tech startups were launched in 2019 alone. The economic impact of the tech industry is valued at over $1.9 billion. These statistics highlight the impact of the tech industry on the overall economy of the US.
However, the tech workforce is not growing at an optimal pace. There are over 410,020 open computing jobs in the US and only 71,226 Computer Science students graduated into the tech workforce last year.
This gap exists because only 47% of public high schools in the US offer Computer Science which deeply impacts its access to young women and students from marginalized communities. To help widen the access to Computer Science in schools, we have launched #MyStartInTech; a campaign dedicated to drawing attention to this cause.
In this post, we will hear from 75+ tech professionals who share their #MyStartInTech stories and we hope that these amazing stories will help inspire more students to take up Computer Science.
Let’s dive right in!
1. Tasha Holland-Kornegay, Licensed Professional Counselor and Founder of WIRL
I have this love-hate battle with technology. Way before mental health came into the picture, computers were my fascination. So much so that I begged my mom to buy me a Commodore 64 computer when I was only 10!
Years later, I received a ‘Yes’ from UNC-Charlotte to join their Computer Science program. Sadly, this one program called smokey.com ended it for me. I had sleepless nights, shed lots of tears, and basically, it was a nightmare. After that, I changed my major.
But now, I’m back. I’m entering this space once again, this time, as a licensed mental health therapist. I’m launching a welltech platform – WIRL. I’m in love with tech all over again – it fascinates me as if I were that 10-year-old kid again.
2. Veronica Miller, Cybersecurity Expert at VPNoverview
There have been many significant experiences in my life that introduced me to technology. My teachers complimented me on my math and computer skills at a parent-teacher meeting at my school. I was requested to bring my parents to school. My teachers were very encouraging. They also told me that if I got a score of 90 or higher, they would give me the scholarship to study computer sciences. My father was overjoyed to hear that. I became my father’s ray of hope. He began to believe in my ability to do good in life.
The second time was when I was using YouTube to learn programming languages. It was a tremendous achievement to learn them. As a result, I decided to master them. I began to put in my best effort. I got the results later. Because of my technological abilities, I was the top student in my class. I used to get a lot of As in it. I’m still working on it.
If I hadn’t been in the tech industry, I might have been a YouTube motivational speaker, spreading awareness about cybersecurity and how to stay protected online.
3. Reece Griffin, CEO & Founder of MirrorTrip
My start in tech was a bit of a slow burn. What was funny though, was that even before I had access to a computer, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a ‘computer programmer’. How I knew that, I don’t know. Eventually, my father purchased me a used laptop when I was 13 and that’s where it all started.
Of course, computer literacy is important (e.g. owning/having access to a computer in the first place). But what I really could have benefitted from was access to computer science education/ literature, which just really wasn’t that easy to find back then (New Zealand in the mid 90’s was probably more like North America in the 80’s, from a technology standpoint) without someone to point you in the right direction.
At University, I instinctively gravitated towards computer science, loved it, and came out with a degree. Now, I’m the founder of a tech startup and a director of a software agency here in Vancouver BC. Without tech, my life would’ve been drastically different. It’s the source of almost all of my attention and all of my income.
On the topic of tech experiences, I’d like to share the ones that are the most memorable to me. I love it when I’m helping others discover new technology. Particularly, I’d like to talk about my role as Technical Director at TBA Digital, where we’ve had a variety of software developers through the years. As a part of that, we normally make sure to have a couple of juniors on staff, so that we can bring them up the ranks. I’ve always enjoyed exposing them to new technologies and software programming concepts.
4. Ravi Parikh, CEO, RoverPass
I got my start in tech at the University of Texas in Austin. While my degree was in Economics and Finance, my friends were computer science and engineering geeks. They’d build these really experimental websites or apps and show them to me. I like to say I was an entrepreneur since I was born, so I’d look at what my friends did and imagine how to translate them into business opportunities. After I graduated, that’s exactly what I did when I co-founded MakerSquare, a software engineering tool to help people learn how to code.
5. Juliette Palacios, Founder & Executive Director of Computing Minds
The first time I was introduced to computer science was when I was in fourth grade, and someone came to my school one day after lunch to teach my class a basic lesson on the fundamentals of coding. Moving the blocks around to make a character move through a maze on the screen became one of my favorite memories in school that year. I wanted to learn more about computer science, but I did not really know how to pursue it until I got to my first year of high school.
When I was choosing my classes, I noticed that they had a basic introductory computer class, so I signed up for it because I remembered the fun first experience I had with coding as a fourth-grader.
My favorite classes in school have always been the ones where I get to be the most creative, so that is why I loved my computer science class. Typically, when someone pictures a computer scientist, the first adjective that comes to mind is not creative, but instead something closer to analytical. In reality, computer science requires a mixture of the two; there are some parts that have to be memorized, but beyond that, it is up to the computer scientist. For me, there are two best parts of writing code – planning out what I want to do and then seeing it come to life.
6. Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
I started a global branding and digital marketing firm 19 years ago. My first true tech exposure was as a child in the 70s, when I got a remote-controlled car and the Pong video game as gifts from my parents. I was hooked.
I took computer science classes at Stanford in the 80s and joined a tech startup in the 90s, just as the Internet started to take off. Now I work with many tech clients and spend my days on the computer, and I would be lost, unproductive and bored without it. Tech runs our lives today.
7. Marc Boscher, CEO of Unito
When I was young, I wanted to be an architect, then a french literature writer, then an architect again. But really as a teenage kid, I was a gamer (on PC). In the late nineties, networked multiplayer gaming was pretty rare, but also so much fun that I got into setting up home networks and building multiplayer maps. I figured I was good at this tech stuff and hey, the job opportunities were on a different scale than architecture or literature, to say the least. So, I enrolled in a university computer science program.
Fast forward a year, we were in the heat of the dotcom bubble, and I was building websites and installing home networks for friends of friends. As I finished an install in a suburban house, the owner mentioned he was starting a tech company and asked if I’d like to come to meet the team. That was it, I joined my first tech startup, dropped out of school, and have never left tech since.
8. John McEleney, Co-founder of Onshape
I have to credit my father with my intro to tech. He was very handy and could fix almost anything. I was intrigued by it and would help him. Along the way, I learned about plumbing, electricity, machining, etc. I learned about taking engines apart and fixing them. So, from my very earliest days, I was interested in fixing things.
I was in high school when I first encountered computers and calculators. From slide rules and calculators, I moved onto computers. Then, in college, even though I was a mechanical engineer, I had to take an intro course in computer science. Between my junior and senior years in college, I worked at the laboratory for laser energetics. It’s a huge nuclear fusion lab. I did mechanical design work there. PCs were just coming out, and we used to do engineering drawings on the boards – we had 5000 drawings lying around. So, that summer I helped them find and implement a PC-based CAD system. After that, all the engineering drawings were done with a CAD system. That was the start of my tech career.
If not an engineer, I may have gone into economics, gone down the equity paths, or studied the financial markets.
9. Joshua Feinberg, CEO of SP Home Run Inc.
I began my career by marketing and selling higher education PC hardware and software solutions for IBM Academic Information Systems (ACIS). I also supported high-leverage co-marketing campaigns. I was 17 at the time, in my freshman year at Rutgers. IBM/Manpower was looking for an engineering or computer science major that was at least a sophomore. I was an economics major and the youngest of four students hired.
Before that, around age 10, we had various PCs at home, because my mom was in education and my dad was in accounting/finance. I remember visiting the local RadioShack computer classroom multiple times on class trips. At home, we had a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A, which hooked up to the TV and stored data on cassette tapes. Then we had an Apple II compatible computer, which proved to be a lemon.
