Coding since 4th grade: One Ivy League student’s mission to change the world.
It’s easy to get lost when you’re small. The rows of tall shelves held thousands of books, some Nicholas Boucher would need two hands to carry. As a kid, even a small town public library in Kentucky can feel massive, and its silence intimidating. But Boucher was not phased — he was there for a reason. He approached a librarian twice his size: “Where is a book that will teach me how to program a computer?”
The librarian laughed, then directed Boucher to the library’s technology and computer science section. He read every book on the shelf.
“I don’t know exactly what I was hoping to accomplish then, but whatever it was struck up an interest with me,” Boucher said. “Throughout elementary school I was really interested in technology, and I wanted to learn how to conquer it.”
Flash forward 12 years and Boucher is an incoming junior computer science student at Harvard University. His skill set is impressive, but Boucher’s true talent is his leadership ability. Boucher’s knack for having both big-picture and detail-oriented visions is what guides his success; this unique thought-process allows him to combine his passions for technology and government policy. Let’s take a closer look at his story.
Boucher’s parents are small business owners in Kentucky; he grew up watching them wear many hats to successfully run their companies. Boucher wants a career with that kind of high-level impact.
“Watching them build their livelihood out of nothing inspires in me what I think of as that drive to really create something [that has positive impact],” Boucher said. “Creating it because it’s good: creating it because it creates jobs and because it provides for a family.”
After reading his first book on computers in fourth grade, Boucher began teaching himself to code. In high school he redesigned the entire website of his school. By his sophomore year at Harvard, Boucher was taking graduate-level computer science classes.
For Boucher, the choice to study computer science is motivated by more than a love for technology — it is the impact technology has on the world.
“I recognize beauty that sits in code, but for me, the beauty of computer science is the ability to push forward any [field or industry],” Boucher said. “You can take some of these more abstract computer science ideas and apply them to build innovative solutions to things that aren’t necessarily computer science.”
Boucher knows that technical skills are only one tool for creating change; That’s how he became interested in developing policies to improve the lives of others. In high school he served as student body president for two consecutive years, making him the only individual in his school’s history to do so. Last year he served as treasurer of Harvard’s student government.
During his time as treasurer, Boucher combined his big-picture policy ideas with his detail-oriented coding skills. He designed a software program to track and improve the efficiency of allocating student council funds to clubs across campus. Through the new system, Boucher identified thousands of dollars in lost funds due to prior inefficiency.
This summer Boucher has chosen to pursue his interest in government by working as a congressional intern for a U.S. representative. He spends his days on Capitol Hill, applying his technical background to a government role.
But his work doesn’t stop at 5 p.m. After coming home from the Hill each day, Boucher works as a ProMazo technical consultant for NBC Universal.
ProMazo is a company that helps ambitious students like Boucher experience an industry, all while taking classes during the school year or working a summer internship. Boucher was selected from hundreds of ProMazo applicants to be the project manager for a premier engagement with marquee client NBC Universal. The team is building innovative tools for NBC that will advance the use of data analytics within business development and consumer research.
Boucher’s resume is diverse — and that was intentional. He is still unsure what he wants to do as a future career. Boucher could imagine running a startup in Silicon Valley just as much as he could envision working for the government.
“I know that I am fascinated by technology, but that I have no intention of living my life behind a computer screen and a keyboard. I know that I like being around people, but I also know that if I’m in an environment where I’m entirely separated from the technologies that I’ve spent so much of my life learning to build and apply, that I’ll feel misguided or lost in some way,” Boucher said. “I hope [my career] involves meaningful work that’s driven by a combination of technology and interacting with people in a way that has a positive impact.”
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