I taught myself to code at 13 because I wanted to make plugins for a Minecraft server my friends and I were building. I wasn't smart enough to Google "learn Java online," so instead I read hundreds of GitHub repositories during the drive to school. This was unfortunately how I learned Java.
I continued my self-education streak by learning Python, Node.JS, and web development. These allowed me to start building projects for my community. Here's a brief timeline of things I've done in my semi-adult life:
- Told my friend Joseph that "learning Python was a waste of time." He has never let me live it down.
- Taught myself Swift and rebuilt my high school's student life iOS app, Knight Life, from scratch. Added features like lunch schedules, announcements, and homework planning. Also redesigned its UX from the ground up. This was my first venture into webapp development as I learned Node.JS/Express/MongoDB to code a backend for the app.
- Matriculated to Vanderbilt University... Anchor Down?
- Joined ACE Design, my school's official student-run graphic design team, as a UX/graphic designer.
- Joined Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations (SCNO), my school's premier management consulting organization. Met some lifelong friends.
- Started work on the Vandy Almanac, a better course browser for Vanderbilt because my University's infra is ancient. This project resulted in my first complex web application and my first real experience developing a web scraper. I scraped courses, at scale, from my University's course catalog. I then wrote (what I'd learn later was) an ETL pipeline and designed a frontend around it.
- Got my first internship (through nepotism) at Kennedys Law. Wrote a medical invoice data extraction pipeline using Python, OCR, Regex. I also taught myself NLP vector embeddings and topic modeling to cluster Twitter accounts.
- Released the first version of my longest-standing project, Vandy.Link. It started out as a URL shortener with built-in namespaces for Vanderbilt student organizations. It eventually grew to something of a CRM and student engagement monitor.
- Joined the Media and Inequality Lab (MAIL) at Vanderbilt University under Dr. Eunji Kim as a research assistant. This would become a transformative experience.
- Wrote a web-scraper to grab every TV show off of IMDb for MAIL.
- Got my second internship at Credera as a technical consultant intern. We were creating a social media trend prediction engine for J&J, built atop a massive ETL pipeline. Taught myself PySpark, AWS Glue, and a handful of other tools. Also wrote a proof of concept algorithm for "discovering" new influencers.
- Built my first scaleable web-scraper to grab over a million reviews off of Yelp for MAIL. Taught myself Docker and deployed a dozen scrapers to Azure Cloud. Did post-processing with Databricks and PySpark.
- Organized and ran SCNO's first in-person Nonprofit Speaker Series, flying in five nonprofit executives from across the country for a day-long conference.
- Followed my heart and interned at the Brookings Institution in their AI and Emerging Tech initiative. Collected and analyzed a bunch of data, read a ton about Russian disinformation campaigns in Latin America, and helped write a few major briefs. Also co-wrote the weekly newsletter.
- Followed Dr. Kim to Columbia University and started work as a Research Consultant.
- Began work on the Banned Books project at Columbia, my largest scraping project to-date work still ongoing.
- Ran SCNO after being promoted to President :)
- Won a University-wide pitch competition for CryptDegree, a proposed MOOC degree-verification SaaS using NFTs.
- Founded Sandbox Labs to build a social media platform simulator for misinformation researchers. Development still ongoing.
- Took a semester off to work on Sandbox Labs. Also to enjoy life.
As you can see, I'm still working on it.