By the time I was in high school, we got an IBM PC/XT compatible system with a hard drive, green monitor, and dot matrix printer. This is when I first learned word processing and spreadsheets – and it was the key to jump-starting my interest in the commercial side of IT.
Around that time, I worked at a collection agency that had a mainframe and one PC. In my freshman year at Rutgers, our Economics 101 professor got us learning Lotus 1-2-3, which led to a great summer job at a large insurance company.
Fast forward to the late 1990s: I wrote the groundbreaking book Building Profitable Solutions with Microsoft Small Business Server and bi-weekly VAP Voice online columns that helped shape Microsoft’s partner and product marketing strategy, and ultimately the managed services business model. Much of the content I created was also localized and translated into over a dozen languages for a global audience of over 500,000.
Nearly every career opportunity that I’ve had was one degree of separation away from my early exposure to technology.
10. Ben Heinkel, Co-founder of Ethical Clothing
My first introduction to tech was a Commodore 64 breadbox computer that my mother brought home at age 6. I quickly got bored of the few games that I had for the computer, and new ones were difficult to get where I grew up, but books with programs for the C64 were easier to come by. Soon, I was copying pages and pages of code from these books into my computer, so I would have new games to play with. Each game usually took several days to copy, with all the bug finding and fixing sessions that came with errors in copying the data over. That taught me a lot about how computers work.
I have my parents to thank for getting me involved in tech, and the constant support I got from them in terms of books, magazines, and software. I have no idea what my life would be like without that early introduction to tech, but I definitely appreciate having been introduced at such an early stage, which has allowed me to do so much with my life.
11. Stefan Smulders, CEO of Expandi
I couldn’t possibly imagine living in 2021 without the technology that we have available at our fingertips, which is capable of doing just about everything we can imagine. As a teenager, I was introduced to tech by my best friend, who taught me how to put together computers. We used to spend endless hours customizing our computer rigs, mish mashing random parts to try and come up with new configurations for our own enjoyment.
Who would have thought that those huge towers full of chips and components would, 20 years later, fit inside a cellphone? In any case, learning about technology during my teens left an impact, leading me to pursue a career in IT. This eventually led me to start up Expandi, which at its core, utilizes the latest technology to deliver its primary function – automation. Its primary purpose is to make the lives of digital marketers and Linkedin users easier, by eliminating redundant tasks that can be handled by AI.
Automation has always existed in tech circles, from simple macros and scripts that handle basic tasks to more complex programming applications. Nowadays, we are moving to a more automated world and with the rise of IoT and AI, the possibilities are endless for software developers and creators in the tech industry.
12. Tobi Ajala, Founder & Lead of TechTee
My first introduction to technology was when my mother bought my brother the PlayStation 1. I tried to take it apart and put it back together many times. Then, I discovered coding via MySpace’s HTML themes. Then my mother flew out to New York and queued up for hours to get me one of the first iPods. I finally started writing software seriously when I was 17 years old.
Without an introduction to tech, my life would’ve been boring. Tech is everywhere. Although I believe design is my passion, designing and developing technology is what I know I’ve always meant to do.
I’m a self-taught software developer of over 11 years. I started learning software via textbooks, went on to university whilst starting my one-man digital agency. University was a rollercoaster – I graduated my first year at the top of my class, then failed the next year, dropped out, then went back and it was a success! I took an engineering apprenticeship with the BBC, which practically saved my life, and I incorporated the business officially right after. Ever since then, we’ve gained clients such as Apple, BBC, M&S, Deutsche Bank, and many more.
13. Alexander Freund of 4it
My first introduction to tech was in junior high, at the end of my 9th grade. I attended a summer program at Harvard University and enrolled in an introduction to computer programming class. After that, I was hooked. If I hadn’t been introduced to tech, I might’ve chosen aviation or medicine.
I’d like to share one tech-related story. There was a public school program (Community Lab Research) in South Florida that allowed science-oriented high-school students to work in a research lab of interest as their 6th-period class. In my senior year, I chose to work in the computer lab supporting the surgical intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital. I was one member of a group of high school students who worked with UM graduate students developing the patient management system. It was a transformative experience and ultimately set the trajectory of my academic and professional career.
14. Michel Alvarez, CEO & Inventor of Alvalux Medical, CicaLux
My parents, primarily my Mom, introduced me to tech. When I was six or seven, I was fascinated with wires, batteries, light bulbs, and electromagnetism. I would pop light bulbs with excessive current. By age eight, I received a wonderful birthday gift – my favorite, a “64 in 1 Electronics Kit” to conduct home experiments – I yearned to be an Electrical Engineer! Then, by age 13, we had a microcomputer, and I learned BASIC language programming.
Before getting into medical devices at age 22, I first worked at our family computer business when I was 15. We sold one of the very first portable microcomputers (KayPro), and had the exclusive distribution for Baja California Mexico. A couple of years earlier, we were the first family in the neighborhood to have a microcomputer at home with the massive 8-inch floppy discs – well before Commodore 64, Apple, or IBM PC existed.
As a Mexican immigrant family with a modest upbringing in the 1970s, I hate to think what I would have become without my parents pushing us to play competitive chess and to learn high-tech/computers at such an early age. I think it served as a solid foundation for all five of us boys to do well.
15. Elnaz Sarraf, Founder & CEO of Roybi Robot
I was introduced to computers and technology in early childhood by my father. When I was only 5 years old, I started working on computer programs. When I became a teenager, my most exciting adventure was to program websites and even assemble computers.
I actually cannot imagine my life without technology. I would have been a totally different person if it wasn’t for my involvement in technology. Technology has empowered me to build my dreams and become an entrepreneur.
I came to the United States when I was in my early twenties to start a new life. Knowing English and the American culture helped me adjust to American culture and excel in my studies. So, I experienced firsthand, how learning a different language early in life can help reach your goals later on. We know that exposure to multiple languages at an early age is significant for children’s future success. Still, not every family can afford to hire private tutors or sign up their child at a language immersion school. Parents I met at different research groups often told me about their interest in an affordable and smart technology that can expose their children to multiple languages.
During a discussion I had with my Co-founder, Ron Cheng, I learned about his shared interests as an engineer and a parent, for a smart toy that can help his children with self-guided learning. Together, we decided to work on an education toy robot that can address this need for parents. With ROYBI Robot, we chose to utilize AI early on in our planning stage to ensure that teaching with the robot is interactive, rather than passive. Our invention was featured and named by TIME Magazine as one of the best inventions in education.
16. Jason Fisch, President & Ops at Fisch Solutions
I was 15 years old when I received my first home computer. My parents bought a home computer, and as a typical teenager of the 90s, I quickly became accustomed to using it. In my teenage years, I self-studied web designing, online marketing, and computer engineering. I voluntarily designed websites, especially that of my hometown, Beacon, New York.
If I had not been introduced to computers, I would have gone the emergency service route with my ultimate goal of being a chief at the fire department. Today, I manage Fisch Solutions and Laptop Shack, both in New York. Also, once a week, I work at Arlington Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter.
17. Mindy Serin, CEO of RunWith.Digital
My introduction to tech happened in two parts – hardware and web design. I got my first used PC in 1996. I was unaware it didn’t have a CD drive or sound card and had no clue what a 14.4 modem meant. I went to the computer store to buy all of the above, opened up my computer, and thought wow, there’s a lot of wires here. But I figured it out. I continued to take more stuff apart and update and buy new computers, take those apart, and update.
