The first real step I took toward a career in software engineering was in a Costco. After living in NYC for several years without a car, my wife and I had recently bought an old VW with 200,000+ miles for $1,500, and were going wild doing all the things that car-people do — like grocery shopping in bulk. On one of our many trips to Costco, I wandered into the book aisle and, next to the latest from Dr. Oz and the Barefoot Contessa, a slim book with a soft, red matte cover caught my eye. It was a compilation of articles from some publication called Smashing Magazine. I’d never heard of Smashing and didn’t know much about the web or design, but I was taken with the book’s spare, tasteful layout. The articles didn’t make much sense to me, but nonetheless I liked their conversational style and their focus on teaching you how to do presumably new things. So I bought it and spent the next several weeks googling things like “DOM” and “border-box.”
Jump to several years later and I’ve just finished attending my first Smashing Conference. It was an all-around great experience, but what I appreciated the most was that I felt so welcomed. No one seemed bothered that I might have started in the Costco book aisle. It was clear that, if you’re a nice person excited to talk about design and the web, this was a community for you. The speakers were humble and approachable, the organizers were thoughtful but easy-going. I learned a lot to help me in my day-to-day work, and I had a lot of fun to boot.