03 Sep

Pepper Talk with Ryan Kelly

Get to know Ryan Kelly in this month’s installment of Pepper Talk! 

Just a little background before we get started, Ryan works on UX projects for the government sector. He’s been with Eleven Peppers for 6 years!


1. Do you have any nicknames?
Oh yes I do…many…ha. However the one that I’m most proud of is Ron Flattery. Let’s just thank David Meade Jr for listening to 105.7 the fan. It’s something about Dave from Salisbury who calls in and suggests ridiculous Orioles’ trades like Ryan Flaherty for Mike Trout. Only, he pronounces his name “Ron Flattery”. And apparently I also look like Ryan Flaherty in addition to having the same name. And since I’m from Salisbury, this just goes full circle. Thanks Dave! …Both of you!

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Slowly roll over and squint to see a fuzzy red square that sort of resembles a digital clock only to have no idea what time it is. And then hit snooze.

3. What is your favorite part about working in UX?
User Experience has enabled me to touch so much more than just design. I’ve been able to dabble in development, systems engineering, user engagement, marketing and really solve problems on a daily basis. It seems that every project is new and exciting. It also gives me a sense of helping people and helping the mission.

4. How did you get started in this industry?
After a degree in graphic design, I began working for a technical publication company supporting the Navy and Marine Corp. I found so much appreciation in helping our warfighters that I decided to continue working in this sector as a career. Design lead to web development, multimedia, and distance learning, to soon open up opportunities for user experience.

5. What are your favorite apps for UX?
Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are my jam. But I need to get on this XD bandwagon. And why only apps? A good sketch book can solve a lot of the world’s problems!

6. What is your favorite part about being a UX designer?
Funny you say “UX designer”. I typically say “User EXPERIENCE” because there’s so much more to it than just design. That’s kinda what I love about it. Only a small percentage of the work is really design where you’re branding and creating a beautiful website. It’s also improving the user’s overall experience through an intuitive Interface, efficient data sources, instant feedback to errors and much more. Like how Apple described the iphone, it should be SO easy even a baby can do It.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
I’m inspired by the people we have at 11 Peppers. Just seeing what some of our colleagues are working on is enough to start the burst of creativity. Our brown bag sessions also get the mind working. I tend to be inspired by some of my hobbies as well like wood working, homebrewing, car modification and racing. I draw inspiration from the techniques and precision involved in all of those.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no:

Café con Leche everyday

Sweet or Savory:

I lay off the sugar.

Favorite Movie:

Usual Suspects

Favorite place to travel:

In general: Secluded beach or mountains

More specific: Hawaii (need to get back to Oahu)

Hobbies:

Wood working, home brewing, car stuff, camping, socializing…

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10 Aug

Pepper Talk with Rebecca Popka

We’re diving in deep to get to know Rebecca Popka for this month’s Pepper Talk! 

Just a little background before we get started, Rebecca works as a Senior UX Designer supporting an application for the government. She’s been with Eleven Peppers for 6.5 years.


1. Do you have any nicknames?
Popka and Pop

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Ugh, where’s the snooze button…just 5 more minutes

3. How would you describe your design style?
Detailed oriented with a holistic approach

4. How did you get started in this industry?
I started at Virginia Commonwealth University pursuing video and animation but quickly adapted to graphic design, and later on UX Design, after graduating. Opportunities for video and animation were few and far between as well as competitive because the popularity of CGI had just taken off.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Favorite: Pen and paper, a camera, and the Adobe Suite
Worst: PowerPoint

6. What is your favorite thing about being a designer?
The creative freedom to express an idea

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
Imgur, games, Pinterest, YouTube…and a lot is also drawn out from my peers and family

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no:

Caffeine

Sweet or Savory:

Sweet…I have a big sweet tooth

Favorite Movie:

Two Weeks Notice

Favorite place to travel:

Walt Disney World

Hobbies:

Recently, rock painting with my son. Also, board games and MMOs, more specially World of Warcraft…”For the Horde!”