One day around 1997, I was clicking on a webpage, and accidentally right-clicked on a view source. This brought me to the HTML, which was pretty rudimentary back then. I knew ctrl+B turned words to bold in MS Word and ctrl+i italicized words. From there, I taught myself HTML and CSS.
I was in the 12th grade when I got my first PC and really started experimenting, but I had an Apple 2GS when I was about 8. Nobody ever really introduced me, I was just always curious and figured it out myself.
One piece of advice I have is – don’t be afraid of tech. Your computer won’t cause some sort of nuclear reaction. If you don’t try new things, if you’re never curious, you will never learn and grow. Make it a goal to mess up! You will learn more from that mistake than if you did everything the right way.
18. Rick Jordan, Founder & CEO of ReachOut Technology
My father passed away from Leukemia when I was 15 years old. My mom struggled to make ends meet, and I felt this drive inside me that I needed to do more. I started to work at a warehouse, where they gave me the opportunity to work on their technical systems. I began to see patterns, was able to find weak points in their security measures, and found new ways to solve them. That’s where I learned enterprise systems and discovered my love for cybersecurity.
I kept looking for the next big thing and climbed the corporate ladder. I followed my love for technology, and I became an independent technology consultant, which led me to launch ReachOut Technology.
Cybersecurity and technology are the gifts I’ve been given, and I want to use my gifts to help others. This is why I wrote ‘Situational Ethics’ and started the ‘All In’ podcast to focus on helping others in business, life, and technology.
19. Martin Edenhofer, Founder & CEO of Zammad GmbH
My very first contact with tech happened on a Commodore C64, back in 1988. I was eleven years old, and it amazed me that you could teach a BASIC interpreter to execute instructions. Soon after, in 1991, I discovered computer mailboxes/bulletin board systems (BBS). In 1996, I started coding my first active websites on the Internet.
If I hadn’t chosen this path, I think I would have become either an organic farmer or a bus driver. But either way, I wouldn’t have been able to acquire new skills as quickly, easily, and independently as I did in tech.
I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage all those who can’t afford elite education and who, like me, need to make it into the tech world all by themselves. Courage and passion allowed me to create open-source software that has helped thousands of people in critical situations. For example, my software OTRS was used by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the Tsunami disaster in 2004.
20. Josh Simons, Co-Founder & CEO of Vampr
I got introduced to tech fairly early on in my life. I used to work in music studios from an extremely young age, and I grew to be quite technical, learning things like patching/routing, IT problem-solving, network issues, etc. So, moving from music to running a tech company was somewhat easier than you might think.
I started Vampr at age 25 but I’d been working in and around studios since I was nine years old. My Co-founder, Baz Palmer, had run two other startups before I brought the Vampr concept to him, so he really took me under his wing and gave me that baptism by fire which most entrepreneurs encounter one way or another! We also saved a lot of money due to his experience and prior learning. If it weren’t for tech, I’d probably still be writing songs and making music.
I’d like to share the story of my first ever pitch contest… and it wasn’t exactly a small one. It was Silicon Beach Fest 2016 and was live-streamed around the world. I was incredibly nervous – I think I had a couple of shots before I went on stage just to cool the nerves. To our wonderful surprise, we took home both the main awards!
21. Kamil Gondek, Co-Founder & President of Kreate
I used to play super Nintendo and use VHS when I was only 5 years old. My parents got me my first computer in 4th grade, and I was hooked from there.
Technology is definitely a double-edged sword – we have access to a vast amount of information at our fingertips, but that takes so much time. I am on my phone way longer than I should be. I took a trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa in 2016 and was without technology for 10 days. This was very therapeutic, but at the same time, it made me realize and appreciate technology. It also made me a little anxious, being out of the loop for 10 days.
22. Matthew Payne, CEO & Chairman of Go Text Blast, Inc.
My first introduction to technology was in the mid-90s. After watching the movie ‘The Net’ and ‘Hackers’, I discovered one could develop programs on a computer. I was determined to create my own, even though I had no idea of what to create. I desperately tried to create GUI-based software using QBASIC and that is when I discovered Visual Basic.
Without tech, my life would surely be very different. I knew at a young age what I wanted to do. I wanted to run a software business. I looked up to the household names of the day – AOL, Yahoo, Steve Case. I continued to hone my technology skills all during middle and high school. When college came, I decided to major in Finance as I knew this would be a key in running a successful business. Without technology, I know I would be working at a bank or investment firm instead of creating the things I want to create.
Technology has allowed me to create things from my mind. If I can think of it, I can create it.
23. Matt Bullock, VP Technical Sales at Accelera.tech
I got my start in the world of technology at the age of six, when my father, who was an IBM engineer, brought home one of the first integrated circuit chips. I was fascinated with how a thousand transistors could fit on a little metal chip the size of my thumb. Two years later, I built an alarm clock with parts from our local RadioShack. To see it come alive was better than any toy I owned.
Throughout high school, I built and programmed small early-stage computers, using COBOL and Fortran. Then, in 1984, my father brought home the first IBM PC. It didn’t have any hard drives, just two 5.25” floppy disk drives. At that point, I knew that my future career would have something to do with these portable “brains” that could do so much, so quickly. I started my first company the day after I graduated from college (a small database programming business) and have been involved with IT services ever since. If I weren’t in the tech industry, I would have pursued medicine (become a doctor) to diagnose and fix the “human computer”.
24. Amit Sherman, Founder & CEO of Gatewise
My mom bought me my first computer when I was 10 years old – a Sinclair Spectrum 48k. It was my first introduction to technology and I’ve loved all things tech since. If I didn’t have tech in my life, I’d have a lot more free time!
When I first arrived in the US, I realized you can buy electrical devices and bring them back to the store a few days later with a money-back guarantee, so I went into Fry’s and got eight different smart devices. I planned to compare them, keep the best and return the rest. I kept them all.
25. Dan Bailey, President of WikiLawn
I was introduced to tech from a young age. My father was an early adopter of the personal home computer and of things like home gaming consoles, so there was always tech to enjoy when I was growing up. I was in college when dial-up Internet rose to prominence, and I also remember having LAN parties with my friends. Tech has been such a huge part of my life even if I don’t consider myself an early adopter.
I do think of myself as tech-savvy, though, and it’s affected how I’ve run my business. I always try to automate tasks whenever I can and use tech to help do things more efficiently.
26. Michael Nelson of TLC Tech
My introduction to tech happened in 7th grade when my class bought the Tandy TRS-80. I got hooked onto computers. I learned how to program in Basic, and we had to save any programs to an external tape drive. During summer, I was able to take the computer for two weeks. I fell in love with computers.
Fast forward to 14 years later, when I became a middle school teacher in 1992. In 1994, I got to build one of the first computer labs in the school district and became a technology teacher. When the first browser (Netscape) came out, I built a website for our school. I was asked by a friend to build a website for his business. I started a web design firm on the side in 1995. Within six months, I had two full-time employees and had to quit teaching outright. Within another four years, we had 32 employees. In 2001, the Dot-Bomb hit and we were out of business.
I went back to teaching for a year afterward and figured out I was no longer employable. I started my second business (the one I run now) in 2004, doing tech support for home users and small offices. Within a few years, we decided to focus exclusively on small and medium-sized businesses. We had over 400 people we had billed the year before. We “fired” (read: helped them find a new home for support) 85% of those clients and focused exclusively on the business clients. In 2009, we started presenting “Total TLC”, our flat-rate managed service offering to our clients. By 2013, we were exclusively doing managed services.
