Discs and Disks

In which Kai introduces himself (that's me on the left).

My name is Kai.

And I am Brand New Box’s first ever quaran-tern (terrible pun, I know). I’ve lived in the Kansas City area my whole life as the oldest of 6. Throughout high school I had my eyes set on going to KU after I graduated. Like most kids, however, I didn’t really know what I wanted to study, or much less, do for a career. At the very least, I knew I liked math and physics; so, in a half-blind pick I settled on aerospace engineering as my major of choice. I mean, who doesn’t love rockets and planes, right?

Over Freshman year, my love for math grew as my interest in physics waned. At this point, I couldn’t see myself fully enjoying the career I was headed towards. What I realized I liked most in math was the types of problem-solving it offered. To my mind, the idea of having a set of rules (a tool-box) that can be leveraged to reach an end goal was simply an enjoyable puzzle. Every step and interaction had constraints, and all the problems behaved predictably (given enough understanding). The problems were contained in a vacuum, unlike the inherently messy nature of physics. Although at the time I didn’t notice, this is what I have found programming to be. Thanks to a friend who talked me into giving it a try, I enrolled in Programming I with C++. Within a week it became my favorite class and knew that I found something that I would enjoy long-term. Within a month, I was a Computer Science major.

Brand New Box

Excited to dive deeper into this new world and gain some useful experience, I started looking for opportunities. Being a year and a half into my degree without any experience or course work in programming, I didn’t have my hopes set super high, but I wasn’t going to get counted out on a lack of effort. Browsing through the previous career fair listings, I stumbled across Brand New Box. I was immediately interested. The most exciting part was finding they hire based primarily on character, curiosity, and aptitude, and were willing to train new programmers. After being with these guys for a few months, I can say this sentiment shows.

Before all, Brand New Box is in the people business. The products they create are the manifestation of literal ideas. Being knowledgeable will only get you so far. A high level of empathy is required to fully bring clients’ ideas to fruition. This is exactly the approach that BNB brings to their clients and their employees alike. The work environment they have cultivated will make anyone feel right at home, just as I surely have.

After joining the team, I ran through some general training and Ruby on Rails tutorials. Afterwards, I was ready for the meat of the BNB intern program: build a self-guided web application from the ground up using Ruby on Rails based on self-interest.

In the Bag

One of my hobbies since high school has been disc golf. It’s exactly what it sounds like, golf with frisbees, “frolf” for the cool kids. And let me tell ya, once you get into it, you’ll more than likely than wind up with lots of perfectly good discs that you won’t use for one reason or another. But, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I decided to try to remedy this by creating "In the Bag". A trading platform for disc golfers to trade out their discs with each other to give new ones a try. In addition to trading, players would be able to add their discs, put them in bags, and share their collection with whomever they pleased.

Disc trade offer page
A trade offer for a disc.
Bag display page
A bag full of discs.

The best part about building this project was getting to work through every step in web-development along the way. At BNB we don’t have front-end and back-end developers. Every one of us is equipped to handle projects from their creation, to their deployment. This project led me to begin developing skills dealing with databases, web-styling, controller logic, configuration, git-workflow, and much more. Getting exposed to the entire process is in my opinion the perfect introduction to web-development.

The most valuable experience I gained, and arguably, the most important ability of any software engineer, was learning how to learn. Working toward an end goal so distant from my current ability was daunting to say the least. Although my co-workers were always there when I needed them (especially Will -- he’s the best), the struggle is part of the journey. Comfort breeds complacency, adversity breeds growth. Having made it out the other side, I’m miles more equipped to handle whatever tasks or challenges that may present themselves. I’m beyond excited to continue learning and working here at Brand New Box.