2010-2020 - A decade in the mirror

🗓 Posted


I apologize in advance for the long post; it’s been awhile since I wrote anything on my blog and this one took some time to compile my thoughts. A lot happens in 10 years!

Timeline #

  • # Started University @ VIU in 2009, graduated ITAS program in 2011
  • Worked at a computer store for 2 years until May 2011
  • Landed a job at RE/MAX of Nanaimo doing IT work mid 2011 until early 2013
  • # Input Logic (then a startup) hired me in early 2013 as a Junior Developer until late 2014
  • # Started at Sendwithus (later renamed Dyspatch) in late 2014 as a Product Developer
  • # Involvement with Battlesnake at Sendwithus/Dyspatch, and beyond
  • # Paid off my student loans in full 🎉 in late 2016
  • # My partner and I bought our first condo together
  • Lateral position change to QA Developer at Dyspatch in 2017 until mid 2019
  • # Started at Echosec in mid 2019 as a QA Developer
  • # Started teaching in ITAS at VIU in September 2019 part-time, continuing into 2020

Personal Accomplishments #

Student-loan Debt-free #

In the beginning of 2016, and after a few years working in my career, it was clear in my financials that I could severely ramp up the rate of which I was paying off my student loans. I began making larger sum payments in shorter intervals which eventually lead to having my loans paid in full after I made my last payment in July of 2016. 🎉

Took me a few years, but I just made my last student loan payment. Officially free of student loan debt, hopefully forever 😁

— Brandon Brown (@brandonb927) July 16, 2016

This is one of my greatest achievements and I’m very proud of this. I know there are tens of thousands of people around the world who will never be able to pay off their student load debt in their own lifetime.

Our First Condo #

In the summer of 2017, my partner and I were faced with a dilemma: move out of the condo we were renting (landlords were listing it for sale) and downgrade to something uglier, smaller, and likely a place we’d hate living, or purchase our the condo from our landlord in a private sale.

This choice was dictated entirely by the poor rental market where we’re currently living so even though it happened a little ahead of our life schedule we decided to scrape together as much money as we could for a down payment on the condo. This involved some funds from both our parents and within a month we were in talks with lawyers, acquired a mortgage, and bought the condo. 🎉

University (ITAS) #

I want to start by mentioning how grateful and fortunate I was to be able to attend university. I know there are some folks out there who don’t get this opportunity at all, and I am very cognizant that it is a privilege to attend higher education.

At the end of 2009, I was fresh out of highschool entering my first year of ITAS (Information Technology & Applied Systems) at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC. I was there because I was interested in a career in IT and I didn’t want to move too far away from home for post-secondary education (I didn’t have to move at all, in-fact, because I lived within a 20-minute driving distance from the university).

While attending university full-time I was also working part-time at a computer store building custom PCs and troubleshooting issues for customers. The money I made here went towards paying for some of my schooling as my NSLSC and provincial government student loans unfortunately did not provide me with enough money to cover my tuition and my textbooks.

I cruised through university, my practicum, and immediately landed a job working at a local RE/MAX office doing what I wanted: IT work. While attending ITAS, I was instructed on how to build websites as part of the curriculum and I kind of enjoyed it then, but my real passion was in building and operating servers and client systems. Once I started working in the real world however I found myself wanting to spend less time managing networks and servers and more time building websites and admin tools to manage our fleet of Wordpress websites for REALTOR®s in the office. It was then that I experienced a pivotal moment in my career: I wanted to build web-related “stuff” for a living.

Input Logic #

There’s a bit of preamble here because it’s not only amusing but important to how I got my first startup job after RE/MAX:

While browsing iPhones on Craigslist for my area I found one that was reasonably priced and promptly emailed the seller. We organized to meet at their house so I could inspect and purchase the phone (in hindsight this was very naive of me, I no-longer do this and instead meet at a local Starbucks or public space in the seller’s area).

Unbeknownst to me however, was that the seller had clicked on my website link in the signature of the iPhone inquiry email and viewed this very site where I catalogued the early days of my learnings in ITAS and at RE/MAX of Nanaimo. This is key information to know because as soon as I inspected the phone and handed over the money for it, they asked if I was interested in working for their company, completely out of the blue. I was nervous and said “That sounds cool, but I’m happy where I am, thanks.” to which they exclaimed “Hey no worries, I saw you were in tech so I figured I’d ask!”. We parted ways and I went home to play with my new (to me) iPhone 4.

Later that week I got an email from a person claiming I had talked to their business partner and they were still interested in having me come work for them. They wanted to buy me coffee and talk in person about it. At this point I had thought a few times about what my life might be like working somewhere other than RE/MAX, and it seemed interesting to say the least, so I replied and we set up a time and place to meet. At this point I had also conferred with my family who seemed supportive of the idea so I really had nothing to lose, other than a comfortable well-paying job in IT.

Needless to say, after the meeting I was sold on the idea of joining them in their quest to build a company and handed in my 2-week notice at the end of that week. That company I joined is called Input Logic, co-founded by Shawn Adrian and Gavin Vickery.

At Input Logic I was brought in to take over a real-estate client website in Palo Alto, Cali. As time went on I got to work on their product QuoteRobot (invoicing web application for designers and developers), and I also built a bunch of the original Postach.io product (an Evernote-based blogging platform, though it has changed hands to another company since the time I worked on it).