If I hadn’t built that website and started a side hustle, I would likely still be a school teacher. I loved teaching, but I love being an entrepreneur with all my being. The most meaningful part of this journey was losing my first company in the dot-bomb. I was young and had made mistakes (cash flow, debt to grow, etc.). I took all those painful lessons and used them to make this company even better. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
27. Kobus du Toit, CEO of Gizmo 3D Printers
I was introduced to tech at age 10 when my brother bought a Zx Spectrum. I can’t even imagine what my life would’ve been like if I wasn’t introduced to tech – it’s all I was interested in and still am.
The story of how Gizmo 3D Printers started is inspirational to many makers. It all started when a 3D printer I built as a hobby, captured worldwide attention as being one of the fastest of its kind in the world. Since then, we’ve sold 3D printers to over 22 countries.
28. Thilo Huellmann, CTO of Levity.ai
I was non-technical when I started my first company, which has since grown into a profitable enterprise with a web-based lead marketplace and online platform.
We did it by delegating coding tasks to developers and acting as project managers to build the applications we wanted. We found technical talent using freelancing websites and were able to iterate easily and cheaply. While this was going on, we taught ourselves how to code and architect this software, by reading programming books and gradually became more involved.
We recruited in-house developers to scale the technology after the first year, once we had established a profitable business model. Now that I’ve established Levity.ai, my own Artificial Intelligence company, I can proudly claim to be the CEO of a tech company that I founded myself.
29. Furqan Aziz, CEO of InvoZone
20 years ago, my father bought me my first computer. It was an old Compaq model with a desktop CPU. I used to paint doodles and play games like ‘Need for Speed’. So, that’s when I got familiarized with technology and the Internet.
I can’t really say what my life would be without technology, because if I hadn’t been introduced to tech so early on, I wouldn’t bother. But now, since I work in tech, I am not sure if I can live without it. Now, my life would be incomplete, because I find comfort in meddling with technology and developing intuitive solutions for clients around the world.
In an unexpected turn of events in 2014, my credit card was charged with an unauthorized payment of around 10,000 USD. I had no idea who had done it and it was very unsettling for me. So, to minimize the attacks that are exploiting the system due to weak cybersecurity measures, such as lack of security protocols, or unprotected networks, I strategically planned to start my own company. It was founded with the vision to protect people from scams through robust security solutions. Eventually, the plan turned into a full-fledged development team with cybersecurity as its core service. For the past seven years, InvoZone has been offering innovative solutions for web and mobile development using trending technological advances such as IoT, Big data, data science, AI, and several other technologies.
30. Adam Hempenstall, Founder & CEO of Better Proposals
It’s hard to recall when I was introduced to tech because it has always been a major part of my life. But when I was nine, I hooked up a camera to my VCR, so that when someone came into my bedroom, it would start recording. The goal was to record Santa as he left gifts for me. Needless to say, it confused the hell out of my father and we had a conversation about Santa not being real afterward.
When I was about 15, I burned music that was popular at the time on cassette tapes and CDs. Besides wanting to be popular (like any 15-year-old), I made some money too. Eventually, the school caught up and forbid me to sell CDs within the school premises. So, I just printed out some cards with the location of where I was selling them after school. It was a good time.
31. Iliya Valchanov, Co-Founder of 3veta.com
My first introduction to tech was when I was about 5 years old. A colleague of my fathers took me with him to play CS (Counter Strike) on his computer. There were no bots, I was simply exploring a virtual world and it completely fascinated me. Later, we got our own computer at home. Even at school, we had coding lessons, and this was extremely useful for me to develop my computer skills in my early teenage years. In the end, I did a Finance degree, which involved little to no computers.
The first thing I did after having graduated was to learn Python, as I realized that I had lagged behind. Since then, I have been exploring the world of tech and have tried to contribute as much as possible to it.
If I had never been introduced to tech, I believe I would become a financier, falsely believing that I am at the forefront of humanity. Finally, if I had never been introduced to a computer at all, I believe I would have become a teacher.
32. Maria Lobanova, Founder of Interstellar Digital
Let me talk about my introduction to tech. After two years in Moscow city hall, I was incredibly bored. I didn’t do anything useful. I tried to create and run my own media lifestyle magazine, but it was not successful. I needed an investment.
Meanwhile, one of my friends made his own startup, moved to Silicon Valley, and raised money for his own project. His lifestyle – meeting famous entrepreneurs, surfing in the Pacific Ocean – seemed perfect for me. Once, when I left home at 6 am to be in the office at 8 am, I left him a voice message on WhatsApp, telling him that I envied him and wanted the same lifestyle. He asked me to come on board. But I was too afraid to go to the other side of the world with no clear plan. But after two weeks, Artem found me a remote job in a startup of his friend’s. That was a new chapter in my life.
If I hadn’t been introduced to tech, I would probably end up as a full-time journalist.
33. Kim Chan, Founder of DocPro.com
I was introduced to the Apple 2 computer at the age of 12. I graduated in the late 90s when the Internet was just taking off, and I have always believed in bringing law online. At that time, I had been offered a job at a top international law firm and didn’t want to turn down such an opportunity. So, I opted for the safer route.
However, LegalTech has not really taken off in any big way in the past 20 years. Unlike other sectors, there is no household name like Amazon, Airbnb, or Uber that people will instinctively recognize when talking about LegalTech. I have decided to go back to tech. Hopefully, I can contribute to making the legal industry more tech-savvy and provide better services and value to clients.
34. Marlon van der Meer, Founder & CEO of BagsID
I was first introduced to technology when I was 11 years old. Two memories stick out from that year, 1985. My mother bought me the Tandy TRS-8 Model 4D, believing computers were the future. Although it was clunky, I thought it was the most intriguing thing I had ever encountered, and was inspired to start programming. The same year, my uncle installed a car phone. Remember those? It was my first introduction to the freedom presented by going mobile. I was hooked. There was never any other career path for me, it was and always would be tech. That’s what led me eventually into mobile messaging innovations and now artificial intelligence and machine learning with BagsID.
35. Julien Salinas, Founder & CTO of NLP Cloud
I’ve been a full-stack engineer for 10 years but unlike most programmers, I started programming pretty late in my life.
I initially studied business, but I found my years in business school pretty boring. So, I started following a couple of tutorials online about web programming for newbies. I was 22-years-old back then. I liked web development because it gave me a way to build real things by myself, while the things I was officially learning at school (marketing, sales, communication, etc.) seemed useless to me. I also quickly realized that I wanted to create my own startup, and coding would be the most important thing to learn in order to achieve this goal.
For a couple of years, I worked in non-tech fields like consulting and product management, while spending my nights coding. I was so bored in my job that I started doing programming as a freelancer. When I realized that my first customers were very happy, it gave me confidence and I applied for real jobs in programming.
After that, everything became easy – recruiters never stopped calling me, so I switched jobs several times, and my salary skyrocketed. I finally launched two startups, and I couldn’t help noticing how convenient it was to be a programmer when you want to become an entrepreneur (everyone wants you as their associate, and you can launch a whole business by yourself if you want to).
Today I’m 33 and I know how lucky I am to be a developer. I am free, well paid, and I still have spare time for my family – my two boys.
36. Trent Kocurek, CEO & Co-Founder of Airship
My first introduction to tech happened when we got our first computer in the early 90s. My brother and I would fight over whose turn it was to draw in Microsoft Paint. I remember being amazed at how I could create art using a mouse and a computer screen. That excitement and curiosity have stayed with me ever since. I was four years old at the time.