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14 Jul

Pepper Talk with Melanie Benton

We’re diving in deep to get to know Melanie Benton for this month’s Pepper Talk! 

Just a little background before we get started, Melanie works on The Commercial Team as a Senior Designer. She’s been with Eleven Peppers for a year and a half, and absolutely loves collaborating with her team, clients and other creatives in the industry!


1. Do you have any nicknames?
I typically go by Mel. For all the Spice Girls fans out there, I also go by Mel B.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Let the dogs out. Who? And then make a coffee. Just the smell of it brewing is enough to get some morning energy!

3. How would you describe your design style?
I’d say my natural design style is along the lines (pun intended) of clean lines and the use of typography. I love all of the little details of a typeface and exploring font-pairings!

4. How did you get started in this industry?
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved all things creative and expressive. There is something about crafting and creating something with your own hands that has always made me happy. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up, and crafts were our thing. It wasn’t until high school when I joined the Yearbook committee, that it clicked for me that I could take those interests to another level. This is when I was first introduced to layout design and fell in love.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Favorites – InDesign, Illustrator, Trello, blue light glasses.
Not my favorite – Excel (only because I don’t know enough about how to use it to its best ability).

6. What is your favorite thing about being a designer?
My favorite part about being a designer is the people that I get the opportunity to collaborate and work with. This includes clients and other creatives in the industry. Through my experiences I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with passionate entrepreneurs, Architects, Photographers, Interior Designers, Exhibit Designers, Marketing geniuses, Developers, and insanely talented Graphic Designers and Art Directors.

I love working closely with clients because of their energy and passion for what they do. The excitement and drive they bring to a project are contagious. Other creative team members like the ones mentioned above bring fresh perspectives and endless opportunities for learning and growth.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
I’ve found that inspiration can come in the smallest of forms at ANY time throughout the design process! Some of my best ideas came at a time when I least expected. I am also a strong believer in stepping away from the screen when feeling stuck— I take a walk outside with my dogs, go for a run, or turn to more tangible inspiration. I have a wooden crate in my office full of great design finds that I’ve collected over the years and throughout my travels. A recent example is a coffee cup sleeve from a local shop in Charleston that has stunning hand illustrated typography. Every so often I find myself sitting on the floor picking through the crate and it never disappoints.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no:

LOTS. Coffee in the morning and tea at night.

Sweet or Savory:

Savory.

Favorite Movie:

Anything funny or produced by Judd Apatow.

Favorite place to travel:

Hawaii hands down.

Hobbies:

I love being outdoors with my fiancé and our two dogs. We live near lots of lakes, parks, and the beach. We try to balance out our love of going to restaurants and breweries with being active. Recently, I’ve had more free time, so I’ve been able to DIY for our wedding, and I also enjoy freelancing when I’m able to. Right now, I’m working on a personal project and playing with watercolor! Any/all tips welcome!

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11 Jun

Pepper Talk with Eric Cavell

Get to know Eric Cavell in this month’s Pepper Talk! 

Just a little background before we get started, Eric works on The Commercial Team as a Senior Designer. He’s been with Eleven Peppers for almost a year and in that time he’s brought his unique illustration flair to many of our client projects and social posts.


1. Do you have any nicknames?
None currently, but I’m open if anyone has any good ideas.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Feed our two cats Piper and Maple, followed by coffee.

3. How would you describe your design style?
I try and take an illustrative approach when possible. Also, functional design is important to me, so design that is useful and serves a purpose.  

4. How did you get started in this industry?
I had a few internships and part-time design jobs while working towards my degree, but got my first full-time design job at a public relations firm a few weeks after graduating.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Favorite- Pencil, paper and Adobe Illustrator. Those would be my desert island tools.

Worst- It would be easy to say a Microsoft program, but everything has its purpose.

