Toastmasters Icebreaker Speech — revised

As a software engineer, I enjoy programming and problem solving with great vigor. If I had to count the years of programming that I have done since school, it would be around 30 now. And I know I could never have enough of it! In fact, I am constantly fascinated by the ever-developing new technologies and I am proud to say that I have been able to keep myself on the cutting edge.

I was born and grew up in Beijing during the Great Culture Revolution. Since my father worked for the official China Foreign Languages Publication and Distribution agency, we lived in a community with many well-known translators and language experts. In the vicinity there were also many famous research institutions and engineering organizations. We were surrounded by intellectuals. The schools I went to were very academic centric unlike most of the other schools at the time which were hardly teaching any true knowledge. From a young age I developed good study habits. The conscientious and diligent old Chinese professionals had left a deep impression on me which I have carried along throughout my life.

Before I entered high school, universities in China were reopened. My academic record provided me an opportunity to go directly to university studying foreign language. I knew language and culture wouldn’t fulfill my entire inquiring mind, so I went to a magnet high school where I found math and physics were extremely exciting. The challenge and puzzle-like nature of the fields made me determined to study electrical engineering and mathematics later in college.

I remember my first computer course in college was titled “Z80 Microprocessor” and my first programming language was Z80 assembly language. I could never forget how thrilled I was the first time I built a functional control board with just a few chips and some electronic components, and I could even program it! Soon after, I picked up BASIC, Pascal, FORTRAN, and C programming languages. I enjoyed my time programming on the mainframes in computer rooms as well as the time making real time control systems using single board computers on those long workbenches. The more I learned, the thirstier I became for it. I subsequently finished my EE master’s degree research on a robotic control system. The actual robot was controlled by a Z80 single board control system. My simulation program was written in FORTRAN 77 and run on PDP 11.

In 1993, a UC Berkeley math Ph.D. was attracted by my math skills and he hired me as a professional programmer to write 2D and 3D AutoCAD drawing programs. Since then I became exposed to a myriad of flavorful commercial programs, from C, DB IV, LISP, and 8086 assembly language, to Visual C++; from CAD drawing, industrial robots and many other real time embedded control systems, to Windows GUI components; my programs had changed from solely problem solvers or command executors  to a series of presentations. In early 2002 I landed on the web platforms where I have found more rooms to express myself through the web pages I delivered as well as the “poems” I coded in computer languages. I have devoted my full attention to every single challenge I encountered, no matter how big or how small.

Programming demands precision, programming involves research. Programming is presenting. Programming is also communicating. Although I have got both the depth and breadth of programming knowledge and experience, I have found there is always an immeasurable room to explore in this mind-paradise. I feel I have certainly grown into a true passionate programmer.


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