Profile Series: “The International Student Interview”

apurva

(During a leadership development seminar, Apurva Sharma (shown above) strikes an intriguing pose while assisting the photographer setting up his tripod. Apurva and the rest of the organizing committee had just finished setting up a room for a theme party. )

How are ya today?

Good, good., doing good

Great well how about we get started by you tell me a little bit about your self.

Ok, I moved to the U.S. in 2007. I am an international student. I finished my high school degree in India and just finished college at the University of San Jose with a degree in Marketing. I have an electrical engineering science background from India, but after I came here I was like, there are more things to do. I graduated in December and have been working for Nichols for about 1 month now.

Nice, so what kind of passions do you have?

Ya, my passions, I like music; I listen to music 24 hours. I listen to all genres, I am not very picky. I just don’t listen to hip-hop or mainstream. I like to workout, I like to cook.,    Ya, I love cooking food, and feeding people if anyone is down.  I cook some mean Indian food.

Cool, so what was it that brought you to the states, and then eventually to Onmego Inc.?

Well, my dad asked me if I wanted to go to the states when I was done with my high school degree.  And so I sent out my SAT’s from India and decided on San Jose because I was working with engineering mainly.  And that’s really that.

As far as Onmego goes. The Director of Operations at Codinghouse, Udita Plaha, was in one of my marketing classes and she posted a job saying, “we have this opportunity if you are interested”. At that time I had graduated and was looking for an opportunity. So then I talked to Nick on the phone and he said there was an opportunity for me if I was interested in helping out on his project. I really like how Nick put it up, and I really like Nick’s personality, and his approach. I take him as a mentor right now for me to grow as a business individual in Silicon Valley.

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Profile Series: “The Gamer Interview”

Tim

Junior Developer and software engineer Tim Meng gives thoughtful insight on successful strategic thinking; whether it’s balancing school and employment, designing administrative software, or achieving victory in board games.

You’ve been on the project for quite a while now, going on 6 months?

That’s correct. I’m currently out in San Jose, attending school at Cogswell Polytechnical College, where I am at the moment pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Software Engineering. I actually met Nick back in May 2013, at an event hosted by my school. The event was specifically for smaller companies, but Onmego [Daily Steak’s parent organization] was the only company that was actually hiring, which is kind of what I was going for. (Laughs). We hit it off right off the bat, so that’s how I got started with the Daily Steak application!

Are you still a student at Cogswell Polytechnical College?

I am, I’m about to break into my senior year! And yeah, it can sometimes be difficult having to concentrate on both school and being a Junior Developer working on the Daily Steak app, but I manage to get it done.

Tell me a little bit about what that’s like, balancing your schoolwork while being a Junior Developer.

Prior to working as a developer, back when I first started school, I was just getting employment wherever I can find it. I was doing things like minimum wage jobs, just working to get by until I got through college. Initially, I thought that once I got [my B.S. in Software Engineering], I would then focus on trying to find employment within the [software development] industry.

Then I realized that you can’t rely on minimum wage and part-time jobs, because those come and go, with no guarantee of employment and even less guarantee of job security. So I figured the sooner I could find something within the industry, the better; build some experience, work my way up, and actually have a decent income by the time I am out of school. I wanted to make sure I had a good start right out of school, as opposed to have to waste months looking for a job.

Can you tell me about any interesting projects you’ve worked on prior to becoming a Junior Developer?

I did work on a school project for Cogswell while in a database class, actually working on some software that was to be used by the school. (Laughs) At the time, they actually didn’t have any software that was designed to build student schedules for classes! [School employees] would literally have to build the schedules manually; we came up with a program that stored relevant student information into the databases. The software would then analyze the information and build student schedules automatically. The school was very happy about that!

I also went to a Global Game Jam earlier this year. My team and I worked on a 48-hour project using [a game engine called] Unity. We called the game “Tin Man;” just a simple gauntlet-type shooter, shooting robots that are attacking you and stuff (laughs). Kind of goofy, actually!

That’s really cool! What are you working on now at Daily Steak?

I’ve actually been all over the place. A while back, we really needed to get an admin; I’ve been mostly working on that as of late, although I also do some work on the app itself.

For all the non-technical folks out there, can you give us any details about what an “admin” is?

The “admin” is the interface used to…well…”administrate” new information and data for “back-end” development. A good way to think of the back-end is as a database…actually, in our case, it’s a collection of databases…where we store information about our files, the media files themselves, etc. The “admin” is the access program to our databases…it will upload media files to one database, upload information about the files to another database, etc. It’s exactly as it sounds like; it streamlines data and makes sure it goes to the correct database.

Last week, I interviewed some of the other developers, and it’s clear that software development and engineering requires an exceptional amount of organization, a lot of strategy, and (as indicative of your work on an “admin,”) smooth administration of data.