6. What is your favorite thing about being a designer?
Getting to be creative every day and turning an idea in my head into a sketch on paper.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
I have a few favorite designers on Instagram and Dribbble. However, If I feel I’m going there too for inspiration, I try to take a step back and observe the world around me. If we are paying attention, there’s so much inspiration to draw just from everyday life.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no:

Yes, coffee is my go-to.

Sweet or Savory:

Sweet.

Favorite Movie:

The Empire Strikes Back.

Favorite place to travel:

New York City, I don’t think I could live there, but it’s an amazing place to visit.

Hobbies:

Drawing, biking, reading, listening to podcasts and music.

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07 May

Pepper Talk with Lisa Van Wormer

This month’s Pepper Talk features none other than Lisa Van Wormer! 

Just a little background before we get started, Lisa is a Content Strategist who has been with Eleven Peppers for a little over one year! 


1. Do you have any nicknames?
Well, my mom always called me the “Boss of Applesauce” (no idea why, haha), but in high school, everyone called me Pippi because of my red hair and signature two braids when I ran track.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Wrestle for a little more blanket from by 75lb American Bulldog who takes up more space than I do. 

3. How would you describe your writing style?
I love persuasive writing. It has been amazing writing on a marketing team because I get to stretch my creative fingers, but even in the monotony of technical writing, I try to add a personal touch or interaction with the reader to keep things interesting.

4. How did you get started in this industry?
It wasn’t planned. I thought my easiest avenue of employment post-military was to remain a linguist but learning another language as an adult and the rigors of never quite being able to communicate in the nuance and level I wanted to really drove me towards a job in English. So, when I left the Army, I took my clearance and I’ll try anything attitude to a small Training & Documentation company and started technical writing for them.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
I have to say, I love Microsoft Word. I know it gets a lot of hate, but I can make it do exactly what I want and fix it when it has a hissy fit. For large-scale projects, I really like In-design as well. As far as worse goes, Apple… why are you even bothering with Numbers and Pages, they are THE WORST!

6. What is your favorite thing about being a content strategist?
I have a small creative team and my best days at work are when the three of us are whiteboarding ideas and talking designs, words, and overall strategy. And, because the customer loves our products and the immense care and effort, we put into them before presentation, we have unique opportunities to be as creative as we want with products, designs, content, and message. After almost 20 years working for the government, this is the first time I have found such creative freedom.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
I am a reader, I love to read words, even in terrible stories. A clever turn of phrase always grabs me and reels me in. I try to read as much as I can, from full length books, to short stories, or even blogs. Reading what others spend time and effort to craft, design, and put the “words on the page” inspires me to do the same. 

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no:

Caffeine all day long!

Sweet or Savory:

Savory all the way.

Favorite Movie:

Tie – Footloose and Wizard of Oz.

Favorite place to travel:

Alaska.

Hobbies:

Reading, Netflix consumption, travel, and extroverting.

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23 Apr

Pepper Talk with Brittany Jones

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month it’s Brittany Jones’ turn to tell us more about who she is!

Just a little background before we get started, Brittany is a Senior Designer who has been with Eleven Peppers for about two and a half years!  She currently leads a team of multimedia designers and works on designing a wide range of government training material, providing deliverables for numerous agency organizations.


1. Do you have any nicknames?
Most call me Britt!

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Hit the snooze button to try and squeeze in a few extra minutes! (repeat x10)

3. How would you describe your design style?
Clean and minimal. I love simplicity and creating design that is easy for users to understand and engage with. The idea of creatively using white space and contrast to create eye-catching elements makes me super happy.

4. How did you get started in this industry?
At a young age I loved to draw (horses…lots and LOTS of horses) and in high school I took every art and photography class that was offered. I also had a passion for web design. I studied design at Stevenson University and worked at a stationery store designing wedding invitations. After graduating, I worked as an in-house designer at Johns Hopkins University. After almost four years of designing at Hopkins, I really wanted to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art for my MFA in graphic design. I always admired Ellen Lupton and the amazing designer, writer and professor that she is. About a year or so after grad school I joined the Peppers!

