Why coders code: 6 Colorado techies share how they got into programming

January 30, 2018
Why engineers got into coding Colorado
Photo via Shutterstock.

Software engineers are a special breed.

For the non-technical among us, it can be hard to understand exactly what goes on behind the screens and, even more so, what drives someone to pursue a career in coding in the first place. But in a profession that sparks such profound and personal passion, there is no shortage of interesting stories. We talked to six local engineers about how they first got into coding and what keeps them excited today.

 

Kirstie Cook
Software Engineer

Travelers Haven is a full-service housing platform that helps businesses organize and manage short-term travel for employees.

 

When did you first become interested in coding, and what interested you about that field?

“I started making websites when I was 10 years old,” Cook said. “I really enjoyed the creative aspect of being able to build whatever I imagined.”

 

How did you turn that passion into a career?

“Even though I had always been interested in computers, I had never considered it as a career. Then a few years ago, I came across stories of people who had taught themselves to program and were able to find great jobs doing that, so I thought, ‘why not me?’ I looked up tutorials online and just went from there,” she said.

 

How does your company enable you to pursue your professional goals and grow as a developer? What projects are you working on that really excite you?

“We’re encouraged to take on as much ownership and responsibility as we can handle, so we’re able to continuously improve and acquire new skills,” she said. “I’m currently working on a project to automate some manual processes, which should make some of my coworkers’ jobs a lot easier, and that’s the most rewarding thing to me.”

 

Ben Ketron
Senior Front-End Developer

EMS Software creates enterprise-level software for managing rooms and resources in educational facilities and offices.

 

When did you first become interested in coding, and what interested you about that field?

“My interest in coding stemmed from childhood influences such as Micro Adventure novels, films like the 80s classic Electric Dreams, and supportive parents who allowed me to endlessly wander the local library,” Ketron said. “Music was my first love and I dreamed of being a professional pianist until I discovered Douglas Hofstadter’s book ‘Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.’ While not strictly about coding, the concepts it introduced were fascinating: strange loops, incompleteness, recursion, self-referential statements, etc. Ultimately, it influenced my decision to pursue computer science in college.”

 

How did you turn that passion into a career?

“My career began with an internship that blossomed into full-time employment as a software engineer in the corporate space. After a time, I decided to shift to agency web development,” he said. “In part, there was a desire to eventually be a freelancer, steer my own ship and work from anywhere. This was never fully realized, yet both agency and freelance work afforded experience from a diversity of projects and many happy memories. Following this experience, I went to work for a friend and former colleague, spending several rewarding years as a software engineer within a real estate group. Today, I find myself at EMS.”

 

How does your company enable you to pursue your professional goals and grow as a developer? What projects are you working on that really excite you?

“Being relatively new to EMS, I’ve experienced it as a flexible, generous space where one can contribute skills and learn new technologies while getting up to speed with an abundance of existing business logic,” he said, “The challenges of the work here are at a higher scale with a larger team than I’ve previously known. The rewards are daily growth. I’m excited to be working on the EMS mobile application not just because it is written in React Native, but also because of the compelling team interaction. Code reviews are regular, highly constructive and informative, giving the sense we are building something everyone can be proud of.”

 

Laura Meckley
Software Engineer

Workiva’s Wdesk platform supports business processes from data and document management to compliance and reporting.

 

When did you first become interested in coding, and what interested you about that field?

"I first became interested in coding when I was in an introductory coding class that utilized Processing, a visual-arts-oriented programming language,” Meckley said. “It wasn’t until that class that I realized how many of my interests, like art or neuroscience, could be combined with coding to make useful and fun projects. This industry has the capacity to solve a variety of world problems, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

 

How did you turn that passion into a career?

“I worked my butt off in college to learn general programming concepts, and then through an internship and research position was able to figure out what skills I needed to develop,” she said. “I wanted to work for a company that was creating something to improve people’s lives, with employees who truly care about their work. With that in mind, I determined what kind of work environment would be ideal for me and what kind of programming would suit me best.”

 

How does your company enable you to pursue your professional goals and grow as a developer? What projects are you working on that really excite you?