(Laughs) Yeah, it’s quite a monster at times!

But do you get any time for hobbies? I mean, you helped work on and design your own computer game, did you get any time to actually enjoy things like that? Gaming, that is?

You know, I do enjoy those kind of games [console games, PC games], but the truth is, my expectations of electronic games have risen so significantly in modern times and the games that I have been seeing thus far have yet to meet my expectations (laughs). So I tend to not get too many of those kind of games!

You might find this interesting; I’m actually an avid board game player! I’m really into a game called “Dominion,” plus another one called “Puerto Rico.” Not as comparatively well-known as “Monopoly” or “Settlers of Catan,” but I’ve kind of moved on from the latter two!

Interesting! And do you see any correlations between board gaming and aptitude in software engineering?

There is definitely a connection. I enjoy games for the challenge, having to think through tough situations, and trying to work toward the best outcome. It’s something of a puzzle every time I play a game. But certain games like Monopoly and Settlers of Catan; they have so many random elements, often so overwhelming that it barely lets you think about strategy and how to push yourself towards victory! I like games where you are more in control of the outcome and the overall strategy.

I think that correlates with what I do for a living. You have to think a lot about problems, how to get around certain things, deal with certain issues, and overall be constantly solving complex challenges.

And what is the current “complex problem” that you are working on right now?

It isn’t really a “problem,” I’ve been mostly able to overcome the current needs and assignments of the company in a timely manner. Rather, my one big challenge I faced early on was less of a problem and more about adapting my work habits.

I mentioned that I like being in control of the outcome and the strategy; however, working [on the application] is a big task, meaning that I can’t handle every aspect of the project myself! I’ve learned to be a lot better in my communication within the team…a project like this requires a lot of communication with my peers and colleagues, my supervisors, the project leads, etc. This is especially true in a smaller company. It was never a crippling problem (laughs), but it’s definitely something I’ve improved on over time!

Everybody depends on active communication between and with each other in order to formulate a better overall strategy and “achieve victory,” so to speak.

The project and the team can’t help but benefit from your strategic thinking and administrative aptitude! I appreciate your insights; thank you for sharing! 

Profile Series: “The Curator Interview”

greg

Expert in all things cultural with big aspirations, Gregory Surh, Optimization Coordinator of Daily Steak.

Why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you’re from, and what you’ve been up to since before Daily Steak?

Well, I was born in Redwood City and I grew up in San Carlos, so I’ve basically been in Bay Area for pretty much my entire life. I went to the University of Colorado for my undergraduate studies, getting a double major in General Humanities and English (I wanted to be an English teacher at the time!). I went on to complete a 1-year masters program at the University of Chicago, majoring in something that no one has really heard of! It’s called cultural policy. That’s my thing. I’m very very proud of this particular track. I got an internship as a curatorial assistant at the Chicago History Museum, and then became a private architectural history tour guide for a few months. Now I’m back in the Bay Area and am working with Daily Steak!

How did you really get started with Daily Steak?

It’s really interesting, actually! I knew Reza, who was interning for Nick at the time. Reza knew I was looking for work, so he, without my knowledge, found my resume and sent it to Nick. He also sent over a brief promotional video of the city of Chicago I posted on YouTube during my time as a tour guide. The next thing I know is, I get a call from Nick, who tells me, “So your friend Reza sent me your resume, and I absolutely love sound of your voice!”. So Nick decided to bring me onboard to make audio content for the app! I’m quite surprised Nick brought me on board! I’m a humanities major, not a techie!

Well, we’re glad to have you on board! So you were originally going to make audio content. I know you’re also doing some marketing and design work. What exactly does your current position entail?

Well, I’m working with 3 different parts right now. I’m part of marketing, working with [Kimberly], and looking at the quantitative data and trying to extrapolate trends and hypothesis. I am also currently writing blog posts while doing some SEO practices. I work with AJ, and am in the process of learning how to incorporate that information into Graphic Design, producing infographics for the website. The last part is working with Katy, who is the content manager. I produce and edit audio and written content, primarily through voice-over narration and broadcast recordings. Maybe I’ll eventually be the “voice of app”!  Since my time here started, I’ve been wearing multiple hats, and working with 3 seemingly separate departments. Now I’m trying to build this interesting niche, this space that traverses between these different responsibilities. But I’m definitely having a lot of fun so far! I’m thinking about putting my title on my business card in the future, and being able to flash it around. It will be interesting to see how people react to it!

Those 3 departments do seem very different! Is there one aspect you like more than the others?

Thats a hard one. I actually really enjoy the writing; I’m having lots of fun with it!

Tell us about your hobbies!

Back then, I was really into distance running! A LOT actually! Right now, I’m a big fan of museums, arts, cultural events, such as concerts, theaters, museums, films. It’s my artsy humanities side coming out!

