I was born in Iowa City, Iowa. In case this only brings questions of corn to your mind (or worse yet, potatoes - it’s not Idaho), I should point out that my beloved hometown it is among the most educated cities in the United States. (Though, full disclosure: my grandfather did farm corn until his retirement.)
I took an early interest in programming, getting my start with Lego Mindstorms and TI-Basic. I had the pleasure of acting as a co-webmaster in elementary school along with Zakir Durumeric. In high school, I worked fixing computers at the Geek Squad for four years.
I was pushed in the direction of math and physics by the influence of Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, G.H. Hardy’s A Mathematician’s Apology, and Paul Lockhart’s A Mathematician’s Lament. After a captivating course in Linear Algebra, mathematics became my primary focus at the University of Iowa.
I worked as a programmer in college, despite my lack of formal study in computer science. As a freshman, I analyzed data from collisions at Fermilab using the ROOT C++ particle physics framework. During my junior and senior year, I worked in the University of Iowa’s Energy Control Center on dashboards to visualize the usage of energy across campus, as well as on a program that used Fourier Analysis to detect malfunctioning valves in building HVAC systems.
In 2012 I entered the PhD program in Mathematics at the University of Missouri to study Representation Theory under Dr. Calin Chindris. In the first year I passed both of my qualifying exams, and I learned some fascinating mathematics. But I began to doubt that a career in academic mathematics would leave me feeling ultimately fulfilled. (My sentiments are largely reflected by this blog post). As I reflected on where to head in life, I found myself drawn back to my original interest in computer science. Programming was a great way to apply the abstract mathematical reasoning that I enjoy to something concrete and directly useful. I began to study for software interviews alongside the rest of my classes, and at the end of 2013 I left the PhD program with a Master’s degree to work full-time as a software engineer at CARFAX.
In 2016 I moved to Portland, Oregon to work on Apache Geode at Pivotal Software. I never would have thought back in high school when I read The Cathedral and the Bazaar that I’d end up getting paid to write open source software one day. It was a great experience. I had the chance to pair program with some talented people, and I got to a spend a week holed away in a conference room refactoring code with Michael Feathers (the author of Working Effectively with Legacy Code).
In November 2017 I started working at AWS Elemental, where I am currently happily employed.