The mentorship role for Dan Holmes came together quite organically in October 2015.
Holmes organizes Kansas City’s PHP User Group with Eric Poe, CoderDojo KC’s Director of Curriculum. Holmes’ daughter also was 9 years old at the time, and Poe’s daughter was already attending CoderDojo KC, “so it just seemed like something fun that we could do together,” Holmes said. His role as a mentor came next.
As a senior software engineer at The Nerdery, Holmes earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems at Ottawa University. Outside of CoderDojo KC, he enjoys playing a great deal of Minecraft with his daughter, as well as continuing to be involved with the PHP User Group as much as possible.
How did your interest in coding begin?
Certainly as a child. My first memories are either with an Apple II at school or at home on a Commodore 64 with BASIC. I remember having computer magazines that had software in them, and you would have to type them all out. I remember doing really well with the basic stuff back then.
How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
I’d say troubleshooting comes up all the time. I think troubleshooting can take on different forms for different technical disciplines, but it’s also a pattern of solving different things. Seeing how something works now, seeing how you want something to work from there, and breaking down the little steps down from there on things to try – challenging your own assumptions as to why something isn’t working.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Solving people’s problems. I really enjoy being able to help companies get to that next level. It’s definitely about the people and supporting the customer’s vision and where they want to take their business and how I can help them get there.
What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
It’s always changing. There’s very little room for learning one thing and sticking with it. You always need to be learning that next thing because to someone else, it’s already the current thing.
What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
I would tell my younger self to stop worrying about everything being so perfect. People need solutions that are better than what they have now, and while perfect is still a good goal, it’s really, really expensive. … There also is so much online training, if that’s your format. For example, I like to point out to people that if you have a Johnson County Library card, you can sign up for something like Lynda. But I also recognize that not everyone wants to learn that way. Picking a little project, and picking one or two technologies, that something that you can do with what you can. You are going to be Googling a lot and reading a lot. Find what works for you.
If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
Solving problems with code is really just breaking everyday concepts down into itty bitty steps. At the end of the day, that’s what we do: We figure out how to large, complex systems or complex ideas, and break them down into small, repeatable steps.
How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
When I was a kid, certainly if you wanted that more advance technology education, you found yourself at Radio Shack. You found yourself getting kits to build crystal radios and electronics projects. And so, I still see the future of STEM being similar to that, in that taking components off the shelf and learning how to do it yourself, how to build little contraptions that solve a problem or doing something cool, that still doesn’t large education systems. It just requires access to the materials and ideas of what to do with the stuff. I think Raspberry Pi and Arduino are excellent for doing just that. Ultimately, the application of science and art come together in everyday ways. I hope we get to the point where doing cool things with technology is just commonplace and is no different than putting new batteries in your remote. What makes it unique are your ideas.