I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. Weird, right?
I’ve had an interest in computers since I was young. My dad used to make custom computers for people and install LANs in offices before wireless internet existed. I sometimes helped him install hardware and run ethernet cables from one side of an office to the other. He showed me America Online and paid for the Visual Basic book that I wanted so dearly.
In high school, I was exposed to HTML in my telecommunications class, where we coded web pages using only Windows Notepad. I was so excited about HTML that I bought a book on the subject and ended up convincing the teacher to let me lead an instruction on a new tag I learned in the book, one she had not yet encountered: the now-defunct
<marquee> tag (it was new to the specification at the time). I went on to take classes in hardware and programming, learning basic concepts in the C language before graduating high school.
In college, my focus shifted to Philosophy, a discipline which I think is possibly the most rigorous and technical of the non-STEM majors, requiring a specificity and conciseness that is unparalleled in other humanities courses. I flourished in the subject and received my B.A. in Philosophy from UC Berkeley in 2010. However, during this time, I still kept an active interest in computers. I installed Ubuntu Linux on my budget laptop so that I could start using open-source software, learn basic UNIX system administration, and automate tasks with scripts.
Career at Lumos Labs
After graduation, I took a job in Oakland at a web-to-print company as a Customer Service Representative and quickly moved into a lead position, but soon realized that I wouldn’t be able to utilize my tech skills there, due to the company’s politics and aversion to innovation. I then found a job as a Customer Support Agent at Lumos Labs, a tech startup in San Francisco which created a favorite product of mine, the brain-training app Lumosity.
At Lumos Labs, due to the lack of engineering resources allotted to the Support team, I was able to use my skills to improve the Support processes. Soon after joining, I found a process involving customer voicemails which was tedious and inefficient, so I took it upon myself to create a script to automate part of the process, saving the team hours of agent time and headache. The Customer Support Manager (as well as the rest of the team) appreciated my contribution, and I was rewarded with a promotion to Technical Support Engineer when the sole person in this role quit, less than six months into my career at Lumos Labs.
As my career at Lumos Labs continued and the company grew, I trained and mentored an additional Technical Support Engineer to help contribute to these projects. I outlined a curriculum and growth path for him so that he could get up to speed quickly. He soon was able to make useful contributions to my code, and we worked together to create engineering processes, consulting with other engineers at the company to refine them and learn best practices.
I began to offload some of our responsibilities as a Technical Support Engineers by creating new bug tracking processes that were handled by Support leads and involved minimal intervention by my colleague and I. This gave me more time to devote to learning Ruby on Rails, the framework of Lumosity’s backend, and Bootstrap, which Lumosity used in its web interface. I requested a Rails engineering mentor, and since I had demonstrated my ability and motivation by learning on my own, one was assigned to me. I was then able to make some useful contributions to the product by correcting bugs and adding features which were brainstormed by the Support team.
After my colleague also learned Rails development and demonstrated his ability, we were promoted to Software Engineers and were assigned a project manager. We thus became a full-fledged (albeit small) engineering team, which collaborated with the Support team to develop projects which improved support tracking and analytics, streamlined support agent workflows, automated support processes, as well as addressed pain points in the customer support experience (and the user experience in general).
I eventually began to feel like my skills were plateauing at Lumos Labs. The company had grown from around 60 people (when I joined) to almost 200 and had lost the fast-paced feel and scrappy nature that had allowed me to thrive. Additionally, a feeling of complacency seemed to permeate the office culture. Although I was continuing to grow and learn, it was much slower and I knew I could do better elsewhere. In May of 2018, after over four years at the company, I decided to quit and travel before coming back to the San Francisco area to find a new job.
I moved to Berlin for the summer and became friends with the head artist of a new nonprofit artist collective which was emerging there, Kepler452b, named after a recently discovered planet which was speculated to be able to support human life. The collective’s mission is to promote inclusion and tolerance in the art world and beyond, and to support artists with these values. I’ve long been a fan of art, and helped with a few large-scale industrial projects while living in the San Francisco area, so I decided to help the cause. I created a Rails app which allowed the collective to manage their artists, as well as serve as a promotional site for their debut event, a space-themed techno party with multimedia installations, educational speakers, and talented performers. The event was a huge success and raised enough funds to help the collective get off the ground. I left Berlin shortly after the event and eventually returned to Oakland, where I’m living now.