I can’t fathom my life without tech. I wouldn’t have been able to help hundreds of people create their idea, I wouldn’t have made money during high school, I wouldn’t have been able to watch an industry grow for the betterment of humanity – I simply cannot imagine life without tech.
One of the most impactful experiences I had early on at Airship was meeting with a group of teachers. They were passionate about helping mentally challenged children learn the proper way to react during a fire drill. We worked with these teachers to build a game that students would interact with to teach them the proper steps for getting through a fire drill. That project continues to stick with me.
37. Dr. Saksham Sharda, Chief Information Officer of Outgrow.co
I was heavily into video gaming as a kid, and all tech companies seemed like real-life video games that you can play. And, as with any video game, the more you play, the better you get at it. My parents split the time I’d get to spend on my computer between video gaming and doing other stuff like PowerPoint, Photoshop, Moviemaker, and whatnot, so I think that was my first introduction to tech as such.
I detest physical work, so I think my life would’ve definitely been harder if tech didn’t exist, or if I wasn’t working in tech.
38. Tim Wesselink, Founder and CEO of 3devo
I used to enjoy pulling out the plug from the TV and playing with electrical wires. Even though my parents aren’t technical people, they helped facilitate and support my interest safely – I remember getting a small cart containing plugs that I could pull in and out. I was more inclined to tech-related subjects in school, like physics, but what I was learning in school didn’t satisfy my need to know more. Family and friends would give me old electronic devices to play around with and I would dismantle them to explore more.
Tech has become the keyway for me to express myself. By default, I approach any problem I have in life as a technical person, so without it, I wouldn’t be who I am.
39. Ray Blakney, CEO & co-founder of Live Lingua
My parents introduced me to tech. Though I doubt they did it with the intention of ‘introducing me to tech’. I was just a very active kid and they were looking for something to keep me busy. It worked. My father bought me a Commodore 64. I used it to play computer games off a cassette tape. To find the games, I had to fast forward to exactly the right place on the cassette and hit play. I was about 6-7 years old at the time.
That Commodore 64 led me to study computer engineering in college and become a software engineer, and now I build 6- and 7-figure online businesses using that knowledge. If it weren’t for tech, I would probably be a teacher or college professor like most of my family.
40. Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review
I’m privileged enough to be part of a generation that grew up in the golden generation of tech. So many huge advances have been made in my lifetime, from an age when I was old enough to really enjoy them. Personal computers, the internet, smartphones, and other pocket devices have been such amazing strides forward when it comes to tech, and that’s only naming a few.
I was fortunate because my family was able to introduce tech fairly early into our household. I grew up with it and it was something I fell in love with from a young age. While I haven’t always had the option to get the newest tech, it’s been a longstanding goal for my adult life and something I’m passionate about now. A deep love for and fascination with all things tech is really what got me into my current line of work, and I’m now able to help others discover and nurture that same love.
41. Mathias Sundin, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Warp Institute
I was introduced to tech back when my father worked at Xerox and brought home enormous computers in the mid-1980s. Not PCs – they came later – I mean word processors. On one of them, you could also play a game called bowling. Then X:s showed up on the screen, you pressed a button and a few of them disappeared. That was it! I was only about four or five years old.
Now, my life revolves around technology, and I don’t think I would be where I am today without that early experience.
An experience I would like to share about tech is that in 2014, I wanted to talk about new technologies and blockchain in my campaign for Parliament. So, I decided to only accept bitcoin donations. I received support from all over the world and got to know a ton of interesting people in the blockchain space.
42. Sofia Fominova, Co-founder of Triligent
My very first introduction to tech was when I was seven years old, and my dad gifted me an ‘intelligent’ toy called a Furby. It gave me the first understanding that technology can have human-level reasoning. Furby could understand human language, react to my commands, and answer my questions. It could also be programmed to interact with other Furby toys, which I loved doing. I remember having four Furbies singing the same song.
I got my first Apple laptop when I turned 16, just before I went to study abroad. When I came to Cheltenham College, I got to use modern-day technologies on a daily basis, and it became an enabler for my studies. It exposed me to various programs such as PowerPoint, Excel, InDesign, Photoshop, and many others. I was also into social media because it was all very new and exciting back then.
I genuinely cannot imagine what my life would have been like without technology. It has been the greatest catalyst of my career. Not only does it allow me to be more productive, but my main activity now is building software products that help businesses and people leverage the power of tech to improve their wellbeing.
43. Ashu Singhal of Orion Networks
I am originally from India and came to the USA after my undergrad. While growing up, India was not the tech hub that it is now. So, my first introduction to tech was rather late, in freshman year. There were these two super-advanced Compaq PCs in the lab with 256kb RAM. I just fell in love with them.
Without that turning point, I imagine my life would’ve turned out very differently. I would’ve probably been in the automotive industry (And I’m not talking about self-driving cars).
44. Nicole Caba, Founder & CEO of Avvinue
My first introduction to tech was in a university course “Intro to Web” in 2009, where I was introduced to the very basics of building my own website in Dreamweaver. I was determined to win the prize for the best website. And even though I didn’t win, it made me very excited to learn how to code. I was 18 years old at the time.
Years later, I was working in the government sector, and I wanted to launch my own business as a wedding planner and knew I had to launch my own website. After buying a domain, I spent the entire night (probably 20 hours straight) building my first official website, using YouTube to show me the steps to get a WordPress website and plugins working. Fast forward to 10 years later, I still have that passion for learning and solving problems through tech, and have launched my second tech startup.
I wouldn’t say there was one specific person who introduced me to tech, but it was the desire to see something come to life that has always inspired me to find problems in the market and try to solve them through tech. I’ve now received a French Tech Visa, which allowed me to move from the US to France in order to launch Avvinue, an all-in-one app that helps people plan, coordinate and manage their entire move down the block, or relocation around the world.
45. Victor Fredung, CEO of Shufti Pro
I started my journey in tech around 10 years ago as CEO of Ogion Consulting. It was my passion and personal interest that led me to the tech industry and today, I am the CEO of a leading IDV service provider.
I would have pursued my career in sports if I wasn’t successful in the tech industry.
46. Nate Nead, CEO of DEV.co
I developed my first personal website over 20 years ago. It was a simple HTML-based website with very minimal UI and functionality, but it was my initial self-taught foray into the digital realm. I was 18 years old and the website and domain name no longer exists. We didn’t have the vast content management tools we have today that make creating customization a breeze.
Since then, our software teams have worked on hundreds of custom software projects around the world with features in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain which are far more complex than my initial project.
While the software has nearly followed Moore’s Law, which has added to the complexity, the developer community continues to create tools for managing the higher-level code with more fluidity and skill. It will be exciting to see where the next 20 years take us.
47. Joshua T Berglan, Chairman & Founder of Live Mana Worldwide Foundation
I had been homeless for a few weeks and in my last-ditch effort of trying to convince myself to live, I discovered a book called Code of the Extraordinary Mind. Reading this book helped me realize I was not crazy and all of the visions or dreams I had been having since I was a kid could come true.
While I didn’t know where to start building what I was seeing, I started to compile a list of questions. I Google each one of those questions, around 50, and that helped me piece together the foundation for what I regarded to be the future platform for all media. We call it the Digital Noah’s Ark and the underground railroad. This is being built to counter AI’S and big techs’ power over the world.
What I envisioned to build was the answer to a dream I’ve had over and over, since the very first time I saw the film Terminator, when I was around 7 years old.
