One of my earliest memories I have is sitting on my grandfather’s lap staring with pure fascination into the black and white MS-DOS screen as he wrote a simple application in an attempt to predict numbers in the lottery.
At eight my Mother asked “What do you want for your birthday Paul?”. “A padlock!” I replied. The object of desire wasn’t intended to secure my action figures or Lego, but taken apart and examined, to reveal its inner workings to an eight year old with a developing fascination with how things work. At twelve it happened again: “What do you want for your birthday, Paul?” “A watch!” I replied. I unwrapped the gift, took it apart and broke it within six hours.
And then a key series of events happened that drew my attention to how computers worked.
My class at school received an Acorn computer and my teacher showed me how to use it. That day I spent my entire lunch break turning the machine on, loading a document, saving it, and then turning it off. I repeated this about 8 times. It turns out during this time all the teachers thought I had gone missing when I’d actually been in the classroom. They still decided to punish me – I had to write “I shall never use a computer again” 100 times after school a la Bart Simpson
A few days later, my Mother bought our first home computer. I wasn’t allowed to touch it or use it without her around because “computers are fragile and they might break forever” if I pressed the wrong sequence of keys. This rule relaxed within a week: my Mum, bless her, had to deal with three children all alone and never caught me sneaking into the computer room to browse through the file system.
The next thing that fueled my passion for how computers worked – we couldn’t get internet. I had nothing to do but take the machine apart, discover how all the bits worked and then put it all back together again.
For the last year I’ve worked in the London tech scene, having graduated from Plymouth University where I spent 4 years absorbing and refining knowledge about computing, computer science, and programming. I started early; attending events and hackathons, contributing to projects before I had even passed the first year of my course. I wanted to contribute to the amazing group of people who dedicated their time to building free software. Those people; whose passion and hobby was programming and not just as a means to make money, inspired me.
And now I’m here with Twilio. Rob Spectre spotted some of the stuff I’d done: Novel web APIs and blog posts on best practices. He emailed me and promptly showed me the light of Developer Evangelism. I’m deeply humbled to be part of this team. I’ve seen the work they do and the impact it makes and I’m excited to help replicate that in Europe.
My passion for how things work has matured into a passion for sharing what I know and revealing the wonders of technology to others.
The Next Generation of DOers
Software is changing the world and the way we communicate.
Our role as devangelists is to empower developers: make them the best at what they do. An important aspect of this is education. My role is not just about teaching people about Twilio but about new technologies and best practices. This aspect of the job resonates deeply with me.
You’ll have noticed something about my personal “origin story”: until I got to further-education (high school in the US) I was pretty much learning by myself. Everyone knows that computing education in the UK isn’t good enough yet to inspire and encourage students to take computing degrees. This isn’t a unique story, it is pretty common. But there is hope; things are changing and I believe we’re near a tipping point.
My own brother has finished school in the past few years and he had to study computing in his own time because it just isn’t good enough yet for his level of intrigue. There are thousands of talented young minds who might miss the opportunity to apply themselves and become DOers because of this. I hope that working with Twilio I can help to make a difference and inspire the next generation by working closely with teams like codeclub.
The Current Generation
I’m here to help the current generation of DOers too. Europe has some of the largest developer communities in the world. A lot of these talented people need the encouragement to go from run-of-the-mill engineer to superhero DOer. By either sharing my expertise in Twilio or by contributing to open source software; I’m hoping I can be part of that inspiration. I see Developer Evangelism as a tool for empowering others, sharing experience and building a community that is the best it can be.
So that’s a little bit of my philosophy and belief. I usually write technical posts so this was a nice change. If you’re in London, the UK or even Europe and you want support with Twilio then get in touch with me:
Rise to the challenge: let’s go Draw The Owl!