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Of course the Adobe Creative Suite is my favorite! I really enjoy Illustrator, InDesign and After Effects.

Without a doubt the worst is PowerPoint. Bleh.

6. What is your favorite thing about being a designer?
My favorite part about being a designer is being a creative problem solver. I love figuring out the best way to communicate important messages in visual form and how each design brings a fresh challenge. Also, I love that as a designer you never stop learning. There are always new trends, new tools, new technologies, new sources of inspiration, etc.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
I have to agree with many of my fellow Peppers that inspiration comes from a little bit of everything! Pinterest, Instagram, Behance, fine art, architecture, movies/television, music, travel, nature, magazines, funny memes…the list goes on! 

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no:

Yes pleaseeeee!

Sweet or Savory:

I feel like this is a trick question. Can I choose both?

Favorite Movie:

ALL of the Harry Potter movies (and books)!

Favorite place to travel:

It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite place! One of my most memorable trips was when I traveled with a group to six different countries including Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece, and Czech Republic. Most recently, my husband and I traveled to Hawaii. That easily became a top favorite! I also always love traveling to California.

Hobbies:

Photography and painting. I also love traveling, hiking, running races, reading, horseback riding and cuddle time with my dog Taytor.
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30 Mar

Pepper Talk with Sacha Elliott

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month it’s Sacha Elliott’s turn to tell us more about what makes her tick! Just a little background before we get started, Sacha currently provides UX, branding, and marketing solutions for one of our government clients. She’s been with Eleven Peppers for 1 year and 4 months.


1. Do you have any nicknames?
I have collected several nicknames over the years, spanning from Soosh (my dad calls me that still because I love sushi) to Sacha Fierce (long, but hilarious story I can share with you one night over a glass of wine). Today, my friends and colleagues mainly refer to me as plain ol “Sacha”.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
I make a cup of coffee before I begin getting ready for the day, then make a to-go mug for the long drive into work. Honestly, by the time it hits 8 a.m. I’ve probably gone through 3-4 cups of joe. No matter what historians claimed, BC really stood for “before coffee”.

3. How would you describe your design style?
Minimal, modern, and polished. I love to create visual experiences for people and brands. Lately, I’ve been exploring design as a transformative tool that can help change companies and services, offering a more human approach through fresh digital solutions and impactful brand experiences.

4. How did you get started in this industry?
Being a fifth generation artist, I fell in love with design at a very young age. Marrying design and story telling (another passion of mine), I graduated James Madison University with a dual degree in Graphic Design and Marketing. Since then, I’ve worked with a variety of customers in the commercial and federal sectors to build a multidisciplinary career, something settled within the expansive crossroads of user experience, brand development, service and business innovation, technology and design.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Well, a classic favorite is the Adobe Creative Suite: InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and XD. Another favorite is honestly Sketch and InVision: DSM, Craft, and Studio. I love how flexible and interactive each tool is within its own suite. The worst would easily have to be Microsoft Office. Enough said.

6. What is your favorite thing about being an interactive art director?
My favorite part is creating a fresh and unique solution to the customer’s visual problem that not only improves their human experience but also adds value to their bottom line.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
First and foremost, Pinterest. Behance, Dribble, and Awwwards are close seconds. I love being inspired by such a talented community of designers around the world.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no:

Is this even a question? If I could make caffeine a part of my body, I would in a heartbeat and my heartbeats pretty fast these days… so.

Sweet or Savory:

Oooo. Savory. But Dark Chocolate can come hang with us too.

Favorite Movie:

Uggg. This is so hard! I am quite the movie buff, but I’d have to say my go to movie these days has to be, Last Samurai. You know minus Tom Cruise’s ego.

Favorite place to travel:

Hawaii. I lived there for years growing up. Nothing beats the sun on your back, feet under the sand on the beach, staring at the Pacific Ocean… ooo unless you had a fruity cocktail to accompany you.