I can tell you’re definitely passionate about culture. You mentioned museums more than once! What’s your favorite museum?

It would definitely have to be the Smithsonian Institution, because of the quality of their exhibits. It’s my dream location to work within 10 years, or when I have lots of experience under my belt. You might ask me what cultural policy is. This place defines cultural policy, because it’s a cultural organization, a collection of museums, and a research center, but also a political organization, where workers are often federal employees and funding comes from the federal government. It’s also part of the national archives! It’s the perfect mix of public policy and culture!

Did you always know you wanted to work with museums?

Well, I originally planned to get a Phd and be a literature professor. But during the 9 months masters program, I got more interested in “field work.” I couldn’t sit in lecture halls and I didn’t like idea of completing masters without ever leaving the grounds of the university. I switched paths when I met the executive director of an organization called The Cultural Policy Center. She later became my boss and thesis advisor, and encouraged me to get off campus and get out into the field. I ended up doing a lot of my work at cultural organizations and museums in Chicago, and even made a trip to the Smithsonian Institution during spring break to compete thesis work, which was great!

That’s where my switch came. During my field of research, I noticed that that [cultural organizations and museums] are becoming a lot more technical, a lot more digital. Computer skills and hard science skills are becoming very valued at these organizations! So following my grad school experience and internships, that’s when I figured I needed to get more actual technical skills. I have a theoretical and conceptual background at a very high level, and now I need to start building my technical skills alongside my humanities skills.

I know you’ve been doing most of the interviewing. How have you been liking getting to know everyone on a deeper level?

It feels great!  I’m talking with Octavio and Mikey and Illahi, they’re all computer science guys! It’s cool to meet that type of connection. We all have different backgrounds, but we’re still coming together on this project.

I’ve noticed you’ve been giving everyone a nickname!

You’re going to think i’m the biggest nerd in the world! I like my computer games and my fantasy genre (chuckles). I saw the “heros wanted” post on the website, so my mind automatically flashed to the Fellowship of the Ring, and of course, World of Warcraft! Of course, Joseph Campbell’s A Hero of a Thousand Faces comes into play as well. So I wanted to create this series of different archetypes banding together on this adventure, this great undertaking. I’m glad you can’t see my giant hand gestures on screen, but I love it!

So, what’s next for you?

Well, my immediate steps are to focus on making compelling content, because the only way to market something is to have the best content. As we move further into the public sphere, one of my goals is to expand the position to include Public Relations and Engagement.

My long term goal is to go back to the museum and cultural world. The jobs I’m looking for require marketing, content development, professional blogging, and technical skills (though not necessarily coding). Human resources and fundraising are noble pursuits among the nonprofit and cultural world, but it’s not my calling. I like to do stuff; I like to make stuff! I just really want to immerse myself in the cultural world.

You’re well on your way to the Smithsonian Institution! Keep up the good work!

Profile Series: “The Renaissance Man Interview”

illahi_khan

Multiple kinds of intelligence, different definitions of fun, and how they relate to one another, with Daily Steak Full-Stack Developer Illahi Khan.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Karachi, Pakistan, but I moved to the United States when I was a year old. Since then, I’ve pretty much lived all throughout the United States, primarily in Texas and California, and I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of California at Davis.

And now?

This is pretty much my first job; I’m currently one of the developers for the Daily Steak App. I’m a Full-Stack Developer, which means I do both “front-end” [components that can be viewed, accessed, and/or manipulated by users] and “back-end” [code that resides in the server] work.

Full-Stack development…that means you’ve must have had quite a bit of experience and training while over at UC Davis prior to joining Daily Steak.

In one of my software engineering classes, I worked on an app that emulated the app that is used by Zipcar. In one of my A.I. [artificial intelligence] classes, [our class] had to make several kinds of A.I. And statistical programming, I had to do really intense statistical analysis on a lot of data.

Artificial Intelligence? (Jokingly) Were you working on the Terminator robot over at Davis?

(Jokingly) That’s classified.

Cool stuff! So you mentioned this is your first job out of Davis; how did you initially get involved with the Daily Steak application?

Just by applying online and getting contacted by Nick. After taking on a few simple tasks, I started taking on larger and more challenging tasks, working on both front-end and back-end development. This was back in the beginning of August.

So four, going on five months of full-stack development! You must have had a couple of big challenges or hurdles along the way.

Two really stand out for me. When I was initially doing the back-end work (currently, I’m primarily focusing on front-end development), I was tasked with pulling RSS feeds from different media services online. It took me about two weeks, but one of the supported features of my work is you can go into the API (application programing interface) and load RSS feeds that support media files. The feeds will automatically populate the application playlist with media files.

The other big thing that I’m really proud of is that I’m currently working on the client. Since I’m pretty much the only developer working on it, it’s pretty much my baby (laughs)!

