My agent is a hard-working lady that climbed her way from being totally new to having a significant list including some very successful writers. More important to me than how many copies her clients have sold: she also has a very high success rate for getting her clients book deals. And she's nice.
I consider myself fortunate to have gotten an offer from her. It seems like only yesterday that I was reading a form rejection from her assistant for the book I finished the year before, and here I am, giddily planning out the few weeks I have left to fix the main flaws that she pointed out in the story I finished this year.
I am a self-taught writer. I did not major (or minor) in English or Creative Writing or Literature, but in Molecular Biology (with 3/4ths of a master's in computer science). As of this post, I am not a member of SFWA or any other big writing group, I have never attended a book fair or conference, and before chatting with my agent, I had never spoken to an industry professional.
I just read a lot of books and kept trying to write what interested me.