Opportunity Sign

Hello, my name is Daniel Ackerman.

I just graduated from Loudoun Valley High School and will attend Christopher Newport University next year to study computer science. Before I could even read, I showed a great interest in computers when I got a Nintendo 64 at age four. When I was nine, I decided to build my own desktop computer. Then, when I turned 13, I got a PSP and proceeded to hack it. The following year I became a well-known iTouch and iPhone jail breaker at my intermediate school. But it was not until I took a basic computer science course my junior year in high school that I had any programming experience. The first quarter was very hard for me; and, while normally I was not the academic student who persevered, I suddenly found myself spending every night at home hacking away on different pieces of code. Not only did this new found aspiration for computer science cause my grades in that class to improve, but it also helped to improve my grades in all of my other classes as well. I was definitely going to sign up for AP computer science the next year.

My senior year was very exciting for me. The preceding summer I spent hours each day programming, and I solved many mathematical problems with computer science on Project Euler. I also had a mentor in the computer science field that helped me when I needed it. As most of my fellow classmates lost interest in their classes and turned towards college, I finally focused on school. Realizing that calculus could help me further my computer science endeavors, I began teaching it to myself. For once, all of my math classes became a breeze. I began to make nearly straight A’s, something I had not achieved for years. I helped out the first year computer science students, serving as a teacher assistant for a teacher I will never forget. That Christmas, instead of asking for some gadget or game, I asked for computer science and math textbooks: scala, calculus, game physics, functional programming. In the last few months I wrote a derivative, integration, and graphing program for a physics project and learned dynamic programming. But as my year began to come to a close, I was told of an internship opportunity at a company called BusyConf.

While I had recently acquired a job to save some money for college, the interview and pre-interview email processes for BusyConf were very nerve-wracking for me. Even being a coached varsity debater, I was really nervous speaking in front of Ryan. I knew from the moment I googled his name that I had found someone who not only knew programming and business inside and out, but someone who could actually teach me and help me turn my passion and still beginner’s knowledge of computer science into a real craft. Over the course of a month, Ryan and I emailed each other back and forth as a sort of pre-interview. I remember quite a few days where I kept my phone close, waiting for some response, only to jump back into learning the new language Ruby I heard about from Ryan. At the interview I was extremely nervous–I was actually meeting Ryan in person!

Getting picked for the internship was simply amazing. The night I got the email I was ecstatic. However, my first day was very different from my expectations. Ryan introduced me to the challenging process of picking out the stickers for the cover of a MacBook. When he took me and his friend (Chris Mar) out to lunch, we had a funny conversation about the crazy interview questions software companies can ask applicants. Later that day I was shown how to run a live version of the BusyConf server on the MacBook and how to use git & hub to pull repositories from GitHub. Lastly, I was given a rundown of the Mac operating system. But it was the smaller personal gestures that made me feel truly welcome.

At BusyConf this summer, I expect to be greatly challenged. I have already been challenged: I had this quirk where I press the caps lock key instead of the shift key to capitalize, and Ryan has “helped me” by taking it away on the Mac…but I know this is for good. I expect that if I put in 100%, I can achieve a level of computer science that I am only now beginning to see as possible. Last summer I grew tremendously, simply by pushing myself. But I lacked a dedicated teacher, formal instruction, and clear goals. This summer, I have all of those, in addition to a mindset on becoming an amazing programmer.


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