STEM Careers: Software Programmer

Colin Klein

Colin Klein, software programmer

Senior Consultant for Decision Source, Inc. in Nashville, TN

Graduate of Western Kentucky University

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In layman’s terms, I’m just a problem solver.

How did you become interested in technology, specifically software development?

I believe I’ve always had an interest in technology, video games, gadgets, etc., but I think the major event in my life that lead to my current profession was when my mom bought our household our first personal computer when I was in middle school. At this point in time, it wasn’t particularly common to have a computer in your home and I was one of the first of my friends to have the privilege. I’d have friends over to play games on it and when they’d leave I’d play around with the settings and administration tools in Windows 95, customizing things and learning how to maintain the system using stuff like hard drive de-fraggers and registry cleaners. I tinkered with that computer the way I imagine car aficionados tinker with a muscle car’s engine.

Around a year or so later, we got the thing connected to the internet on the pre-installed 28.8kbps, dial-up modem and I spent a sizable portion of my free time during high school goofing off on the internet. I’d experiment with different search engines as they came out (there wasn’t always a Google). I’d make terrible 90s websites with big ugly graphics and animated gifs. I even ran an online radio station where I’d take requests and broadcast live prank phone calls to classmates. Eventually, I joined a program at my high school where we designed and created websites for the school.

When I started college, I originally planned on majoring in physics. I had some grandiose dreams of being a theoretical physicist or a rocket scientist so I took the hardest physics classes I could jump into as a freshman. This backfired as it burned me out on the subject too quickly and by my second semester, I found I was enjoying the silly programs I was writing for my Intro to Computer Science class more than the physics work so I switched majors and I’ve never looked back. (That’s not necessarily true. I still read physics books and keep up with the latest physics discoveries and sometimes wonder “what if?” I just like the phrase “I’ve never looked back.”)

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Everyday life is becoming more and more reliant on technology. Because of this, a basic understanding of technology is becoming crucial to perform even the most common of tasks.

Tell us about your job and what it is you do for Decision Source, Inc.

In layman’s terms, I’m just a problem solver. We consult with our clients and learn everything we can about their business and what they need to do from day to day. We then look for ways we can use existing technology or write custom software to make their daily lives more streamlined and productive.

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Why is it important to the future of this country to get more students interested in technology?

Everyday life is becoming more and more reliant on technology. Because of this, a basic understanding of technology is becoming crucial to perform even the most common of tasks. At this point, the thought of even trying to find a job without basic internet search skills seems like an impossible task.

As the world becomes more globalized and connected, more and more low-skilled jobs will move out of this country and technology-related jobs will become increasingly important to our economy.

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What is the professional goal of a senior consultant like yourself?

I believe professional goals are a very personal thing, and as such, they are unique to everyone. I would say, for someone in my general position, one might aspire to run their own consulting company or perhaps write some application or website with popular appeal (an Angry Birds or Facebook for example) that could make them a fortune. I personally just want a profession that evolves with the world around me and gives me new challenges to solve every day. I’ve already got that now, so I suppose my goal is to keep that up for as long as I can.

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What do you think would help get students more interested in software development at a younger age?

As far as software development goes, I think exposure is key. Until I started college, I never really had access to any formal education on programming. Even the program I was in when I was in high school where I learned a little about web development – most of what I learned was self-taught and researched. I think we need to add more technology to the curriculum. Technology in the classroom seems to be a big movement right now. I’d like to seem more education about how that technology works.

There are also programs like MIT’s Scratch visual programming language and toys like the Lego Mindstorms that help expose children to programming concepts in a way that is fun and accessible. Tools like these could be brought into the classroom to show children some of the fun applications of software development.

 

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