I was introduced to the world of computers at a very young age through my school and their Apple IIe’s, while learning LOGO. We would program the turtle to move in various directions and play Oregon Trail as our reward, but my story doesn’t really begin here.
At the age of 12, my parents split up and I went through some serious personal trauma, which I won’t divulge, but I started reading in order to pass the time. I read through an entire section of science fiction books from the local bookstore (and the entire Magic The Gathering series at the time), before my mother finally told me to get a card at the library. A school friend had mentioned that I could find whatever I was looking for on the internet, and so I went online for the first time.
Shortly after, we moved back to our apartment in Manhattan and we took our 386 HP with us. When I was 15, I used my mother’s credit card to get an AOL account and found the infamous Visual Basic chat room where people had these amazing programs called “faders” that would make your chat text the color of a rainbow. I wanted to learn how to do that!
After this, I tried to disassemble my HP while my mother was gone for work and discovered that I was a few cables short of putting the machine together. A friend of mine helped me repair the fixes, since he was going to school for IT and we skated together and my interest only grew.
I discovered IRC and Linux (at the time Mandrake was the popular starting distribution) and I didn’t sleep for three days straight because I was so enthralled with this new Operating System. I also decided that I would teach myself HTML in the process and create my own webpage. I used Angelfire and Lycos tutorials to learn about creating my own pages and continued onward in my journey.
I started dating a guy who showed me the proper way to disassemble a PC and after a few months we decided to move in together, but we ended up staying with a Catholic nun for a while because we were both kids who didn’t know better. I had quit high school at the start of 9th grade and the nun encouraged me to take my GED (which I passed, scoring in the top 5th percentile for women who took the exam that year).
I also discovered a room on IRC called #HackPhreak, with the moniker mo0. I spent loads of time chatting there and made friends with the likes of a few people (some of whom I still talk to today), including the infamous bl00berry.
She was a hacker who took down child pornography sites and I was intrigued. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and I moved out into our own place and he showed me this thing he learned about called a buffer overflow. He was considered prodigious when it came to computing and even though I was learning a lot too, I was a woman and basically ignored.
Once in a while we went out wardriving, and we’d do other bits of tomfoolery. I remember how great he was at C and his friend at Perl, while I felt like the loser of the bunch. I was jealous.
I wanted to meet other women in the community and created a website forum called pc-chick in order to do so. I also angered a few of my friends in the process because they felt the site was exclusionary. I eventually gave up on the project and continued experimenting with things like Adobe Photoshop and wrote tutorials on the subject for others to use.
Eventually, my boyfriend of the time and I broke up, and I moved back home.
Fast forward some time and I was homeless and on the streets. I used a popular bug at the local internet cafe to gain access and tricks with the NYC Metrocards in order to bypass paying for train fare.
I found my way into couch crashing with six other young adults at an old ex-Vietnam veteran’s place in the projects and found dead computers on the street, which I would fix and install Linux on. A friend of his told me I should go to a 2600 meeting and there I met a ton of people who would later become friends and roommates.
I was still upset that my ex was considered prodigious while I was left like a sack of dirt in the road. Eventually, after many years I decided to come back when I ended up homeless for a second time and promised a shelter councilor that if he loaned me $30 for a college application, I would obtain an IT degree.
I took several classes at a time during my last term and worked at the local fast food restaurant clocking in over 35 hours a week. My coworkers let me study during down periods so I could work on my classes. I created a note blog which a lot of people on Twitter enjoyed.
My mother, who admonished the fact that I used computers as a child (she felt I would never find a marriage partner, and that I would end up a bag lady on the street), spoke with me on the phone and finally said: “It’s about damn time you got back into computers. You were so great with them.”
I don’t consider my journey to be over yet though though. There are still many things I want to learn and do, and I still want to find an official red teaming position, even though I’m super happy where I’m at now.
Welp. That’s it. :)