You work back-end AND you work front-end; you also work on the client. And, of course, you've recently come off of a classified project (laughs). Do you get any time for fun?

This is fun for me! But another thing I do that I personally find fun, though others might not (laughs), is reading about economics, articles on investing, even business textbooks! And I enjoy my video games.

A gamer? I recently interviewed another developer on the team who is currently Team “Xbox One” in the so-called upcoming “Console Wars;” any friendly rivalries in choices of gaming platform between the Daily Steak developers?

Umm…I’m neutral? (Laughs) Well, if it’s only between those two platforms, I guess (jokingly) there COULD be a rivalry, because I’d pick PlayStation 4, but honestly, I’m more of a PC gamer.

Electronic gaming is an interesting concept for me, because I sometimes wonder if it relates to or improves intelligence, especially with improving computer software and technology skills. 

What do you mean by that?

In today’s games, some players are able to complete 3-4 individual actions and decisions per second; there are even tools that measure and track the metrics for their actions! Some people say gaming makes you smarter, others say it makes you dumber. What are your thoughts on that?

Honestly? I’m not really sure about either and I don’t put too much thought into that. The truth is, I don’t really like concrete definitions of intelligence, because intelligence and skills are really dependent on a lot of different factors.

I mean, who knows? Gaming can do both…for some people, it can make them smarter, for others, it can make them dumber. Too many factors to say for certain, and it really depends on the individual.

But reading, developing A.I., that will always make you smarter!

(Laughs) Well, I think that’s been pretty much proven over the centuries, at least with reading!

(Laughs) So to wrap things up; you read books on business and economics, plus you're really into software development. Are these indicators of what you hope to achieve in the near future?

My immediate concern is to finish up the app, trying to get the main functionality in. That’s going to take some time! But yeah…mostly doing software development, maybe a business of my own someday!

Well, it seems like you’re off to a good start. Looking forward to seeing your work in the near future!

Profile Series: “The Musician Interview”

octavio

Chatting about self-teaching, the aesthetics of programming languages, and how the best things “groove naturally” with Daily Steak Junior Developer Octavio Roscioli.

It’s interesting…unlike most of the team, you’re not originally from the Bay Area and/or currently residing here!

I’m not! I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and I’m currently a senior at Vanderbilt University (in Nashville, Tennessee), majoring in computer science.

And is programming one of your passions?

(Laughs) It’s something I’m pretty good at and I know what I’m doing, but honestly, my big passion is music. I mostly play rock music; sing, play guitar, when I’m not working for Daily Steak.

That’s really interesting to me; you’re a musician, you’re a programmer, yet you’re working for a startup technology company in the Bay Area all the way on the other side of the United States! How did this happen?

Honestly, the story isn’t as interesting as it may seem (laughs). I just applied for a lot of internships, and I was happy to find something that I could do from home. Around last October, Nick emailed me, talked with me on the phone, and I showed him a few of my personal coding projects. He was impressed, I guess!

So what are you doing for the company currently?

I’m one of the Junior Developers. I work on everything, from the API (application programming interface), which is written in Ruby on Rails [a programming language] to some Front-End work, which is written in [programming language] JavaScript and AngularJS [a framework]. Mostly, I’ve been working on the front-end application, what users will see one day [when they use the Daily Steak application].

Give us a little bit more insight into what else that entails.

Basically, I focus on how people’s computer, tablets, and mobile smartphones will interact with the server, as opposed to how the server interacts with itself.

Were there any real big challenges or obstacles for you when you first started working for Daily Steak? Did the distance cause any trouble for you?

The distance? No, not really! Actually, the challenge wasn’t getting STARTED with Daily Steak, the big challenge occurred right before I even officially became a developer for the company. I had it in my mind that I would have to know everything there was to know about coding before anyone would even look at me, so I spent this past summer learning how to code and make websites using Ruby on Rails. And Ruby on Rails is notorious for having a really steep learning curve; you need a LOT of mental power to be able to handle it initially. But once you get it, it’s a really powerful tool! Honestly, the greatest challenge I had to learn, that was something I challenged myself into learning as opposed to being required by somebody else. Still not a master (laughs) of it, but with all modesty, I think I’m fairly well-off with the language.

I guess one challenge is more of an aesthetic one. (Laughs) I also have to use JavaScript, which I’ve never considered the most aesthetically pleasing of programming languages. I also work with something called CoffeeScript, which is supposed to simplify JavaScript, but that’s even a little bit more confusing for me sometimes! No, I think JavaScript is kind of an ugly programming language; definitely not the most beautiful language syntactically.

JavaScript, CoffeeScript, Ruby on Rails; seems like you do a lot of writing in a lot of different programming languages!

Sure, but again, if we’re talking about writing, my big passion is in music, and I feel like I’m a really good songwriter and music writer too, not just code! (Laughs). I’m really proud of the music I write, and I play with a band in Nashville, something that I’m also really proud of.

