I build software to help people all over the world share their ideas and create amazing things together. I've also been playing drums since I was six, and this website is mostly about music.
I was one of a few thousand people born in Wyoming in 1972, and I’m proud of my home state. When I lived there, I started taking drum lessons from a couple of guys who worked with the Casper Troopers, the local drum and bugle corps; this gave me a solid grounding in traditional snare drum technique which has served me well throughout my musical career.
I moved to La Cañada, California (near Los Angeles) shortly before my ninth birthday, and it blew my mind. I was lucky to have a wonderful fourth grade teacher—Mrs. Rodearmel—who saw the promise of personal computers and developed a prescient program to get an Apple II+ in our classroom. After a few lessons on how to program with Logo, I was hooked, and I’ve been programming computers ever since.
La Cañada is next to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech, and I am thankful to the many scientists and engineers there who nurtured my budding interest in math and physics, most of whom I met through Boy Scout Troop 509. In particular, Jay Lieske, John Wellman, and Jim Breckinridge answered the endless questions that led to my 8th grade science project on the physics of catapults. Their generosity and enthusiasm initiated my lifelong interest in mathematical physics.
For a budding musician, there may be no better place to grow up than Los Angeles, and I was unreasonably lucky to study with two top notch musicians and mentors: Frank Logar and Raynor Carroll.
Frank was the consummate L.A. gigging pro, with live and studio dates all over the city and some really amazing credits (including Elvis Presley). Frank taught me everything I know about professionalism (and most everything I know about non-classical percussion). Sadly, he died a few years ago, but every year there’s a celebration in his name: the Frank Logar Gathering of Musicians, which raises money for music scholarships. It was an honor to know him.
Until I started studying with Raynor, I thought of classical music as largely a matter of technique; Raynor taught me to study the score, look for the composer’s intent, and play it like real music. He also has fantastic technique and a great set of ears. A demanding teacher (in the best way), I still remember a painful lesson that consisted mostly of Raynor sadly shaking his head as I repeatedly failed to get an adequate sound from a pair of crash cymbals. I eventually learned how to listen critically and how to practice effectively, and I got a lifetime’s worth of musical education in a few short years.
In college, I attempted to combine my interests in music and academics by pursuing a double-degree program at Northwestern. A combination of wide-ranging interests and uneven study habits led me to nearly get degrees in percussion performance, economics, psychology, philosophy, political science, and physics. I ultimately graduated with a degree in applied math, rather later than my parents might have hoped.
While I was at Northwestern, my parents were unimpressed at the extent to which I was applying myself to my studies. They offered me a deal: if I didn’t make the dean’s list next quarter, I had to pay for school myself. I missed it by a few hundredths of a point, and thus I had to figure out how to come up with a fair amount of money in a fairly short time. I decided that the best way to do this would be to start a software company (a decision that actually didn’t make a lot of sense), but it turned out OK. I hung out my shingle as Nerdworks Software and hustled up whatever business I could find. Some of this was great (I did good work at a fraction of what my clients would have had to pay otherwise) and some was pretty rough (when I massively underbid a large project and ended up working essentially for free for six months before I finally admitted defeat).
When I graduated, I decided it might be interesting to work for someone else for a while and learn from them. I joined ZS Associates, a small consulting firm which has since grown into a not-so-small consulting firm, and I eventually became a partner.
The best thing to come of my tenure at ZS was meeting my wife (who also worked at ZS) at the wedding of two mutual friends (who also met at ZS). Thus began a whole new world of marriage and parenthood, as well as the many new joys that it implies.
In September 2012, after 17 years at ZS, I decided it was time to get start my own company again. Today, I’m having a blast building the next big thing in collaboration software. I’m counting the weeks until it’s ready to launch. Exciting times!