48. Jonathan Ogurchak, CEO & Co-Founder, STACK
I’ve always been technically inclined – I jumped on the chance to get an iPod when it first came out, and always liked to be an early adopter. I saw that in business, implementing technology is a critical way to gain insight, efficiency, and quality improvement, and have strived to create impactful ways to use technology as such.
As a pharmacist, you tend to be limited in the options that are out there related to tech – a system to dispense prescriptions, to manage inventory, and that’s it. There’s a huge opportunity to use technology to impact patient care, but the solutions on the market are lacking. That’s where we’ve felt the opportunity exists. We’re taking that approach with STACK.
49. Stuart Crawford, MSP Marketing Consultant at Ulistic LP
I got my start in tech back in 1995, when I used to work with the onsite IT during my free period, which meant I would mostly move TVs in and out of classrooms. I never really pursued tech till I got involved in the copier industry in 1999. Then, I started learning about networking and started building on exposure and skill.
For me, the tech bug came when an experienced system admin showed me how to set up and manage SBS 2003. Then, when I learned how powerful a server was and what it could do, I was hooked. Also at that time copiers were just starting to print/scan. We were selling them, but often we had to help the end-user make them work. So, a lot of time was invested in setting up, scanning, printing, and PC faxing.
50. Heinan Landa, Founder and CEO of Optimal Networks
When I was 15, I was lucky enough to secure an internship with NASA. The scientists there — as you might expect — loved their data, and had some early minicomputers and a plotter that would print out graphs for them. The problem was – the graphs printed out in about two-inch by two-inch squares that you could barely read. I heard them lamenting these tiny charts, grabbed the manual for their equipment, and managed to get full-page, legible graphs printed for them. They were so happy, and I was thrilled to have inspired such a positive reaction from them. That was the first time I really grasped the kind of impact you can make by helping people use technology better. And, well, here I am decades later, still helping people with their technology — just on a slightly different scale now!
51. Carl Fransen, CTECH Consulting Group
I started my tryst with technology at a pretty early age – around 10. My parents had no idea how to use a computer, so I had to teach myself how. If I wanted a new game or application, I would have to learn how to install it from floppy disks, and then learn how to use it. And when something broke, I was the only one around to fix it.
My parents gave me my first ‘real’ computer. It was running DOS 2.1, a monochrome monitor, and dual floppy drives. My friends around the neighborhood also had the same type of system, so we shared a lot of ‘how to’ information.
Without my early start in tech, I would be the average individual wondering how best to get wireless Internet into all the bedrooms upstairs, or asking a friend to see how to get my TV hooked up to the Internet to watch Netflix.
Around a year ago, I was talking about a new start for the library. They had five staff scattered throughout the city running on home devices like tablets and laptops and wanting to collaborate securely on sensitive documents while doing real-time video calling. I really didn’t even bat an eyelid. Without getting out of my chair, I registered their new domain name, provisioned the secured cloud work environment, and pushed out video conferencing and office software to all their home devices. All of this took under four hours of my time. Being a tech sometimes is really rewarding, especially when you can build a completely functional business environment in under a day.
52. Carla Diaz of Broadband Search
I was introduced to technology earlier than I can remember and, to be honest, it wasn’t originally that big of an interest of mine. I suppose I was young and didn’t think too much about things like that, but I was more focused on trying to figure out what could be done to improve people’s lives. It was only later that I started to realize just how important technology is for positive change, and how important it is that people are able to connect to the Internet. I think that even if I wasn’t introduced to technology, I would have gone the same route that I did.
53. Richard O’Brien, Co-founder & Tech Lead of Hoamsy
My first real introduction to technology was in the form of video games when I was four years old. I was introduced to what you can do with technology in my senior year of high school. We had to do a cumulative project, and for mine, I decided to try to build a really simple video game. Even though I had never coded before, I dove right in and learned in a trial-by-fire format.
If I were not introduced to tech so early, I probably would have found it more intimidating than I do, and likely would not be building a startup. I have learned that although tech has a learning curve, the benefits are worth it.
54. Charles McMillan, Founder of Stand With Main Street
In 2018, I was introduced to the importance of learning various types of technology for the growth of my business. Since then, I took up different courses to further my knowledge and I do not regret it at all. It has been very useful to me, especially in promoting my businesses in the midst of the global pandemic. I am specifically referring to the world of digital marketing and the tools and hardware that I learned I need to possess.
55. David Pawlan, Co-Founder of Aloa
My first introduction to tech probably happened in middle school, when we got smartboards in class. But my first real experience in tech came when I co-founded Aloa in college. At the time, we were building apps and doing student tech consulting ourselves. We realized we needed to expand our team. We looked domestically, but it was too expensive. We looked overseas, and every one said to avoid it because of all the horror stories.
To us, that didn’t make sense. Why has society figured out how to work with every other industry overseas, yet we haven’t been able to figure out a predictable and consistent experience for outsourcing software? So, rather than focusing on a solution, we studied the pain points themselves and built up from there.
Three years in, without fundraising, we have grown Aloa to a multi-million dollar business, serving over 140 startups. Being only two years out of college, it has been quite a journey, and we are hustling to change the world, to truly achieve a day when innovation sees no demographic.
56. Ryan Vice, Co-founder & CEO of Vice Software
I was first introduced to technology while playing video games such as Pong and Atari 2600 in the ’70s, but it was in the 80s that my curiosity really got piqued. I took my first programming class using Basic language in Thailand as an 11-year-old. I picked up my interest in tech from my dad’s friend’s son, David.
If I hadn’t found my calling, I would probably have studied engineering and math instead.
After years of coding, I was able to transfer my skills and move to an entrepreneurial space. Though it was the right move, it was a big transition. I went from writing code to helping key stakeholders turn rough ideas into clear product designs with well-defined development plans, and then I’d take those all the way to predictable outcomes in the market.
Moving to this new space required me to grow as a person, and not just lean on his technical skills. Things like EQ aren’t usually a coder’s strong suit. I had to learn how to be practical about technology. You always want to make everything as cool as possible, and it’s tempting to use the newest, shiniest tools and approaches – but success as an entrepreneur requires finding that practical balance between business needs and tech tools.
57. David Bitton, Co-Founder & CMO of DoorLoop
I got started in tech because I have always been mesmerized by computers. My love for computers and anything tech grew when I used to sell music CDs, which progressed to selling DVDs, movies, games, and programs.
I was lucky enough to be one of the early employees of NovaPOS, which became the global leader in the specialty retail industry for point-of-sale. This experience, coupled with my passion for entrepreneurship, propelled me to establish tech-related companies, like Adventura PC Repair (a local and remote PC repair), PracticePanther (a law practice management software acquired by a venture capital firm), and now DoorLoop.
58. Stephen Twomey, CTO of Kennected
The first tech I can remember using was a VCR, along with VHS tapes. Growing up in a small town, there wasn’t much going on – watching films helped break up the time, kept me out of trouble, and exposed me to plenty of imaginative stories, like Star Wars.
My parents first showed me how to use a VHS player. They also bought our first Commodore-64 in the late 80s. To say I was floored is an understatement, though I was still too young to understand how a computer functioned very well.
It’s hard to say what my life would be like without tech because tech has been ingrained in my experiences for my entire life. The five-year-old me would say I’d likely be a doctor or a vet, but tech even touches those industries too – it’s unavoidable!
