I was born in 1963 and grew up on Vancouver Island, where two inches of rain is considered a light shower. I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Engineering at Queen’s University in 1984, then worked in Ottawa before moving to Edinburgh to do an M.Sc. in Artificial Intelligence in 1985-86. I spent the next six years working at the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre while doing a Ph.D. in Computer Science (which I completed in 1992) and writing popular science articles for The Independent and New Scientist.
Over the next few years I wrote my first book and co-edited another while doing post-doctoral work at several universities, and working at IBM and a data visualization startup. I went independent in 1998, working primarily for Los Alamos National Laboratory while I wrote my first children’s book and started playing the saxophone and Ultimate frisbee (though not simultaneously). I also became involved in open source development, particularly Python. Between 2000 and 2004 I was part of a computer security startup that was eventually acquired by Hewlett-Packard, a contributing editor with Doctor Dobb’s Journal, and an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto.
After leaving HP in 2004 I put the Software Carpentry course online and wrote another programming book. I was a professor in Computer Science at the University of Toronto in from 2007-2010, during which time I wrote another children’s book and two more on programming (one of which, Beautiful Code, won a Jolt Award in 2008), supervised graduate students and Google Summer of Code projects, set up a cross-country undergraduate capstone project program, helped create a Master’s degree in Applied Computing, and was named ComputerWorld Canada’s “IT Educator of the Year” for 2010. I also met the woman I’m now married to (which probably ought to have gone at the start of this paragraph), and in 2007 we became the proud and happy parents of the most wonderful little redhead in the whole wide world.
I left academia in 2010 and spent the next seven years building Software Carpentry into a non-profit organization that helps thousands of researchers worldwide every year. I also helped organize a summit meeting of grassroots groups trying to improve inclusion and diversity in the tech sector, and edited a book on evidence-based software engineering and The Architecture of Open Source Applications, in which the creators of fifty open source projects of various sizes describe and critique their systems’ designs.