My Journey to The Iron Yard

When I was a kid, I was often told how “extremely creative” I was. I heard this from my mother, teachers, and friends. It always embarrassed me, and truthfully, I felt ashamed by it because I knew that I wasn‘t — I was faking it, it was a lie.

I kept up what I thought was that lie until I was teenager in the magnet arts program at Gibbs High School. I dabbled in a lot of different media. I was lucky enough to have my own computer at home. With it, I spent a lot of time designing games and composing music. I learned about HTML from a book, my first web page was a Mother‘s Day card that I delivered on a pink floppy disk. I started putting sites out there for local garage bands (best viewed in Netscape Navigator, of course).

I had an art teacher declare to me that I needed to pick either art or music, because I couldn‘t have both. She was cruel, brutal, and it confused and broke me. I dropped out of the program, and soon after, out of school altogether. I was still 16 when I got my GED and enrolled in a graphic design program at the local community college. I had a hard time making it work, but one thing that did stick with me was the Web. This was the mid-90‘s and a friend had told me, “Dude, if you can‘t find something on the Internet, you‘re just not looking hard enough.” That resonated with me.

When I was about 18, I got into 3D modeling and animation. Soon I was learning to program in Python and working with raytracers like POV-Ray. It was only then that I realized the arbitrary restrictions I forced on myself to extort ideas in art class were the basis of genuine artistic virtue. I had found, in learning to code, that the limitations imposed by a system could, in fact, be catalysts for producing a real creative work in it. This was a revelation to me and it‘s where my passion for programming comes from; I see it as a truly creative undertaking.

The first Tampa Ruby Brigade Meeting, in 2006

It was when I began working at USF’s Florida Center for Instructional Technology when I got started with Ruby. I was given room to explore different technologies on a number of green field projects, and Ruby on Rails was just hitting the scene. In 2006, a friend and I co-founded the Tampa Ruby Brigade, and we spent those first few years meeting there at the University. Eventually my path led me elsewhere; I did my time at a few startups, a lot of client work, and I got used to working remotely in cushy senior developer roles. Through all this though, I‘ve stayed active in organizing in the local community.

When The Iron Yard opened their doors in St. Petersburg, its first hires were from among the Tampa.rb community. It was a natural fit for the The Iron Yard to start hosting our meetings on campus. When the second cohort started I jumped on the opportunity to help out as a teacher‘s assistant. I was often hanging around anyways.

I found a profound satisfaction working with the students. Seeing them level up, the “aha!” moments, the excitement around graduation — these things delivered the same joy I found in watching people grow in the Ruby Brigade, only tenfold.

It’s this deep love I have for code, for sharing the beauty and elegance I see reflected in it, that led to me seizing an opportunity to help inspire beginners at The Iron Yard. Learning to program is a terrifying and wonderful endeavor. I am ecstatic in having the great fortune of being able to lead the brave and the curious on this fantastic journey.