Ben Creasy – Alaskan Government Official turned Software Engineer

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An Alaskan-native, Ben Creasy wanted to pursue engineering since a young age but due to health issues, he ended up getting a degree in Economics and Philosophy in Oregon. At 24, Ben held elected office in Alaska but his passion for coding never faltered so he ultimately joined Hack Reactor. Currently, he works as a Software Engineer at BrightIdea. Ben is also an editor at Wikipedia, something he has been doing for 9 years now. He has also co-created the Bay Area WikiSalon where Wiki enthusiasts gather around to mingle and learn about new projects and ideas.


Years in Tech 2
Grew Up Alaska
Current Job Software Engineer
Date Recorded 6/16/2016

Key Points:

  • You have to know your stuff and if you know your basics well and practice it multiple times. Long term you will reap lots of rewards by doing simple things right.
  • There are a lot of moving pieces while you’re attending a coding bootcamp. It may seem like you’re only spending three months learning how to code, but you also have to put in the time to learn the algorithms and know how to pitch your story and convince someone that you would be a good employee.
  • The fear of rejection is one of the hardest challenges in job search. The worst thing that could happen is they’ll say no and the best thing that can happen is they’ll give you an offer.
  • Open Source is free and open knowledge, which enables people to learn about how and why things work without having to pay for it.
  • Optimize your own life for comfort. As engineers you’ll be sitting at a desk for 8+ hours and will be working with computers most of the time, invest in ergonomic equipment to make your body feel good and to become more productive and efficient.

Show Notes (focus on the Stepping Stones):

[01:18] Ben’s background before breaking into tech: Raised in Alaska, studied Economics and Philosophy in Oregon and doing a few CS courses

[02:28] The unique government-dominated health insurance landscape in Alaska and Ben elected as one of 6 fiduciaries to control $150 million of state money.

[05:43]The power of automating things: How Ben got into learning basic coding skills and some resources he used

[09:40] Ben talks about why he joined Hack Reactor and why a coding bootcamp instead of taking up computer science classes or a traditional CS degree

[12:08] – STEPPING STONE: Preparing for the Hack Reactor’s technical interview and tips on dealing with procrastination

[14:54] The challenges: Dealing with the impostor syndrome and some physical issues in preparing for Hack Reactor interview

[17:18] Ben’s job search experience: 150 applications and 30 phone screens

[20:09] Dealing with rejection – The more interviews you go through, the better you get at answering questions and you develop an intuition for technical questions.

[21:20] Ben talks about how he got in at BrightIdea and what he likes most about the company

[23:41] Other organizations Ben was previously connected with: Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, and Alaska Citizen Review Panel

[25:27] Editing for Wikipedia (with around 10,000 edits) and helping out in the interim situation of Wikimedia Foundation

[26:44] Ben’s talks about the San Francisco Bay Area WikiSalon meetup group where people come together and help edit Wikipedia

[27:31] What is Open Source and why it’s important

[28:45] – STEPPING STONE: The Lightning Round
Imagine if you had to start all over again and you only had $100 and in a new city. What would you do to start all over again?

  • Start Uber or be a salesperson and pursue a salary job while trying to become a software engineer.

What is any piece of music or a person that you talked to or a movie that you watched that helped you get through your frustrations?

  • Ben optimizes his own life for comfort. As engineers, where you’re going to be sitting for long hours, it’s important that you invest in ergonomically designed equipment. Ben uses focus@will, isolation headphones, Zero Gravity Chair, Sleep Number adjustable firmness mattress, Kinesis Advantage Keyboard, HandShoe Mouse, saddle chair, and a MacBook

What is your best piece of advice to someone who’s considering a similar journey that you followed?

  • In the long term, coding is going to be the best career but be very prepared for a long slug

Articles Mentioned & Resources:

Learning Resources
Hack Reactor
App Academy
Southeast Alaska Conservation Council
Court Appointed Special Advocate Program
Alaska Citizen Review Panel
Sleep Number adjustable firmness mattress
HandShoe Mouse
Kinesis Advantage Keyboard
Zero Gravity Chair

Personal Projects/Partnerships:
Bay Area WikiSalon
Bay Area WikiSalon Meetup Group

Contact Information:

Ben Creasy

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