Hobbies:

Honestly, a bit of a medley. I love fashion, cooking, traveling/exploring new places, learning a new trade, and working/ being in the motorsports industry.
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28 Feb

Celebrating 5 Years: Albert Nguyen

Time really flies when you’re having fun! Just ask Albert Nguyen, who recently celebrated his 5th Pepperversary!

Albert is one of our Senior Software Engineer’s. He has worked on many different projects during his time as a Pepper, but no matter what he is working on, his commitment to continuing to hone his craft is inspiring to others.

To keep his mind sharp, Albert loves a good cup of coffee. And we’re not talking about any ole regular cup of joe. He brews the gourmet stuff, and is the most popular destination for his coworkers looking for a caffeine jolt.

To learn more about Albert, keep scrolling to read our special interview and infographic!


1. Best part of working at Eleven Peppers Studios?
The great people, friendly culture and flexibility.

2. If you were a pepper, what type would you be and why?
I’d be a Dragon’s Breath Pepper. It’s got a little bit of kick at 2.48 million Scoville units.

3. What is a favorite 11P event?
Free Food Fundays! Though the trips, holiday parties, brown bags, happy hours, game days, picnics, and other events are pretty fun too!

4. What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11P?
The De’Longhi super automatic espresso machine! Between me and Kathy, it gets used every day.

5. What is your favorite 11P memory?
There’s so many of them! Disney is probably my favorite though. It was so fun hanging out with everyone. The time a bunch of Peppers went skiing at Big Sky was pretty memorable too!

6. Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice:
There are so many Peppers I’ve leaned on in the past including Theresa, Jesse, Jill, and Paul. Now it tends to be Gary for all the UX stuff we’re working on. I also lean on all the Peppers in PepperChat on Slack, for all sorts of things.

7. Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you:
Pretty much every Pepper has a great work ethic. Besides Kristen and Bryan, I’d say Paul. After a day of work, he would go home and code even more just for fun.

8: My spice meter :

  • Complete wimp
  • Will proceed with caution
  • A subtle flame
  • A little sweat never hurt
  • The spicier, the better!

Get to know Albert a little bit better…

1. What is your favorite thing to do with your wife Kathy?
Doing anything with Kathy is fun, but my favorite is probably just going to a café like Peet’s and drinking a good latte while munching on pastries while chatting and people watching.

2. What’s your signature dish to cook?
I don’t really have a single signature dish. I pretty much just make a ton of chicken dishes in different sorts of ways. I’d marinate or season the chicken overnight and toss it into an Instant Pot, sous vide, grill, pan, or oven to cook it. It comes out juicy and delicious while still being healthy. I seem to have tricked Kathy into thinking I’m a master griller, so we’d grill a lot when the weather is nice.

3. How many different coffee makers do you have and which one is your favorite?
I have an AeroPress, pour over coffee maker, Vietnamese coffee filter, Takeya cold brew coffee maker, Keurig, Tassimo, Nespresso, regular coffee maker, regular espresso machine, and De’Longhi super automatic espresso machine. So I guess that makes 10. My favorite is probably the super automatic because it can make a mean latte. My daily choice though is the AeroPress since it’s easier to have at work. I would grind beans and make a fresh cup to start my day.

4. Do you prefer board games or video games?
I like both, but prefer video games. I’ve been on a Tetris kick recently and trying to practice the DT Cannon. Who would have known that Tetris could get so complicated. My favorites are couch co-ops like Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart. I used to play a lot more games back in the day like Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, and Starcraft.

5. Any secret hobbies or talents?
Well, they wouldn’t be secret anymore if I revealed them. =P
I guess I can reveal a few like me being a second degree black belt, eagle scout, snowboarder. I also used to ride a motorcycle back in the day.

6. What’s the latest fitness craze you have tried?
I haven’t tried any of the latest ones, but I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for a few years now.