59. Rany Burstein, CEO & Founder of Diggz
My first introduction to tech was around age 15 in1995 when the Internet was just starting to form. I was living in Israel and was still in high school. One day, I saw a show on TV, where they demonstrated how anyone could build a website on a platform called ‘Geocities’. I decided to explore it and make a website for my favorite soccer club Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel’s biggest club. Instead of doing homework or socializing, I dedicated a lot of time to learning HTML, graphic design, and video editing and poured it into my new hobby website. As It grew in popularity and got some press, I received an email from an executive of the club asking me to meet and make the site the team’s official website.
I operated the team’s official site for a few years while in high school, and during my Israeli Army service. After a few years, I decided to exit and sell the website back to the team. The experience allowed me to attain other clients who I helped build their first online presence. But after the dot.com bust and 9/11 attacks, I decided to pivot and move to the U.S. to pursue my college degree in business. I attended UNC Chapel Hill and landed a Wall Street job in New York after I graduated.
After working for a big bank for over a decade, I wanted to go back to my first passion, tech. So, when I had the idea for my roommate finder app, Diggz, I decided to take the chance and dive back into the tech world. Since websites and apps have evolved so much since I got my feet wet with basic HTML, I wasn’t aiming to be a tech founder or CTO of Diggz. Instead, I help with my knowledge in strategy, marketing, product, business development, and other aspects. I still enjoy learning about all the different technologies and try to keep up, even though the actual coding is done by someone else in my company.
60. Hiral Atha, CTO of Moveo Apps
It all began when in 8th grade when our school got computers for the first time. Interested students were allowed to take extra classes to spend more time learning how to operate these swanky new machines, and I was entirely fascinated. The next year, I was introduced to computer programming and C. The realization came very naturally to me that this is what I want to do. To be able to produce results on the computer with the help of writing code felt magical to me.
Honestly, I can’t imagine myself anywhere without tech. Over the years, I developed software, became a CTO, and ultimately founded my own tech company. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients across the globe, developing bespoke tech solutions that help them run their business. Even after all these years, every new technological breakthrough makes me swoon.
Over the last year, I have spent a major part of my time helping a range of small businesses get online. Little mom and pop stores, startups, solopreneurs, people who were on the verge of losing their livelihood due to Covid – all these people have turned their lives around thanks to going digital, and helping them do so has been immensely rewarding.
61. Shiv Gupta, CEO of Incrementors Web Solutions
At just 17, I started my journey into the digital marketing world. For the initial three years, I worked as a freelancer. I also did my own research-based projects and gained a deeper knowledge of the industry. During that time, I gained a lot of technical skills and market knowledge, and unknowingly, I learned good client management skills. Later, one of my first clients, Robe Noguria, encouraged me to create my own digital marketing agency to serve people at a larger level and be a guide to my own team. That’s when I made up my mind to establish Incrementors.
62. Erwin Wils, Mindset Coach & Business Strategist at Millionaire Life Strategy
When I was about 15 years old, I had a soldering craft assignment and my teacher gave me a great compliment. That, and the fact that I excelled in science subjects, was why I started studying electrical engineering. After finishing my studies, I started working in the ICT branch. In the next 20 years, I fulfilled several roles at several companies, always tech-related. I was an introvert back then, wanting my work to speak for itself. Promoting myself felt like bragging.
In 2014, I thought to myself, “I can optimize a process and have all the proof to support that, but when the people that use the process don’t change, the process itself won’t change.” Long story short, I started hypnotherapy training and after the first weekend, I found my true purpose. I started my company in hypnotherapy for the first 18 months, after which I changed my focus towards coaching. Now, I empower tech experts to boost their business and themselves.
63. Jessica Ryan, CEO of All Together Now & Broadway Unlocked
I remember learning to write DOS commands on early Apple computers when I was in elementary school – I was really fascinated by being able to create through a screen. But I soon moved away from technology as I started my journey to being a stage and film creator – which was the polar opposite experience from technology at the time. But as my career progressed, the gap became more narrow. I was starting out in New York City and YouTube launched. Being able to create and distribute your work without a gatekeeper was an incredible idea for a theatre maker.
What would my life be like if I weren’t introduced to technology? I wouldn’t have created the first Broadway live-streamed concert that invited people from around the world to be a part of the show in real-time. I wouldn’t have met the Co-founder of my life’s work, Joe (quite literally because I met him through an AI-powered startup, Lunchclub). And I wouldn’t have been able to grow two companies. My startup, All Together Now, has brought together tens of thousands of digital audience members to be a part of 60+ live shows in the last year, and we’re already starting to create the wildest, most exciting dual in-person/digital shows for the fall. I love theatre and technology, and I’m so grateful to have built a life around both of them.
64. Jeff Peroutka, Founder & CEO of Pror.io
I got started in the world of tech four years ago, at the age of 19. At the time, I was fascinated by machine learning, AI advancements, and the late Steve Jobs. I decided to start a SaaS AI platform called Fyt. It was a very innovative idea, and this ignited a spark within me to pursue more ventures.
I have no idea what my life would be without tech. It’s ingrained in everything I do. I’m an entrepreneur at heart.
65. Lisa Partridge, CEO of XYPRO
My family never had a video game console like Pong or a Commodore64 computer, so my first introductions to tech were very basic. When we bought our own VCR (for $1000!), I remember learning how to program it to record a show. Later, when I went to high school and took typing and office procedures classes, I got exposed to an electric typewriter. Eventually, we moved on to PCs and word processing programs, and it was learning those skills that really allowed me to move into jobs in the computer software industry and cybersecurity.
Had I not been introduced to work-related tech in high school in the 1980s, I would not have been qualified to take on the work assignments that lead to where I am today. Would I have eventually come up to speed? Of course. Would my life have been very different? I definitely would not have met the people that ultimately led me to my current role as CEO of this particular cybersecurity software company.
66. Marie Cosgrove, CEO of Balanceback
I was introduced to the tech industry through sales, in a male-dominated industry. I was in my mid-twenties at the time. I needed a job – I was a single mom of four (their dad lost parental rights). So, I convinced the owners of the company to give me an opportunity if I paid my own way to training, and if I passed, they’d give me the opportunity. I passed, but they still didn’t want to give me the opportunity. After negotiating a 100% commission position, I made my way to the top national sales representative.
My life would have been very different had I not had the opportunity to be in the tech industry. For example, the company I worked for, lost their contract. So, I had to go look for another company to work for. Because it was high tech, I had to prove myself again on my ability to be able to make it in the industry. After becoming a top sales representative, I was fired for making too much money.
Two years later, I bought the company that fired me. The competition thought I would be bankrupt within six months. Ten years later, we are the industry leader utilizing the latest technology for diagnosing CNS (Central Nervous System i.e. concussion, mild traumatic brain injury) and Vestibular disorders, with Advanced AI, which allows us to provide quantitative and qualitative data for advanced patient care.
My mother suffered from a traumatic brain injury before I was born, leaving her with permanent brain damage. During her recovery, she was assaulted, resulting in pregnancy and my birth. Growing up with a mentally disabled mom has fueled my passion to continue to help people like her get the proper diagnosis and treatment. We are continuously improving upon today’s advanced technology, and it helps millions of people with conditions similar to my mom’s.
67. Daivat Dholakia, Director of Operations at Force by Mojio
I got my start in tech when I interned at the Mitsubishi Elevator Company in 2005. During that three-month process, I learned a lot about the processes that go into designing and building quality machines. At the time, I wasn’t sure how learning about elevators – of all things – would build my knowledge of the tech industry. They’re not exactly what people associate with cutting-edge technology. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Seeing the manufacturing process in person, working with inventory, and learning about project management on the factory floor changed everything I thought I knew about managing people. Even today, I draw on what I learned years ago at Mitsubishi.
