When you were 17, what did you want to be?
I wanted to make movies. I wanted to be a director. When I was a really little kid, my parents would just sit me in front of this big screen projector we had. If the screen was on, I’d just sit there and watch it for three hours, and laugh at all the jokes, and get scared at all the scary parts. I always liked movies.
I think it all started when I took a film class in middle school, and I just really liked it and I started making movies with my little brother in the backyard. We did superhero flicks and really bad scary movies. We made a music video for “Vans” by The Pack – so Bay Area - we were shirtless, running around the backyard, rapping. They were all terrible but it was fun. I don't know if I ever had one particular genre that I wanted to do, but I just really enjoyed the workflow of it.
How did you decide to University of California, San Diego?
I only applied to UC’s because it just made the most sense financially. I didn't think I was going to get into Stanford and I didn't want to pay an exorbitant amount of money unless it was a ridiculously better education. I was actually going to go to UC Santa Barbara up until the night before, because their campus is amazing. But they didn't really have anything for film, so I ended up choosing UCSD, which I don't regret. They have a great visual arts department with a specialty in film and digital media. But I wonder what my life would have been like – it’s crazy how much of your life hinges on one little decision.
UCSD was an interesting school. It’s broken up into different colleges within it, which is really confusing when you apply, because you just have to select one and you have no idea what any of them mean. Since I decided to go there on the last night that it was due, I got put in overflow housing in the worst college. It just looks like a prison. But I got really lucky because out of my 12 suitemates, 8 of us are still really close friends. We lived together all throughout college, and a bunch of us moved to the Bay Area afterwards, and are still best friends.
How did you choose your major?
The film program at UCSD is not really traditional, like at USC, teaching you how to light a set, all that stuff. It's very arts influenced and I was trying to keep an open mind for the first few years, but there was just so much bullshit just pretending to be art. I got fed up with that world of projects that consisted of filling a fish tank with pee and dropping a cross into it. That was real.
I still liked film, but I found out that I didn't really like the filming aspect, dealing with actors and being on a set. It's notoriously boring because you're there for so long. But I still really liked editing, having everything in front of you, putting it together how you see fit. But it started to feel more and more like work, whereas when I was making videos with my brother, it was what I wanted to spend my time doing. And I don't know why it transitioned slowly into something that I didn't really look forward to doing. But my interest started to fade towards the end.
When I was 13 or 14, my dad tricked me into playing this video game where one aspect of the video game was learning to program. You could just ignore that part entirely and just go fly around and blow stuff up. Or you could create your own stuff with programming. So I learned how to program and I discovered that I actually really like that too. I didn't really pursue that until sophomore year of college when I decided to minor in computer science and I really liked the classes.
I started to notice that my interests were going off in different directions. Editing was becoming more work and the programming stuff was getting more and more interesting. I looked forward to it. If I could go back and do it again, I would probably do a double major, and do computer science from the start. It would be great to have an even better foundation for it.
My last film class was my favorite class actually - documentary filmmaking - and my last film was a 10-minute documentary about my friends, this rowdy group of 21 and 22-year-old college guys living together and not really having their shit together. My teacher really liked it and said it was, “A hilarious and also somewhat terrifying look into the lives of young adult males in America.”
How did you get from college to where you are now?
I didn't have anything lined up right after college. I still wasn't sure if I wanted to try to get on some movie or TV-related thing, or if I wanted to do programming. So I was applying to a bunch of different places while I was living in San Diego, working as a dockhand at a boat rental place which was super random. If you need a 50 foot yacht docked anywhere, I got you.
So there was probably a three or five month period where I was kind of wallowing and unsure of what I wanted to do, and getting more and more stressed out about not having something when my friends already had jobs, and my parents expected me to do something with the degree that they had paid for.
I found a few different things. One was an internship with a video game company in in San Diego. And then, I like basketball and I like the NBA, and I was just randomly on the Warriors site, and I clicked, "Career Opportunities." I’d never thought about working in sports before. A lot of people who work in sports, that's their career dream. The Warriors had a position open for an internship in digital media, and I thought, "I have a degree in digital media. I’m good at this. I like the Warriors. I'm a Bay Area fan." So, I applied to those two things simultaneously, and I got a call from the Warriors to line up an interview.
I flew up [to Oakland] on my own dime. I had my grandma pick me up from the airport so I could go to the interview that day, and then I could drive home and surprise my parents and say, "I did a job interview and I'm home. Hi." A week later, I got a call from a guy offering me the internship, and I was ecstatic.
So I was an intern in the digital marketing department. It was like a wearing all kinds of hats deal where you're just coming in wherever they need help. At the time, the department was just two people, and then, me, the intern. Digital media and sports were still just picking up to where it needed to be its own department.
We control the digital properties online, like our website, Warriors.com. We sell tickets and merchandise, and we have deals with our sponsors. And then we also manage our digital fan base through social media channels, which back then was pretty much just Facebook and Twitter. I think we started using Instagram too that year. It was all pretty new.
So I was posting stuff to our Facebook and Twitter, which have hundreds of thousands of followers. It's pretty cool at first, but the novelty does wear off after a little while. And it ruined social media for me, because you post one thing and get 50,000 likes, and then you go to your personal Facebook and think, "Ooh, double digits. Great." We also do game coverage, so we live tweet the game, which is a pretty sweet gig because you have a relatively good seat for the game, and you're basically paid to watch and write a little recap afterward and make a photo gallery. So I was pretty happy with it, wearing suits to the games. I had a pass that could get me in anywhere, and I would bring my dad down to the court and show off a little bit. They gave us season tickets, too.
I was an intern for six or eight months, and then they created a full-time position for me. I’ve worked in there for over six years now. I’m happy. My role gradually transitioned as our team grew, and it's become more specialized based on what I like to do. We hired a social media person to specifically handle that. And I veered off into just engineering, so I do mainly web development for Warriors.com, and a few other sites that we manage, and web apps.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
I wish I had just followed what I was interested in. It's hard because when you’re in college, you're interested in so much. And I wouldn’t say, "If you're interested in playing Call of Duty, you should focus all of your time into that." Which, I did for a good amount of time. But I had this sense in the back of my head that my interests were changing, and what I wanted to do might be changing, but I didn't want to admit it because I'd invested so much time into it. I liked learning programming things and I no longer liked learning things with film, and it took me a long time to just kind of fully commit to going that route. So, I would just say, don't be afraid if your interests do change. If you're interested in something, learn as much about it as you can while you're interested in it. And if you're still interested in it after you do that, then keep doing it. If you get bored of it, move on and don't worry that you wasted a bunch of time because you didn't really waste that time.
I think my film background does help for what I do now. People kind of label engineers as very left-brained and they just focus on the task they're doing. But there's actually an extraordinary amount of creativity in programming, in how you set something up. There are a million different options. And each one of those opens another million options, and so on. So, I think I've been able to take the way that I would tackle a problem trying to make a movie, and I apply that same kind of mindset to engineering.