7. If you could be a sci-fi or fantasy character, who would you be?
This is a hard question since there’s so many to choose from! Knowing me, I’ll randomly think about this question a few days later and think of another character. Off the top of my head, I’ll say Hawkeye from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s a regular guy that can hold his own among others with superpowers or advanced technology. He also seems like a cool dad.

8. How fast can you run a mile?
I haven’t been training since my wife dragged me into doing the 2017 Baltimore Marathon. My mile time now is probably around 7 minutes because I still keep up with HIIT workouts.

9. As a Tesla car owner, what feature do you get a kick out of?
I pretty much experimented with all of the features. I even use third party apps to track my efficiency because that feature wasn’t included with the official app. I was also playing with the idea of making a web application that would use the unofficial Tesla API to get the stats that aren’t normally visible. The fast acceleration, autopilot, and gas savings are my favorite features. The games are pretty fun to play when waiting around. The built in dash cam and sentry mode are also great features.

21 Feb

Pepper Talk with Chris Poe

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re learning more about Chris Poe! Just a little background before we get started, Chris works as a Software Engineer on our Commercial Team. He has been with Eleven Peppers for just over 5 months!


1. Do you have any nicknames?
I was once called “The Prodigy” as an inside skydiving joke.
2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Like most, I make my morning coffee. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll make a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich. Then, I head down to my workstation in the basement where it’s nice and quiet.

3. How would you describe your coding style?
Meticulous

4. How did you get started in this industry?
Programming was a hobby before it was a profession. I taught myself the basics before moving onto school and then a junior developer position.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
My text editor (Sublime Text); Internet Explorer

6. What is your favorite thing about being a software engineer?
I really enjoy puzzles and developing feels like one giant puzzle.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
The community of open-source developers. I also enjoy reading Medium frequently to stay current on trends and software changes.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Caffeine
Sweet or Savory: Sweet
Favorite Movie: Lucky Number Slevin
Favorite place to travel:

Lake Tahoe

Hobbies:

Skydiving, Coding
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22 Jan

Pepper Talk with Paul Denton

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re learning more about Paul Denton! Just a little background before we get started, Paul works as a Principal Software Engineer. He’s a humble master of front-end development, but capable of picking up any language, tool or technology you throw at him. Paul has been with Eleven Peppers for 5 years!


1. Do you have any nicknames?
I haven’t had any nicknames since high school unless you count my kid calling me Doodie instead of Daddy.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Waking up generally consists of getting the 2 year old out of his crib and bringing him back to our bed where our 4 year old has been since he snuck in at 1am. While all this happens my wife lays there wondering why the heck everyone else is up only 2 hours after she fed the 2-month-old.

3. How would you describe your design style?
As a developer my style is whatever I see on dribble that I like. Luckily, I’ve got an entire company of talented designers to lean on when It comes to design work.

4. How did you get started in this industry?
My Dad’s always been into computers and like many nerds I started messing with them myself at home. I taught myself to code and picked up a job in IT right out of high school. I got lucky one day and received an email from a team trying an experiment; they would take a group of IT technicians and turn them into developers. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance and never looked back.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
It may not be the best tool for everything, but I can get just about any job done with Javascript.

6. What is your favorite thing about being a software engineer?
I’m spoiled by having the ability to hit save and then see output of what I’ve been working on almost instantly. Solving hard problems and writing tools that help people do their job is greatly satisfying as well.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
Almost everything I do comes from a pain point that I or someone else is currently experiencing. The thought that I can automate something for myself or make someone else’s life easier really drives me.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Yes, a lot.
Sweet or Savory: Savory.
Favorite Movie: The Fifth Element.
Favorite place to travel:

Anywhere I can see the stars.

Hobbies:

Spending my free time coding is turning into gaming with my 4-year-old, which I love. I haven’t been on my motorcycle much since we’ve had kids but I’m ready to start again.
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