Sundry professional snippets, in approximately reverse order…
Currently cranking cool industry stuff after finally walking away from academia in 2022.
I retired from BYU in 2014 as a tenured associate professor after 14.5 years on faculty and threw myself full-time into running my consulting firm (Ironwood Experts, LLC), a software company I founded (Kinpoint, Inc.), and a non-profit I founded (The Internet Safety Project).
I joined the faculty of the Computer Science Department at Brigham Young University in 2000 as an older-than-average assistant professor. It had been my dream job for the previous 15 years, and I was granted tenure in September 2006.
I received my Ph.D. in Computer Science from Oregon State University (1998) with Curtis Cook and Tim Budd as advisors. Why I left the gorgeous Oregon rain forest for the intermountain west is still something I ponder.
My M.S. (1994) and B.S. (1988) degrees are in Computer Science from Brigham Young University. My most impactful mentor from those days was Evan Ivie who retired from Bell Labs to teach at BYU in the 1980’s. Evan was the Forrest Gump of computing, and seemed to be hanging out in the vicinity every time something stunningly cool happened over a two decade period. His stories are still legendary among former students.
Some of my coolest industry jobs of all time:
1) Founded Kinpoint, Inc. in 2013 while still on faculty at BYU. After I left BYU we built the Take a Name app that grew organically to 500,000 users over a two year period with no advertising or promotion, just purely word of mouth.
2) Vice President of Research and Development at Counterpoint Systems Foundry, Inc. (acquired by Extended Systems Inc., eventually spun off as part of OpenSynergy GmbH) from 1996 to 1999. We did IrDA and Bluetooth protocol stacks for embedded system. Coolest corporate deals: We did the IrDA beaming capability for all Palm OS devices in the world, and the corporate deal with Motorola for all of their IrDA-enabled cell phones worldwide. It’s amazingly cool when tens (hundreds?) of millions of people have used software you were involved in creating. (Me: “You know the IrDA beaming in the Palm?” Person: “Oh, yeah…”)
3) Test manager at Novell, Inc. from 1989 to 1992. OK, I actually left Novell in 1994, but it stopped being cool around 1992. But while it was good it was absolutely amazing. At the time we were growing faster than Microsoft, making great money, stock splitting, and just kicking the networking industry’s collective butt. Big part of my professional highlight reel. Then someone decided to buy WordPerfect and Borland Quattro Pro and try to be Microsoft. Oops. The rest, as they say, is history.
I first wrote software professionally in 1986, when I was an undergrad CS student at BYU. At the time I sensed that there was opportunity in this field. Looking back it feels like I was on the scene of creation like 10 minutes after the big bang. Amazing what time passage and growing old will do to perspective. Hard to convince today’s CS students that there really are mind-blowing things yet to create!
Going back to one minute after the big bang, I was serendipitously appended to a small group of nerdy but persistent junior high school students in Jesup, Iowa who in 1972 pitched to the school board that they should acquire a DECwriter, a modem (with suction cups for a rotary dial phone) and a dedicated phone line so that students (i.e., the six of us) could access the HP mainframe at the University of Northern Iowa. The school board bought it, and we started playing computer games and hacking code in a closet in the high school (no jokes please) as young teens. Living in a small town in Iowa, with about one square mile of city and a high school graduating class of around 80, we actually had a computer club in the mid 1970’s. How cool is that?! Of that original group present at the school board presentation, five of us have CS degrees and the other one has an EE degree. Four of us were actually roommates together at the University of Iowa in 1984.
Back to the 60’s… Some of my earliest memories from childhood involve saving wires, switches and miscellaneous electronic parts (such as they were back then) intending to build a robot with them some day. Never happened. This is when I was like six. I did get an Erector Set one Christmas, as well as a home chemistry set when I was eight. Imagine if Lego Mindstorm had existed back then! 🙂