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Kenneth Reitz: Ditching The Diploma, Pursuing Inspiration In Programming

Signal Twilio Conference

I’ll give you a starting point and an end point and leave you to fill in the middle.

Kenneth Reitz’s dad is a programmer. At a young age, Kenneth’s dad helped him learn Turbo, C++, and Pascal. Unsurprisingly, Kenneth is now a programmer, or more accurately, Python Overlord at Heroku.

You might assume the road to Python Overlord was paved in gold, given Kenneth’s slam dunk combo of having passion for coding and a technically savvy dad. You’d be wrong. Kenneth found his niche in Python coding after trudging through a few bad jobs, dropping out of college, and above all — following his gut.

Kenneth has an apt explanation for dropping out of college. It was a lazy river. He knows plenty of terrible programmers who have CS degrees. He also learned that his time is better spent chasing things that inspire him, than chasing a diploma. While the unfettered access to computers was “like a playground” to Kenneth, the rigid classroom style learning left him deflated and uninspired. Without that spark, Kenneth couldn’t be productive.

[Catch Kenneth’s talk “API Driven Development” at Signal, May 19th-20th in San Francisco. Register here]

“If I happen to be inspired towards something in a moment, if I take the opportunity to work on that thing in that moment, I will be a thousand times more productive in that moment than otherwise. So, I try to pursue those moments.”

Chasing that inspiration led Kenneth outside of the classroom and into his first job at a .NET shop. He quickly started coding in Java, PHP and Python. Once he got into Python, it was game, set, match. Kenneth found a language whose possibilities inspired him. He dove into Python full bore and eventually got the spot as Python Overlord at Heroku.

“What’s really inspired me as someone who is creative is really great software. I’m always looking for the best way to do X,” Kenneth says. That pursuit keeps Kenneth building, and keeps him on the hunt for creative builders who might show him a new API or a new bit of software.

He’s not quite sure what he’ll stumble upon that will peak his interest. He’s just knows it’s coming and delights in the fact that it will surprise him. “There’s cornucopia of great software out there,” he says, “I know it’s going to be completely different than I expect an that’s the exciting part.”

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