Love this interview with the guy who created Node.js. Key point: he really followed his curiousity, and worked his ass off. He didn’t graduate from a top CS program, but he got going with the most simple stuff. Combine a big brain, curiosity, the desire to leave it better than you found it, and a super work ethic. You end up with great tech.
I grew up in San Diego, my mom had got an Apple 2C when I was six years old, so I guess I’ve had kind of early access to computers. I’m 36, by the way. So, I kind of came of age just as the internet was coming out. I went to community college in San Diego and then went to UCSD afterward, where I studied math. Then, I went to grad school for Math, in the University of Rochester. Yeah. There, I studied algebraic topology, which was kind of a very abstract subject, that I found very beautiful for a couple of years, but later I got bored of it because it was not so applicable to real life, it seemed. After grad school, well… so, that was a PhD program, and once I realized that I was not wanting to be a mathematician for the rest of my life, I dropped out of that program, and bought a one-way ticket to South America and went there for a year, where I was kind of in starving student mode, and found a job doing some web sites with this guy, Eric. And that’s kind of how my programming career started. It was working on the Ruby on Rails website for a snowboard company.
Source: Episode 8: Interview with Ryan Dahl, Creator of Node.js | Mapping The Journey | Pramod Shashidhara | Podcast