“Workiva heavily encourages us to get involved in our local developer community and supports a culture of continuous learning. I feel empowered to reach out to anyone in the company about questions I may have, which exposes me to new perspectives and programming practices.  

The project I’m currently working is an overhaul of a Flash-based web application to a flashless, modern experience. It’s been really exciting to collaborate with a ton of developers, UX designers and customer success managers to help create a more intuitive application,” she said.

 

Andy Rose
Software Engineer

The Trade Desk brings big data to the adtech industry with an advertising platform that enables buyers to more effectively manage their ad campaigns.

 

When did you first become interested in coding, and what interested you about that field?

“Growing up, I loved digging up functionality in computers,” Rose said. “I managed to change my grades in fifth grade fiddling around with my parent's DOS computer. They thought I was using it for Pong.”

 

How did you turn that passion into a career?

“I always knew I wanted to do something with computers. I took all the classes I could, went to college, and got my first job within six months of graduating,” he said. “Nothing was rushed because I knew it was what I wanted to do and that I would get there. I really took the opportunity to learn everything I could about the different facets of engineering.”

 

How does your company enable you to pursue your professional goals and grow as a developer?

“There is a culture of trust at TTD. Managers trust that the work you choose to do is going to be the best thing for the company, suited to your abilities. You have more control over the work you do here than I have seen elsewhere,” he said. “Additionally, the development team is treated as a whole, instead of being segregated by function. A combination of those who show interest and those who have experience are assigned to work on projects together.”

 

Tyler Wayne
Senior Consultant

IT management consulting firm CapTech helps businesses design, develop and manage custom technology solutions.

 

When did you first become interested in coding, and what interested you about that field?

“I acquired an interest in coding at a very early age,” Wayne said. “My father is a high school teacher and wrote some rocket launch simulation programs to help his students understand kinematics. Watching the improvement his class had with the introduction of this technology instilled a desire to make knowledge more accessible through the internet as I was growing up. Learning to write software opened up endless avenues to achieve my goals.”

 

How did you turn that passion into a career?

“I turned this passion for creating software into a reality through many, many side projects while I was growing up,” he said. “Every new project came with a new challenge to overcome and more knowledge to gain. I interviewed with many companies when I graduated college, and CapTech offered a suitable work-life balance so that I could continue pursuing side projects while helping client companies turn their website dreams into reality.”

 

How does your company enable you to pursue your professional goals and grow as a developer? What projects are you working on that really excite you?

“CapTech helps me expand my knowledge and educate others through their various training programs. Not only am I able to research new technologies and report back to other CapTechers, but I get to hear about the latest and greatest frameworks and libraries from experts in the field,” he said. “I currently have a side project in the works to create a library for web developers to generate web forms in a hurry. I’m always excited to introduce a new tool to make fellow developers’ lives easier.”

 

Brian Hartz
Full Stack Engineer

Shutterstock offers an online marketplace for commercial photography, video and music, providing a place for professionals to license their content.

 

When did you first become interested in coding, and what interested you about that field?

“During my first job after college, I was introduced to the beautifully indented language of Python,” Hartz said. “Creating elegant scripting orchestrations for file processing opened my eyes to the power of code. With a few lines, I could crunch through terabytes of data; I was enamored and my thirst to drink code full time began.”

 

How did you turn that passion into a career?

“My craving to become a developer was quenched by attending a boot camp, RefactorU, taught by two of the most genuine and smart people I have ever known,” he said. “This camp helped me gain the skills and confidence to seek out job opportunities in full stack web development. I also full-heartedly embraced the open source Javascript community and continue to try to contribute to projects whenever possible.”

 

How does your company enable you to pursue your professional goals and grow as a developer? What projects are you working on that really excite you?

“Shutterstock has given me amazing opportunities to grow as a developer. I started on a full stack internal web app team and was able to contribute while also growing my server and database skills. A year later, I expressed interest in moving to more of a front-end and internal tools position and was given the opportunity to make that transition,” he said. “I am currently really excited to help grow and strengthen Shutterstock's inner source applications and libraries.”

 

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