What is your current role and where do you work?
I currently work at Jaguar Land Rover’s Open Software Technology Center in Portland, OR. I’m the Collaboration Technical Product Lead there. Long title, but every word means something. Collaboration: We look to collaborate with outside startups on Technical: involving technology in all forms related to transportation and mobility to build Products: that we can integrate into our ecosystem. And I Lead the team. That’s my day job.
At night, I’m building a Smart Construction Surveying Sensor (SCSS) system. It’s called SenseIntel. We’re creating sensors and a web application to dramatically ease the work of construction surveyors and allow them and everyone involved in the construction process to be empowered to efficiently and affordably build exactly what was designed.
How did you get into tech?
I was always interested in technology from a very young age. To me, technology has been the closest we can get to real magic, and that’s what initially interested me. I got into the tech industry by learning as much as I could and understanding how the “magic trick” was performed and wanting to share the “trick” with as many people as I could. This started when I first figured out what a computer was and what it could do. I figured out how one is put together, then how to control it. I benefited from classroom learning, but I really developed my skills by building projects on my own.
I wanted to learn how software, web, and mobile applications worked so I started studying online and following tutorials. Then I began creating my own applications utilizing the same application development skills as well as searching online to solve new issues. I also began researching how startup founders were using this technology to build large, quickly scaling businesses that impact society. These projects, businesses, and applications were the foundation I used to build businesses that interested me and to get jobs in the tech industry.
What’s your favorite technology to work with and why?
What project are you most proud to have worked on and why?
I’m proud of the full web application I built for the feedback-driven learning company which I eventually put on hold: pitchLove. This was a web application that, in the end, was helped anyone that wanted to learn something to be able to do it “on their own”. Rather than the traditional lecture-based way we teach people, I alongside many other experts in education and science believe that feedback is the most natural form of learning. Even animals learn this way, and when we’re babies we learned that it hurts to touch something hot (i.e. the stove) so we don’t touch it.
I’m proud of it because it evolved from an early website I built and it shows a lot of progression in learning on my own how to build web technologies. It took many hours of trying things out, utilizing open source software, doing research, (and more) to develop that. And when it was done, it was pretty impressive. I can always look back at the first version of the website to see my progression of self- learning how web software works.
What do you see as the most interesting technology on the horizon?
I’ve always said that it’s a game changer to really tap into the human brain. If we can reach computational parity and can tap into, and hopefully augment, the human brain, we can reach new heights. Education will be simple (i.e. The Matrix). UI will require only 1 tool, our brain. We can transcend life itself and the list of possibilities goes on and on. I think we’re slowing getting closer and closer, but it takes alignment in neuroscience, cognitive science, and computer science to get there. There are tons of ethical and limiting factors to worry about, but we’re way too early to worry about that yet. When will we see this? In 20, 50, 100 years, who knows?
If you weren’t working in tech, what would you be doing?
I’ve dipped my toe in a few different careers throughout my life and so if I were not in tech: 1) Chef and 2) Choreographer. I was a chef at a Tex-Mex restaurant when I was in high school. It was hard, grueling work, but I loved it and I love cooking in general. I would love to open a restaurant and cook spicy food. Another thing I would love be is a choreographer. I used to choreograph for a group I led in high school called Harambee, for the Black Student Association in college, as well as for local hip hop and R&B artists in Houston. I love music, especially new music with a good vibe, and could get back into choreography with some practice and ice baths for my aging body.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your tech career?
People are important. Talk to them, value them, learn from them, ask them, help them, understand them, listen to them, support them, and do as much as you can. Every person is valuable and has something to give you just like there is something you can give them. I used to try and do everything myself but learned you can never do that. You can learn anything nowadays with all of the information on the internet, but you might be able to learn it more quickly and efficiently with the help of a good community around you. The network you develop truly is your net worth. If you develop it right, it will be your team that will make sure you succeed. Once you have that, the tech industry is simple.
What can companies do to create more inclusive environments?
First of all be more inclusive in their personal lives, which will lead to more understanding and inclusivity in the company. All too often executives and even managers have very homogenous circles that work as an echo chamber to confirm and embolden biases and unintentional disenfranchisement in the workplace.
The next thing is to be intentional about why you want diversity and use that equitable driver to push for actual systemic changes within the company. Just like when the company refines processes and operations to enhance any opportunities to grow revenue or reduce expenses, the same can be done to create systems that empower everyone within an organization to be inclusive, feel valuable, and enjoy themselves at work.
What keeps you busy when you’re not being a technologist?
My work outside of work is technology, that’s just fun to me. But other than that I love spending time with my beautiful wife exploring new bars, restaurants, and great music. Urban (nationally and internationally) exploration is kind of our niche. We land in cities and try to eat great food, have interesting drinks, hear the local music, and try to understand a city as a true local to get the city’s soul, so to speak.