68. Ayo Oshinaike, CEO & Founder of Foodspace
I was introduced to tech in high school by my friend Jason Briggs, who inspired me with his early success. Then, when I was attending Northeastern University, I became immersed in the tech and entrepreneurial world through their robust entrepreneurship program. I participated in the IDEA (Northeastern’s Venture Accelerator) pitch-a-thon as well as their mentorship and accelerator program.
I think there are many ways to be an entrepreneur, it doesn’t have to just focus on tech, but it is foundational to reaching a wider audience. Without an introduction to tech, I might have still been working as a financial analyst.
69. Kristen Buchanan, CEO & Founder of Edify
I grew up with your standard 90s computer games. I loved playing the DK Encyclopedia games around biology and geology. In school, I loved making things on Paint, playing Oregon Trail, and learning to use floppy disks. In high school, I did my fair share of Lime-Wiring music to make mixed CDs.
If I hadn’t been introduced to tech, I probably wouldn’t be running Edify. This company is a little funny in the first place – it’s about helping new engineers get started in their jobs and do proper developer onboarding. Learning and introducing new technical concepts has always been important to me. If I hadn’t been encouraged to play with tech, I would probably be in a totally different career, learning about it now.
70. Mark Lorion, CEO of Tempo
I loved technology from a young age. My father worked as a Solutions Engineer with IBM for 27 years, so he was my role model. He was involved with the technical side of the mainframe and PC business, and because of him, there were always computers and pieces of computers around the house, like hard drives and floppy disks. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t, but I was always tinkering around with them. In the early 80s, I even cobbled an IBM PCjr together, with my father’s help. I think it had 128KB of memory! I got a book and taught myself how to write some Basic programs – I enjoyed the creative side of it. That period of my life ignited what has become a lifelong passion around technology and specifically, computers.
71. Maziar Adl, Co-founder & CTO of Gocious
My first experience in programming was during high school. My dad, who was an engineer, had a programmable Texas instruments calculator. I used it every now and then with my schoolwork, but one day I got curious about how the ‘prog’ button worked. It simply executed a series of instructions back to back. I took the calculator to school and showed one of my teachers how he could calculate his personal taxes using it – he was impressed.
In Iran in the 1980s, personal computers were very rare. My uncle at the time lived in the US and he sent me a volume of Enter, a magazine about personal computers for kids. I quickly became fascinated with what I was reading and realized that I needed a personal computer. Soon after, my uncle was visiting Iran and I asked him to bring a computer for me. He brought a Sinclair Spectrum 128. I was glued to it. From BASIC, to PASCAL, to Assembly, I learned what I could.
During my final year of high school in Iran, I was able to participate in an internship. I decided to work for the data center of the Sharif Uni of Tech, where my father was also a professor. There, I got to know about PDP-11/70 and CDC computers. I improved my PASCAL, learned some COBOL, and how mid-range and mainframes worked, including card punches. When I came to the US a few years later, I realized that everything I had learned had either changed or was changing.
I was also always fascinated with automation. I always wanted to be a part of building and creating automation systems. Without automation and programming, you could say I would be truly lost.
72. Jim Wanner, CEO of KeyMark
My life would be completely different if I had not been introduced to tech. After college, my first goal was to become the Philadelphia Phillies Mascot (The Philly Phanatic). When I didn’t get that job, I realized I wanted to be involved in high tech – my first job was for an IBM partner that sold computers.
When I started KeyMark, we had a client that developed an Expert System, which is what we now consider to be a rules engine. From there, we’ve continued to stay at the forefront of developments in technology, and I’m very proud of being the CEO of the first organization that successfully implemented machine learning and web workflow.
73. Jason Wolfe, Co-founder & CTO of Sleep Phones
I’ve been surrounded by tech in one form or another as far back as I can remember. I was given a Science Fair Electronic Project Kit from Radio Shack, well before I was ten. That kit really kicked things. Back then, my father used to have a number of old EICO kits, while my mother had electric trains from when she was young. It was a bit of a challenge to keep any of these running, and they acted as my introduction to electronics. Between the kits and the train, both parents introduced me to tech. Later on, my father was more active in adopting new tools and sharing new skills.
My early experiences with tech have served me well, leading to quite a career. As I’ve parented my own children, I’ve become more and more aware of how the transfer of specific skills directly from a parent to a child results in a level of confidence difficult to otherwise acquire.
74. Rish Chowdhry, Founder & CEO of E.D.U.
Unlike what seems to be the stereotype of many current tech leaders and entrepreneurs, I made my start in tech very recently, after graduating from University. I struggled to find a graduate job in 2019, like many university students in my cohort. I stumbled across a startup which was offering an internship in the field of DevOps, of which I had no conceptual understanding. I did a little bit of research and stumbled across the idea of cloud computing, but found it extremely difficult to understand.
It’s now 18 months later, and I’ve just released an application to the iOS App Store for my start-up, which is focused on helping students in universities with their courses via tuition. From not knowing a single line of code to full integration with third-party payment APIs (Stripe) and helping build automated infrastructure, I definitely feel I’ve come a substantial way in my tech journey.
If I had gone down the traditional route of someone who studies Maths & Econ at Uni, as well as being British-Asian, I would’ve inevitably ended up at a financial institution, and I have no doubts I would have hated it. So, tech definitely saved me from going down a path where I would have loathed my job.
75. Jonathan Marseglia, Co-founder of Physcal
I am the Co-founder of a new sales tax calculation software called Physcal. My Co-founder, Tahani Taweil and I thought of this project together. I am a CPA and she owns an online marketplace called Ayaazone.com. We found that when it comes to sales tax, small businesses are being crushed. On the one hand, states are trying to find every dollar that they can from remote sellers, and on the other hand, compliance with 45 sets of rules is so onerous that small businesses can’t do it.
This was my first foray into creating a tech startup – going from CPA to tech company co-starter; my co-founder has created other companies on her own. I think for the both of us, this isn’t just a company, but a passion and labor of love. We both understand what small businesses are being asked to do, and big companies like Avalara don’t provide a cure for the problem. Physcal is a cure to the sales tax problem for small businesses.
76. Mark Rapley, Director of Operations of KWIC Internet
My first introduction to technology was a PC running Windows 95. It had educational games for math and language. I was five years old at the time and was introduced by my parents. If it weren’t for tech, I wouldn’t be in the career I’m in today – telecommunications. If I had been introduced to tech later in life, I may not have developed an affinity for it and would likely be working in an entirely different job. I also would not be able to pursue my hobbies to the same extent that I do now, as technology plays a crucial role in them.
77. Brandon C White, Co-Founder of File Finder
Since I was a kid, I have loved computers and what a few lines of code could create on my Commodore Vic 20. It came with a spiral lesson book that I remember to this day. It was amazing that you could type in some code, and a box with a bunch of electronics would spit out something cool on the screen. I didn’t completely understand how it did what it did, but I knew the product it created was pretty darn cool. The first lesson in the spiral instruction book taught how to write code that would make the computer count. Seems trivial now, but it had an unbelievable impact on me.
As an adult, I have followed that inspiration. My goal now is to help turn my love of all things electronic into new technology to make people’s lives better and more organized, but it all started one day in the 1980s, on a Commodore Vic 20.
Inspiring, isn’t it?
These success stories encourage us to help create more, and through #MyStartInTech we are going to do just that.
If you have a story of your own that you’d like to share with us, or if you want to know more about the campaign, head over to www.mystartin.tech now!