It’s interesting, I don’t always think that at first glance, I’m that impressive on paper, but a lot of what I’ve done in the past, I have a lot of pride in, even though it isn’t always necessarily reported or publically acknowledged.

So let’s publically acknowledge and recognize it! Talk about your history with music.

(Laughs) I started playing violin at an early age, pretty much while I was still in the womb. But even though I played for about ten years, I didn’t really KNOW how to play music properly until after I quit the violin. I started closely listening to music, then I finally picked up the guitar on my own accord and started teaching myself how to play. That was around middle school, when at the time I was really into the punk rock genre.

And songwriting?

(Laughs) I had a bit of a turnaround last year when I kind of realized that the music I had written wasn’t as good as I was capable of doing. So I actually kind of started from scratch, mainly by listening really closely to and really getting into The Beatles. After listening to them, I kind of wanted to make the music I wrote much more interesting. Since last year, I’ve written about 12 songs that I’m proud of, six of which I am REALLY proud of.

Living in Nashville; that’s a great place to be as a musician!  

(Laughs) It’s funny, you think that would be the case, but it can actually be difficult to find good musicians to play with; it’s harder than it looks! And while I’m a pretty good guitar player, I’m not really much of a music producer or recorder. But I’ve written enough songs to make an album; one of my big goals is to make enough money to go to a high-quality recording studio and just record my music.

What kind of genre would it be? Still punk rock?

Rock music, not necessarily with the “punk” attached to it. (Laughs) I’m currently really into The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, anything from 1967-1972.

Not being a developer myself, I have to ask: are there any similarities or correlations that you notice between writing code and writing your own music?

(Laughs) At first glance, definitely not. You use completely different sides of your brain for each task. But being serious, when you’re really into code, you get into a certain flow, a kind of groove that is somewhat similar, I guess. Different grooves, different flows, to be certain, but in both, you can zone out the world and keep going, forgetting what you’re doing. (Laughs) I definitely think I’m better with that groove while writing and playing music!

I’ve seen that film The Social Network, I think they called that zone “wired in” or something?

I do get a similar feeling when I code sometimes, I get an “Ah-HA!” moment and it’s there within seconds, even if sometimes I’ve occasionally sat down in front of a computer for days on end, not always quite sure what I am doing.

This is how I would word it. My best songs kind of come out naturally, involuntarily, almost like a sneeze. Good coding…yeah, I’m better with the groove that comes with music (laughs), but it’s true, they can seemingly come out of nowhere.

You can’t force a sneeze and you can’t force a good song. It just doesn’t work.

Looking forward to hearing some of your songs! Thanks for the great talk! 

 

Profile Series: “The Traveler Interview”

Kimberly Cheung

On expanding professional horizons and traveling aspirations with Kimberly Cheung, Marketer at Daily Steak.

Are you from the Bay Area?

I grew up in San Francisco, but I was actually born in Hong Kong! So I can speak SOME Cantonese, not very fluently though! (Laughs) I came here when I was about three and stayed in the city until I went to school at UC San Diego. I only just graduated this year and I’ve just moved back to the Bay Area.

So while you were over at UC San Diego, what did you decide to get your degree in?

(Laughs) Something that a lot of people haven’t even heard of! I was a Management Science major, which I would explain as “economics on steroids;” a lot more math classes, a lot more quantitative work than standard economics degrees. You actually get a B.S. (Bachelor of Science) as opposed to a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) degree for completing it!

“Economics on steroids?” That sounds really intimidating!

Well, I’ve always liked economics as a subject, but I also knew that I really liked math, so I figured I would do something that touched both subjects instead of just a regular economics degree. Plus, it gives you a lot more training for analytical work, which is interesting, cause I’m currently doing marketing for both Daily Steak and [Onmego Inc. project] Coding House!

That’s a perfect segue into my next question. How did you first become involved in marketing for Daily Steak and Onmego?

So after graduating from UC San Diego and finishing up with some classes this past summer, I ended up joining toward the end of September. I was just looking for jobs, going through that “transitional period” a lot of post-grads go through, but it didn’t last that long for me. Maybe two weeks between the end of summer classes and starting up at Daily Steak.

It’s funny, the posting for that I originally responded to was for a “Business Developer” position, yet when Nick called me, we ended up talking for about an hour and we kind of decided that I would go into the marketing aspect of things instead.

Interesting how things change like that! So as the Marketer for Daily Steak, tell me about some of your duties and responsibilities.

I work a lot on writing business blogs, trying to help the official website have a higher SEO (search engine optimization) rank within Google search results. I also take a look at some of the analytics; things like referrals to the website, activity on the site, how we can tweak and improve the site to reach our target audience better. I also work on managing our social media channels, as well as updating our marketing road map and implementing our plans. There is also a side project I’m working on: designing an infographic. I work really hard to try and reach our target audience and help them find us, because those are the people who have a vested interest in us; the ones who are the most passionate about us.

