I learned Perl in 1997. At the time, I was working on a team that had what I would call a Perl guru on it. This guy was absolutely one of the smartest people I've ever known. He was able to listen to a developer give a possible solution to a problem and within 5 seconds have 10 reasons why the solution wouldn't work (he had been on the project longer than anyone else).
At the time, I didn't see the point of learning Perl -- VB is where my efforts took form. I was given the task of automating our build process -- the project consisted of several VB programs and a few C programs. My first thought was to do it in VB. After this didn't go too well, he suggested that I try Perl. He loaned me his Camel book and the rest is history...within a week I had the build process fully automated using Perl (and makefiles). That build program was still being used after I left.
I continue to use Perl when I need get something done quickly and efficiently.