During this part of my career I got to experience the “hacker culture” of San Francisco. Input Logic paid for us to fly down to SF a few times during 2013 and initially we got to work out of the Evernote office on invitation by Rafe Needleman (who at the time was a Platform Advocate at Evernote). It was then that we were encouraged to enter Postach.io into the Evernote Devcup competition that year, which we did and subsequently won the gold trophy. I even got to shake MC Hammer’s hand on stage when we got our gigantic cheque.

Postach.io wins gold!

Postach.io wins gold!

It was after this that we were invited to the Evernote Accelerator to work on Postach.io (see my recap of this experience here and here.)

Fast-forward 8 months of working hard on Postach.io, having troubles with slow user growth, and an inevitable lay-off from Input Logic (the company had run out of money), I was now free to do something else; this had never happened to me before and I was frantic. Still very early into my career and yet to learn how to handle being let go (though I’m not sure anyone is prepared the first time), I persevered and once again went into hustle mode. I began asking around town if people were hiring at other companies in the area as well as down in Victoria, BC. One of the perks of working in the tech industry and networking with people along the way is that you build up a network of people you can rely on to help you out. The outcome of my networking hustle to find a new job netted me an introduction to Brad Van Vugt who was building a startup called Sendwithus out of YC centered around solving the problem of managing multiple email templates across teams in small and large organizations.

Sendwithus/Dyspatch #

I matured the most in my career during this period of my life; hired as a Product Developer, I spent some time building parts of the Sendwithus product and later transitioned to a QA Developer role to aide the dev team when we pivoted to Dyspatch.

In my tenure of almost 5 years at Sendwithus/Dyspatch, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the best people I’ve ever had the chance to work with, most of whom I still keep in touch with on a regular basis. I got to work with people like Gregory Schier who went on to build a developer tool called Insomnia (and later be acquired by Kong), and Troy McGinnus who went on to start his own agency, among many other wonderful individuals.

Sendwithus team in 2016

Sendwithus team in 2016

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and in April of 2019 I was let go once again, this time on the search for the next chapter of my career.

Battlesnake #

Another amazing part of working at Sendwithus was my introduction to, and later involvement in, Battlesnake. Battlesnake at it’s core is very reminiscent of the old snake game you used to play on Nokia phones, or on a TRS-80, Comodore PET, or Apple II. It takes that concept of eat food, grow longer, don’t die, but puts multiple snakes on the board powered by bots that are programmed by players.

I initially worked on Battlesnake as a developer building parts of the game board and the frontend of the game site, but in recent years I have been involved in live-streaming the events that are put on, whether it be the annual in-person events or online-only. This is primarily because the technology to do so is inexpensive as companies like Twitch.tv and YouTube have made it incredibly simple to stream anything one wants across the entire Internet, free for anyone to view; this unlocks an audience of people we never had before with in-person events!

It all started as a hackathon put on by the Sendwithus team (before my time at the company) called Hackwithus; there were about 30 people total in attendance. In 2019 Battlesnake has grown to be a global brand, with several major events held annually since then with a few thousand people total in attendance over the years. The 2019 event saw over a thousand people attend at the Victoria Conference Centre with some big-name sponsors, and the 2020 event will not disappoint!

I recapped the 2019 Victoria Battlesnake event on my blog so you should go read that for more information. We also just wrapped up the first-ever Battlesnake Winter Classic which was super fun you can check out here and below.

Battlesnake has been a big part of my life and will continue to be as long as it exists; it’s a community that I am grateful to be a part of.

Battlesnake stream team for the Winter Classic 2019

Battlesnake stream team for the Winter Classic 2019

Echosec #

It’s 2019 now and I’m a QA Developer at a fast-paced startup headquartered in Victoria, BC where I get to help mold the development practices and processes our various teams use to build software using my previous experience as a baseline. I love what I’m doing and am grateful to work with the incredible people that I do! The future looks bright for the company and I’m happy to be on board for it.

Teaching at VIU (ITAS) #

Remember when I mentioned attending university way up at the top of this post? Well, I’ve come full circle: After giving multiple guest lectures to ITAS students over the years since graduating, I was asked to be a part-time lecturer in the fall 2019 semester of the program teaching the “Intro to Web Development” class in the first-year curriculum. Since 2019 was already so chalk full of opportunities for me, and this was my first teaching engagement and I know the material fairly well in a work-related setting, I decided to seize the opportunity.

I have exciting news! I accepted my offer from #VIU to (part-time) teach in my graduating program #ITAS this fall semester 🤯🥳

My teenage self had no idea he’d be teaching at a university this early in life, that’s for sure.

— Brandon Brown (@brandonb927) July 29, 2019

To top it off, my first semester review as an instructor lead to being invited back to teach the following spring 2020 semester which is somewhat of a continuation of the class I was teaching, but with a more programming-focused curriculum on JavaScript and PHP.

Overall I am enjoying my time teaching as it is entertaining to talk about the things I do on a daily basis at my “day job”, but tailoring those experiences for an educational environment. It’s a tonne of fun and my students are really good about forgiving my rants and trailing thoughts while I stumble through learning how to teach. 😅

I never knew where I’d be in my life going into 2020 and I can definitely tell you with a high degree of confidence this is not the career path I envisioned for myself when I was a teenager, but it’s one I certainly enjoy. You never know what life has in store for you; teenage me certainly had no idea he’d have these opportunities over the last decade.