Passion is always great to have! So tell me about some of your big accomplishments in the past and how those have helped you in your current work as a marketer.

I have a great example! So, in my senior year [at UC San Diego], I took a senior seminar class, where you are required to complete an extended research project over the course of two quarters. It’s kind of like a thesis; there are no guidelines, no timelines, and the [advising] professor only makes suggestions about the schedule, meaning I had to conduct a lot of research pretty much independently.

So I did this for the Department of Economics. But during the application process, you actually have to write a pretty intense proposal before they even let you into the class. Being an analytical person, I was really worried, telling myself “I’m not very good at writing!” (Laughs) And even once I got into the class, the independent nature of the project meant I had to learn a LOT of time management skills. You really have to be passionate about what it is you are doing if you want to succeed in that class.

And that helped you become a better writer?

Yeah, I really didn’t have a lot of confidence in my writing ability prior to that. (Laughs) And that especially helps me now, ‘cause now I have to write A LOT for the business blogs on our websites. Turns out I’m not that bad of a writer after all!

(Laughs) So was that the only challenge you faced when you first started as a marketer?

Far from it. I mean, I’m very good with analytical work, but I only really took one specific marketing course in college, while I was studying abroad in Hong Kong. A lot of the marketing concepts, I’ve HEARD of, but in many ways what I’m currently working on is still very new to me.

You traveled abroad to Hong Kong? How amazing!

It was! And in case you couldn’t tell, I really want to travel more! I mean, I’ve been to Canada as well as Hong Kong, but [Canada] is still too close to home! (Laughs) But when I went to visit Hong Kong, I actually got the opportunity to visit quite a few more places than just Hong Kong and China. I got the chance to buy a ticket and visit the Philippines, along with Thailand. Meeting new people, seeing new things; it was one of the best experiences of my life.

And that’s what next for you in the near future? Traveling?

Hopefully soon! Right now, as a marketer, I need to get [the company] name out there, establishing our brand, helping people know who we are and that we exist in the world. But definitely…meeting new people, going new places, experiencing new cultures; it’s something I haven’t done enough of and that’s on my shortlist of what to do next.

Safe travels on your future journeys!

Profile Series: “The Philanthropist Interview”

Mikey

Discussing the inspiration to help others, work ethic, and being a Junior Developer for Daily Steak with Mikey Aburamadan.

Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m originally from Fremont, California. It’s funny, I actually started out as a business major when I enrolled at CSU East Bay [in Hayward, CA] before really getting into the whole computer science thing. So I changed majors along the way and ended up changing my career path, dedicating myself to the web while learning a lot of new technologies along the way.

Learning new technologies; is that what got you involved with Daily Steak and Onmego Inc. (Daily Steak’s parent organization) in the first place?

Sort of, I’m still a student at CSU East Bay, still a senior, so I got a year or so left until graduation. But after the past couple quarters of taking computer courses, I figured that now was the best time to get some real-world technical experience. So I went out to a few websites…well, actually more than a few! (Laughs) I just posted and sent out a large amount of resumes, but yeah; there was a time when I almost gave up on finding anything!

One month after I dedicated a whole day to sending out resumes, I got this call from Nick, telling me he was interested in scheduling an interview with me. At first, I thought to myself “Who is this guy, I never applied to his company!” (Laughs) But after a few interviews, I got put on an intense two-week trial.

I had a lot to learn, obviously, but I started learning a lot of things I wasn’t learning in school and the company liked what I was doing, so things kind of took off from there!

And what have you been doing for Daily Steak?

I’ve been a Junior Developer for Daily Steak and Onmego for about three months now. A lot of my work has also been for the website for Coding House, [a separate project spearheaded by Onmego], but I’ve also been hard at work with the Daily Steak Website and the Daily Steak Application itself; design, website coding, things like that. 

Two websites and one mobile application all at the same time; that’s a lot of work! Where does all of that work ethic come from?

Well, in high school, I was actually “Student of the Year” for two years in a row, my junior and senior year. And that inspired me to be really successful, go to college; I’m actually the first person to go to college in my family. So when I arrived at college, I managed to get myself on the dean’s list and the honors list a few times. All of that, putting in the grades and the effort, that just really inspired me to push through hard times and to drive me in whatever I’m doing. Which, at the moment, is being a developer!

Hard challenges. I’m pretty sure when you first started as a Junior Developer, you must have had your fair share.

(Laughs) Oh yeah. In school, you get taught a lot of concepts and theory, which is useful, but in the real world, it’s a LOT different. Applying the concepts I learned in school to real-world applications, it took a lot of work and studying on my own to figure out, “How do I do this in real life?” A lot of YouTube instructional videos, blog posts; I just scoured the internet, learning a lot of things I needed yet never got the chance to learn in school. That’s always a big challenge: the jump from school to a job.

