04 Jan 2014, 22:00

About

My name is Jacob Schwind and I work for IBM as a Software Engineer. Several years ago, before entering the 6th grade, I read an article in a gaming magazine about students writing games for their calculators. I had always been into video games and this had made me think that it was possible for even me to create my own game. Not too long after, I was visiting family and noticed my cousin had a calculator similar to what I had seen in the article – a TI-83. She let me play with it and I became interested in the BASIC code for a skiing game. At the end of my stay she surprised me by giving me the calculator and the manual which contained all the documentation for writing software on the device. I was occupied that whole summer with writing programs for this device – and this is where my fascination with computers and software began.

High School and Artificial Intelligence

Upon entering high school, I applied for and was accepted into a program known as the Math Science and Technology Center which was a half a day program that took place at the local university. As part of the program, we were required as sophomores to take part in the science fair with the possibility of going on to ISEF, an international science fair. Throughout middle school, I had become more and more interested in programming as I learned I could write C programs for my calculator and then begun experimenting with C on the PC. So, as a field of study, I chose artificial intelligence.

I ended up working with a grad student at the University of Michigan and together we worked on a reinforcement learning program in C which would have an Agent navigate several maps, log the data, and map what the Agent had learned using Matlab. Admittedly, it was quite a basic project and I did not get as much done as I wanted. However, I learned more about programming and much about reinforcement learning. I sold the hell out of the project at the local fair, came in 2nd place to a junior at our program, and made it to ISEF. It was an incredible experience and I did learn so much there from other students.

PlzGeek

During my time at the actual high school, I was lucky enough to take two semesters of web design. I very much enjoyed it, and I was able to use my programming knowledge to dive into JavaScript, PHP, etc. During my winter break of the senior year, I decided to buy a domain name, get hosting, and make a real site for a business I wanted to get into – working on computers and creating websites. My first real client came a few months later and I began working on search engine optimization for them as well as site updates and some computer upgrade tasks.

From word-of-mouth, my business began growing as well as the projects themselves. I continued working on this business throughout college while also being employed at the local radio station. As the business grew, so did course work, and by the time I entered my junior year of school, the business was big enough that I could focus on that as my only business.

Projects that I completed as part of this business: web sites, SEO, general IT work, network troubleshooting, desktop deployment, email deployment, web filtering, mobile website, and an iPad application.

This was an amazing opportunity and taught me how to handle my own business, how to deal with other businesses, and a great deal about new technologies through practice.

College

I ended up attending the university that I had attended during High School. I pursued a major in Computer Networks and Systems after learning that my primary choice, Computer Science, made less money. This turned out to not be very true at all. Networking wasn’t really for me – I did well, but found it boring. Luckily, the program also focused on operating systems, microprocessors, digital logic, and electronics. I took up the computer science minor and found this to be the best mix.

Part of our program involved participating in an internship. Using LinkedIn’s search, I found a job opening at IBM in Massachusetts. I had an incredible time on the east coast, met many great people, and enjoyed my project very much.

When I returned to Michigan, I completed my Senior year as well as a Senior Project which focused on Computer Vision – there is an article on this site which details some of that project.

Career

In my last year of school, I was approached by IBM for a job in the same office and group I had interned with. I had enjoyed my time there the summer prior so much that I accepted, moved immediately after graduation, and am currently enjoying every minute of it.