How long have you been interested in programming?
I was never truly interested in programming if I’m honest. But, I’ve always been enamored with making things work. Early in life, I had a buddy who learned how to put 10-20 video games on a single CD-R (back in the day when people used to burn CDs). So within about ten CDs, you could have more than 100 games. For a 12-year-old, that was mind-blowing. I wanted to learn how that was possible so that’s what drove me to scour the web to figure it out. Once I did, that feeling was super rewarding. My life has played out like this with just about every technical challenge. Over time, programming became a great tool to make technical things work as I’d imagined. I got deep into using programming as a problem-solving tool in college.
How did you get from SSSAS to your current career?
What I used to think was, “I want to make a ton of money.” Money’s fun. But, I was conflating the feeling of accomplishing things that I felt were challenging, with attaining a bunch of cash that appeared challenging for many people.
So, leaving SSSAS and going to college, I tried to sign up for the finance concentration at Georgetown. But for me, it wasn’t stimulating. I felt bored in class. I spent most of my free time tinkering, hacking electronic devices open, trying to understand how it all works until one day I had a come-to-Jesus moment. I needed to live my truth. Creating and building things was stimulating for me if the payout was in dollars or wooden nickels. I realized the endorphins came from the building of these personal projects and not money. That was a big turning point for me. That realization enabled me to focus on the fundamentals of what it takes to build something great. By the time I finished college, others had noticed my perspective and asked for my help with things they were working on. Its snowballed from that tiny germ of an epiphany back in college.
Did you ever take programming or robotics classes at SSSAS? If not, how else did SSSAS help you get to where you are now?
I had a teacher, Bill Quinn, who taught an Adobe Flash programming class. He was great. It was my first practical attempt at coding. I learned some cool stuff but there weren’t many programming classes, if any, offered at the time. I never forgot the child-like excitement and enthusiasm Mr. Quinn had. He made creating feel magical. (On my recent birthday, and at 34 years old, I’m still getting happy birthday texts from Mr.Quinn!) I remember this kind of positive energy and enthusiasm more than anything I learned...and maybe subconsciously I was always chasing that feeling, later on. That doesn’t happen without SSSAS.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the SSSAS community?
It’s an inviting place. There’s a sort of ‘come-as-you-are’ ethos that’s not always how the outside world greets you. It’s subtle, but that helps to create a sense of personal identity and self-worth from sources not related to you. And, this can breed self-confidence. There are genuinely good-natured human beings within the Saints community. So, you find yourself challenging yourself later in life when situations arise — ‘could I have been a bit more empathetic here or there? Could I have offered more grace to others when there was a misunderstanding? Could I have found a way to be better?’ It almost sounds sappy but these thoughts really loop through your mind after you’re gone. I learned how to push myself at SSSAS. It was the most fantastic way for a young person to come of age. The gratitude I have for that experience and the people within the community is unbounded.