Meet IT Hero Chip Brewer

September 20th, 2016

Today is National IT Professionals Day—a day to celebrate the unsung heroes we rely on to keep us connected. From desktops to laptops, mobile devices, applications, servers, networks, databases and cyber security, IT professionals keep the modern business world humming. Nextech understands (and values) the critical roles IT professionals play and proudly recognizes one of our IT heroes, Chip Brewer, on this special day. Chip graduated from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for computer science and joined the ExactTarget team in 2006. He currently serves as a Senior Software Engineer at Salesforce, where he works on the user interface, ensuring buttons and fields work properly…and look pretty. Chip codes in JavaScript, HTML and CSS. We recently chatted with Chip about his job, passion for coding and tips for youth interested in a tech-related career.

Nextech: What inspired your career choice?
Chip: I’ve been programming since 6th grade when my friend Scott got me into it. I started with hacking the QBASIC code for Gorillas to make the bananas have bigger explosions. After that I took all the tech-related classes in school and was a tech aide for the high school. (We built and maintained all the computers in the computer labs and classrooms.)

Nextech: Describe a typical day for you.
Chip: It starts with breakfast with my wife, Mary, followed by a 4.5-mile bike ride to work. Once there, I grab coffee and head to my desk. We have a daily stand-up, status meeting at 11 a.m., so I code until then. Lunchtime varies; lately I’ve been playing board games with co-workers and having a snack from the break room. More coding in the afternoon mixed with a few code reviews, meetings and ping pong. After biking home, Mary and I work on DIY/home improvement projects. Past projects include building a 100-linear foot stone retaining wall, modern wooden fence and car repairs. You can learn so much from YouTube. While we have dinner we watch something lighthearted. We’re currently working our way through American Dad on Netflix (again). Then we might play WoW or watch something else on Netflix, Crunchyroll or NHK World. I also like to practice Japanese and piano. Shower and bed.

Nextech: What do you love most about your job?
Chip: I like how it can utilize both creativity and problem-solving skills. You can create something new, and now random people you’ll never know might use it every day. And bugs in the code are little puzzles waiting to be solved. Sometimes it gives a sort of satisfaction similar to putting in the last piece of a puzzle.

Nextech: What advice would you give to youth interested in a tech career?
Chip: Get involved in tech-related clubs, in and out of school. It’ll help find focus in what you really want to do. And make sure the major you choose in college leads to a job you might want. I started college majoring in Mechanical Engineering. During first semester I thought to myself, “I’ve been coding since 6th grade, why am I not majoring in that?” I was lucky I could easily transfer to computer science.

Nextech: If someone wants to start coding, particularly on their own, what is a good starter language?
Chip: I’m biased, I know, but I’d recommend JavaScript. You can start with a text file and a browser. If you want to code server side, you can install Node.js and still use the same language. And there’s plenty of demand for JavaScript coders. Python is a decent choice too. You can start learning both at www.codecademy.com for free.

Nextech: What role can tech folks play today to help develop next gen tech pioneers?
Chip: Encourage kids to learn, explore and do more for themselves. Encourage them to ask questions that make them think and discuss mistakes, rather than saying “you’re wrong and here’s why.” I think the Socratic Method is worthwhile.

Nextech: What lessons have you learned about being a professional coder?
Chip: In a nutshell, remote work. A lot of programming can be done from anywhere. Several of my coworkers don’t live in the same state. And I worked from Japan for three months with no issue. It’s not an option for most jobs.

Nextech: Debunk one myth or stereotype about IT folks.
Chip: IT folks aren’t the “geniuses” some people think. They just know how to use Google.

Nextech: Tell us an interesting fact about you.
Chip: My nickname, “Chip,” was a social experiment I started the day I went to college. No one had ever called me by that name before, and I wanted to see how well it would stick. Sixteen years later, I’d say it has. Mary, who I began dating in 2003, still finds it a little odd when we visit my hometown, and people call me “Jamie.”

Did Chip spark your interest in coding? Try one of these online resources to learn a new language or test your current aptitude.

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