A New Chapter
My Career at System76
In 2013 I was looking for a new high end laptop to help with my elementary contributions — I wanted it to be powerful and high quality, and of course it had to support Linux out of the box. I settled on a System76 Galago UltraPro, and we were able to purchase it in part thanks to the new elementary t-shirt store I was running out of my dorm room.
During the research and ordering process, Ian at System76 encouraged me to apply for an open web development position they had. It was a long shot—I was a kid in Iowa working on elementary OS in my free time, between a UX internship and university classes. I definitely wasn’t experienced or professional enough for some awesome Denver based computer company. But I went ahead and applied for fun, ended up doing a couple of interviews, and was offered the job.
My wife and I moved out to Denver immediately after our wedding in 2014, and I worked as System76’s front-end web developer (and unofficial UX designer) for the next three years. In 2017 I was officially promoted to UX Architect for System76 hardware, software, and internal tools. We built Pop!_OS and started production on new computers designed and manufactured in-house in our new Denver factory.
Over the past four-plus years I’ve had so many incredible opportunities, learned so much, and been given so many ways to affect the daily lives of people using open source tools to work, play, and live their lives. I’ve developed my UX design skills in many different contexts, learned a ton about GTK+ and Vala, and dove into hardware design and experience. All on and with Linux.
During my time at System76 I was fortunate enough to be able to continue working on elementary. Never at a full-time capacity while at work—my focus obviously was always on what was best for System76—but there was often overlap. We made the decision to work with elementary on the new installer, which has been shipping in Pop!_OS, enabling out-of-the-box full disk encryption since 18.04. Pop!_Shop is a light fork of elementary AppCenter. And then of course nearly every weekend and evening after work I would hack on elementary things, write up blog posts, and help run the complex machine that is a company, operating system, and growing app ecosystem.
As a part-time volunteer I helped with business administration, contributed to design discussions and improvements, made several bitesize code fixes, established the monthly AppCenter Spotlight, helped coordinate design and development sprints, established and maintained comprehensive brand resources, and created four simple apps to dogfood the elementary developer story from start to finish. I also helped design the first version of the elementary developer site, focusing on AppCenter Dashboard and resources for developers.
Thanks to the continued support from our community as well as a large private contribution, I now have the opportunity to do all of this full time as my career. I plan to continue to focus on the areas I’ve been working on as a volunteer, plus dedicate time to working with OEMs, app developers, and other parties to help keep elementary financially sustainable.
Our core values at elementary are stronger than ever: we believe in the world-changing power of open source; we have an extreme respect of privacy and zero user data collection; and we aim to share this with everyone, regardless of social status, income level, or technical prowess. And now my full-time job is to make sure that we continue to do so in perpetuity.
elementary and System76 remain partners in several areas, and I look forward to continuing to work with them from the other side.
Apply at System76
If you’re a UX designer who loves the idea of working at an open source company, head over to system76.com/careers and check out the UX Architect posting!