I started programming when I was a teen, but it's only when 3D accelerators (PowerVR, 3Dfx Voodoo, Rendition Verite, S3 Savage, nVidia TNT...) became widely available that I made my dive into 3D, and only because I wanted to make a breath-taking, living environment, and there was no freely available engine that could match what I wanted.
Took me years to learn by myself, today it's much better with the internet and a lot of literature available, but at first I was almost drowning in the middle of an incredible lot of things (algorithms, API, GPU, CPU, cache, memory allocation/management, BRDF, BSSRDF, photons...) to be learnt. At some point though a few things started to make sense and things went into forming a picture becoming clearer and clearer. [Although, in truth, the more you know the more you realize how little you do.]
I also got the chance to work in a very talented team at Funcom, and it was a blast, in the short time I spent there I tremendously improved. Working with great people has an amazing impact, it's like your brain is blooming ; It's an experience I sincerely wish to everyone. (There's a downside though, working in team of average people feels like suffocating to some extent. )
I'm currently working on algorithms for upcoming hardware in a GPU company.
I think it would be great to make a list of books we think are really good in our area of expertise including a note about why and which level of expertise is required to read them.