But you still manage to find some time for fun, hobbies and interests, right?

Of course! I’m really into exercise; I’m also a personal trainer, I like to help people out, get them healthy and fit. And I’m also a DJ! That’s my life in a nutshell.

Very cool! What kind of genres do you like to spin?

House, definitely house. EDM (electronic dance music). I mean, if the crowd WANTS me to do a hip-hop song, I’ll play one, but yeah; house music is definitely where my interest lies. My friends are music producers, but I just like to mix and play.

Does working with machines, software, and technology as a DJ make it easier for you to figure out new computer software and technical skills as a Junior Developer?

Ummm…maybe? (Laughs) Yeah, I mean, tech things like that, I’ve always been pretty good at! It definitely makes my short-term goal of being a software engineer a little bit easier…I just hope that I can work on something that can really help make people’s lives easier.

Helping people. That’s obviously very important for you. As a personal trainer, you help people get healthy. As a DJ, you help people dance (laughs), but seriously, helping people have a fun time is a good thing to do for others! And now you’re hoping that whatever projects you work on will help people too.

 True. I’m actually interested, years down the road, in maybe running a nonprofit organization one day! Being a leader in something like that, a cause I really believe in. And you’re right; it all comes from my personal training background, just helping people achieve their goals. Of course, if I can help people with my technology background instead, that’s completely awesome too.

Think about others first, that’s just the way I’ve always been.    

That’s a great way to be! Good luck and thanks for the discussion! 

Profile Series: “The Athlete Interview”

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AJ Funk, former NCAA Division I Athlete and Front-End Developer at Daily Steak, talks baseball and website development.

So AJ, are you a Bay Area native?

I am. I’m originally from Dublin, California, and I’ve pretty much grown up in the Bay Area my whole life. Following high school, I actually played baseball at Chabot College [a community college in Hayward, California] for two years, after which I went to Northwestern State University in Louisiana to play NCAA Division I baseball.

Very nice! So when you weren’t pitching perfect games in college, did you end up majoring in computer science or a related field?

(Laughs) No, actually I was a math major! Following graduation, I returned home to Dublin, playing in a summer league and posting my resume online, which is how I got in touch with Nick [Founder and CEO of Daily Steak].

Before Daily Steak, I didn’t really have any prior experience with front-end development, but talking to Nick, he encouraged me to figure things out along the way and see if I could learn things on my own. I’m still pretty new to the whole thing, but I was able to pass his tests and assignments; that’s how I got started with all of this.

As the Front-End Developer for Daily Steak, tell us about some of your responsibilities and duties for the company.

Right now, I’m mostly working on the look and feel of the websites, such as graphic design and creating new logos. I make things look pretty and shiny (laughs). I also do all of the analytics integration: tracking user information like how they get to our site and user behavior on the site so we learn what it is that we need to change and how we can improve our conversion rates.

Accomplishments! Tell us some, if you please.

Well, pretty much my whole life prior to Daily Steak was taken up by baseball, so a lot of what I’ve done has been baseball-related. And it’s cool because everything I’ve done in baseball has taught me a lot about success, failure, and the kind of work ethic I need to be successful. It’s taught me to be successful even in the field of computers and website development, something I’m still new at! (Laughs) People don’t always think the two cross over.

It’s still kind of a learning process for me, but it’s really cool when you build your very first website or you create your first logo. Seeing your own personal work or part of your work as part of the website, out in public for other people to see, that’s pretty cool.

Any notable challenges when you first started that you want to talk about?

You know, in a small startup company you are often given challenges and then expected to figure them out on your own. Often, when I was given tasks, I was guided to certain websites or encouraged to use Google to look up instructions online, but that was about it. Often, I could figure it out. Of course, when I got really stuck, I got the help that I needed!

I think that’s the biggest challenge; when I get stuck on a technical aspect. Since I have no formal education or training in website development, it can sometimes be challenging to overcome.

Between baseball and developing websites, do you get any time for hobbies or fun interests?

Well, I do love playing video games (laughs).

Hey, the next-generation console wars are heating up for the 2013 Holiday Season! (Laughs) So are you Team “Xbox One” or Team “PlayStation 4?”

Xbox One, definitely. NOT a PlayStation fan (laughs). I like my Halo [game series]!

Same here! So AJ Funk: a builder of websites, a thrower of curveballs, and a savior of galaxies?

Exactly. Playing guitar, making music, and golf are also things I really enjoy.

Very cool! So to wrap things up, tell me about the next “big project” you are currently working on and what you hope to accomplish in the near future.

My next big project is a brand new website for Daily Steak, hopefully within the next couple of weeks! I definitely want to make it look more modern and cool. More in line with the landing page, which I just completed recently. Like I said, I make things “pretty” and “shiny” (laughs).

