John Bender, ICS B.S. (2006) and member of the UH Men’s Volleyball national championship team (2002) discusses his recent work.
Hi John. I hear that you are now working at Adobe Systems in Los Angeles. What are you doing there?
You worked at another company prior to Adobe after graduation. What was that like?
Before joining Adobe I was the Ruby Technology Lead and then Director of Engineering for a company called Originate Labs. With about 30 developers in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, we worked with early stage startups to build prototypes or minimum viable products for a combination of cash and equity. It’s extremely exciting to work with startups because it’s fast paced and you have to learn on your feet.
How did your experiences in the ICS Department help prepare you for your current work?
The course requirements in the ICS curriculum strike a good balance between pragmatism and theory that has served me well in my career. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve wished I could go back to refresh my knowledge from classes like Discrete Math, Algorithms, and Systems Programming.
What advice do you have for current ICS undergraduates?
First, as a pragmatist and someone who’s been doing hiring for the past 4 years I cannot overemphasize the value of extra curricular development. Find something you enjoy hacking on for fun outside of your coursework. The experience is invaluable and it shows prospective employers that it’s really more than just a paycheck.
Second, don’t underestimate the importance of the courses focused on theory and mathematics. The knowledge will serve you in good stead and the very best developers I’ve worked with have been craftsmen and earnest students of computer science both.
OK, I can’t help myself. How did playing Division I volleyball help you with computer science? Or vice versa?
Playing volleyball at UH was a really special experience, and it had a very positive impact on my education. Before coming to study at the university I wasn’t a particularly focused student, but the combination of the coursework and an intense practice/game schedule left little room for laziness where good grades were concerned.
Conversely, computer science has a well documented ability to focus the mind and hone an individual’s critical thinking skills. This proved to be invaluable in objectively evaluating my game and I believe it was an important component in my success as a player.
Any last thoughts for us?
Never stop learning and experimenting with the things that interest you and cultivate a hacker’s mentality in all areas of your life!