This week on the Intridea Insider, meet Brent Collier, Senior Engineer at Intridea and unofficial Apple spokesperson.
Brent's Mom always worked in IT, so he had the advantage of being raised around computers from an early age. He grew up playing video games like RC ProAM and Gran Turismo. But his engineering skills were first born and cultivated through building with Legos, long before he ever touched a computer or gaming console. Like many software engineers he had a curiosity for understanding the mechanics of how things worked from a very young age. "I've always been into building and taking things apart. I like to know how stuff works."
Although Brent later enjoyed tinkering with hardware as a teenager, he entered VCU in Richmond, VA with the intention of studying art. "I did lots of drawing and a little sculpture as a kid but I quickly realized that there was no money in art and then moved to Mechanical Engineering." Mechanical Engineering was a natural choice for Brent since it coincided with his interest in building and fixing things. Eventually his passion for software development surfaced and he switched to Computer Science. He explains that although he had fun working with computer hardware, "I didn't really get into software as much until I was in college. I just didn't realize how much information about it was so readily available until then."
Armed with a CS degree from VCU, he went out into the world and claimed a Java job with a consulting company in Richmond. He wasn't in love with the client-focused world of consulting, so when a friend nudged him to interview with Kajeet, a mobile start-up in Bethesda, he jumped on the opportunity.
At Kajeet, Brent met Brendan Lim (Check back next week for an Insider post on Brendan). "We quickly became really good friends, and we used to sit around thinking up start-up ideas. Twitter was just starting to pick up in 2007 and it always annoyed me that you couldn't seamlessly upload pictures, so we ran with the idea and created Yappd. That was the application that got me started with Ruby and Ruby on Rails." So Brent and Brendan poured their energy and free time into building Yappd, a Twitter clone with pictures.
Yappd had incredible potential and quickly got press from sources like TechCrunch, Mashable and PCMagazine.com. Brent was thrilled about the possibilities for Yappd, but it was quickly acquired by his employer.
Brent started at Intridea with Brendan several months after Yappd was acquired. He was hooked on Ruby and didn't want to continue working in Java. He says that, "Java just felt crusty and gross" after working with Rails.
Since starting at Intridea, Brent and his wife Amy (whom he met while bartending at Bennigan's) moved from his home state in Virginia to the Raleigh/Durham area in North Carolina. They wanted to raise their two boys, Cameron and Dillan, in a safe and family-oriented location. He enjoys the lack of traffic congestion in Raleigh/Durham compared to the DC/MD/VA areas, along with the lower cost of living and the nicer people.
In the last year at Intridea Brent has worked on a multitude of projects, but his favorite was Earthaid, a home utilities monitoring service. "They monitor your usage and suggest ways to lower your energy consumption. It was a quick, somewhat small project, and we had a dedicated, full-time designer which makes any project better!"
When Brent isn't working on a development project or playing with his kids, or being a ninja with Brendan, he tinkers a bit with Obj-C and mobile development. He has done a little work on some Titanium projects and is looking forward to more. He proudly admits to having a love affair with Apple (which coincidentally began around the same time he switched from Java to Ruby), and wants to develop apps for Apple devices like the iPad.
I asked Brent if he has a favorite Mac app, and although he insisted that he loves all Mac apps, I did get him to suggest CloudApp: "One of my most recent favorites is called CloudApp; you just choose a file and drag it to the menubar then you get a link automatically copied to your clipboard. It's super useful and I probably use it ten times a day!" He advocates that CloudApp is much quicker than Skitch if you don't need to annotate.
Like many of Intridea's engineers, Brent gets to work from home. He prefers to work at his kitchen table with the house windows wide open and sunlight pouring in. He codes to trance or garage rock for inspiration and attributes AWDWR and The Pragmatic Programmer as the books that motivated him to be a great programmer. He is another example of how a childhood filled with Legos, video games and nurtured curiosity can result in future adult awesomeness.
This post is part of a weekly series, called "Intridea Insider"