Pretty and shiny indeed. Thanks for stopping by!

Profile Series: “The Founder Interview”

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A conversation with Nicholas James: CEO and Founder of Daily Steak

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the Bay Area [Woodside, California] and I haven’t left! Growing up, I actually only went to high school for about a year and a couple months before dropping out because I HATED high school (laughs). But my parents said that if I wasn’t going to go to high school, I had to go to college. So I did; I took the necessary tests and passed them. I actually went to college about 2 ½ years early!

That must have been quite an experience.

It was! It was also really cool. So I went to a local JC, but since I was so young, everyone thought I was shadowing a student! While at college, I mostly took classes in [Microsoft Visual Basic & C++], web programing, HTML and math classes; things that I considered fun. But I found out after two years that even though I’d been taking classes, the guidance counselor told me that they were electives, and that I’d have to spend another two years taking [prerequisite] courses in English, history, and other subjects, which I had no idea I had to take!

Following your graduation, what did you do prior to founding Daily Steak?  

During my time at college from 16-18 years old, I was working for a market research company, working my way up to managing a team of up to 16 people, some who were double to triple my age, which could be very difficult and challenging! Then I worked for an ISP [Internet Service Provider company], watching a guy making $180/hr just for clicking a mouse around. I remember thinking to myself “I can do that, show me where to click!”

I worked for him for a while, making $13/hr before deciding that I could do this on my own. With a rent of $700 a month and only $704 in my bank account, I quit my job and started fixing computers out of the back of my car. My family and my friends thought I was crazy, but a few weeks later I was in the black.

At age 21, I made my first “big deal,” making my first six figures, and things just kind of took off for me from that point on.

So how and why was Daily Steak founded?

In a word: frustration. For years, I’d been digesting a lot of information yet frustrated with the level of ignorance that was happening in the world around me. I figured that all the information was RIGHT THERE for people to educate themselves on a particular issue if they really wanted to. There had to be a better way to get information out to people in a format that’s easy to digest. Where they could experience multiple perspectives; different “sides of the coin.” If I can decrease ignorance by even a fraction of a percent, I’ve hit my target.

As CEO and Founder, what do you consider your primary responsibility?

It’s funny, a CEO is often only “required” to ensure that s/he makes money for his or her shareholders (laughs). But as CEO, I wear multiple hats; for me, my job is to build something sustainable, a self-sustaining machine. Overall, I have to build a cohesive team to keep hitting goals and milestones. Project management, team communication, defining roles and responsibilities, and engaging with the outside world; business development, partners, investors, press, the list goes on!

With all of these responsibilities, do you have any time for hobbies and personal interests?

Personal interests and hobbies, I have. Time, I don’t (laughs). No, but one thing I really love doing is volunteering for NASA; it’s true! I take 4th and 5th graders on tours of their wind tunnel and give them basic lessons on how simple physics work. Camping, backpacking…I love the outdoors.

Beyond companies, I generally enjoy building things. When I was a kid, I built an enormous tree fortress. Later, I designed my own room that my father nicknamed “The Electrical Nightmare,” with about 30 speakers among other lights and gadgets (laughs).

Tree forts and “Electrical Nightmares:” very creative! Seems like creativity is something you value in an employee; how do you foster that within team members, both new and existing?

Finding out what they love to do! If people do what they love, they’ll be happier, and that’s valuable to me as an employer, because it makes a better team and better team members. So everyone on my team needs to be working toward their own personal goal that may not even have to do with my company; I have a guy who wants to learn public relations, marketing, and content development skills so that he can work in a museum one day! If we can help drive people to that goal faster, that’s what we should do and the process they go through with us toward their goals can’t help but benefit us in return.

Is there any big milestone that you’ve overcome in your life?

Well, prior to Daily Steak, I resurrected an IT company that suffered greatly from the “.com crash.” to profitability before finally selling it. This helped me in the founding and current running of Daily Steak; already, we are invited to quite a few electronic shows and festivals [including the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)]. That’s really difficult to do in the competitive Silicon Valley; what Hollywood is for aspiring actors and screenwriters, the Silicon Valley is for technology startups. Talent is hard to come by; it’s fierce and it’s competitive, so building a team is an accomplishment in itself!

If you can, tell us what’s next for Daily Steak?

Our next big goal? A public beta for our application. Something we can publically share and have the people use, test, and comment on/critique. That’s next on the list!

And how can people (particularly team members) help achieve this goal?

Bandwidth. Commitment. How determined are you? I have a few new team members who’ve only been around for a few months, but they are busting their asses, absorbing information like a sponge, just learning. And a lot of what they are doing right now is still very new to them! Where you went to school, who your parents are, that doesn’t really matter to me; people like [the aforementioned new team members] are the ones who succeed it in the world.

Thank you very much!