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. 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 and edited my first few books while doing post-doctoral work at several universities and working at IBM, a data visualization startup, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. I became involved in open source development, particularly Python, and started playing the saxophone and Ultimate frisbee (though not simultaneously). From 2000 to 2004 I was a contributing editor with Doctor Dobb’s Journal and part of a computer security startup that was eventually acquired by Hewlett-Packard. I also published my first children’s book and met the woman I’m married to, and in 2007 we became the happy parents of a wonderful little troublemaker.
I was a professor in Computer Science at the University of Toronto from 2007 to 2010, during which time I helped create a Master’s degree in Applied Computing, was named ComputerWorld Canada’s “IT Educator of the Year”, and published some more books (one of which, Beautiful Code, won a Jolt Award in 2008).
I left academia in 2010 and spent the next seven years building Software Carpentry into a worldwide volunteer organization that teaches basic computing skills to thousands of researchers every year. Somewhere in there I found time to edit a book on evidence-based software engineering and a multi-volume series called The Architecture of Open Source Applications. I stepped down from Software Carpentry in January 2017, and after a brief stint with Rangle.io I joined DataCamp, who I’m proud to say fired me in 2018.