Jake Graham, a developer at Brightspot since 2020, shares with Rose about his role in delivering innovative and creative solutions for the company's software teams and products. A keen video gamer and rock climber, Jake is also passionate about volunteering his time to support many of Brightspot's community-service efforts, including a trip in summer 2023 to volunteer at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin.
How long have you worked at Brightspot? What brought you here?
I was hired in September 2020, so coming up on three years. I had heard about Brightspot from some of my peers while at college at James Madison University (JMU). I didn’t seek out and apply, it was actually Parker Ramsdell (SVP of People, Mission & Culture) who stopped me at the JMU career fair and encouraged me to learn more and apply.
What do you enjoy most about your role as a developer? What do you find most challenging?
I am a problem solver and a developer role is a perfect fit for that. I get to tackle complex technical problems and come up with clever or strange solutions that help other people. I also really enjoy the flexibility that the role provides and being able to do my own thing and work through problems as they come up. This leaves me the freedom to jump around and be very creative in my solutions.
What inspired you to become a software engineer?
I would thank my parents for that. From a young age, they encouraged me to get into technology and indulged my interests in video games. I have been in and around computers as long as I can remember, so they were not surprised when I ended up following in their footsteps and studying computer science in college. As much as I would have liked to think that it was my doing, I have to thank them as I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.
Is there a particular feature you've built or a problem you've solved that you are most proud of?
I work on a primarily operations-adjacent Brightspot project called Ops Desk. The main feature that I am most proud of is building out functionality to better interact with our new Brightspot Cloud Kubernetes environments. It took an obscene amount of work over the course of several months, but now a user with no experience with logging into a QA environment can log into Ops Desk and deploy a testing build to a lower environment in a matter of clicks. Every day we are working to make the experience easier and more frictionless to empower our users to work faster and more efficiently.
How have you grown professionally over the two years that you have worked at Brightspot?
Something I never thought I would do is take initiative to the degree that I have. Growing up, I was always somebody who mostly stayed in my lane and just kind of stuck to doing my own thing. However, it turns out working on something that I’m passionate about made it easy to want to take on whatever is thrown at me. My plate's full to the brim with work each month—I can’t get enough of the interesting problems we have to solve!
In June, you traveled to Berlin to volunteer with your co-workers at the Special Olympics World Games. Can you tell me more about what that experience meant to you?
I thoroughly enjoyed going to Berlin to volunteer with Special Olympics. I’ve not had a lot of experience volunteering with people with intellectual disabilities, so it was a really cool experience for me. I learned a ton, as I have never really interacted with people from that community and now I feel a lot more comfortable talking to, working with,= and being around people with intellectual disabilities. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one that I will never take for granted.
Besides the people, what is your favorite part about working at Brightspot?
I am tied between two: the work-life balance and philanthropy. I really enjoy the work but appreciate that the company respects that I have interests and hobbies outside of work—not to mention, encouraging us to do them through extracurriculars like our company kickball team. As for the philanthropy, I feel like it is not too common these days to see a company that is as invested in volunteering as Brightspot. It is clear that this isn’t just for appearances, too, as the company is consistent and constant in its philosophy of giving back. There are always opportunities for me to join in on and ways to help the community. I love when a company makes an effort to enrich the community and it is a major reason why I was interested in Brightspot to begin with.
What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of the office?
I do a lot of rock climbing and play a lot of video games. I’ve always been interested in working with computers and so I took a liking to video games pretty young. I’ve built up a pretty sizable community of people online that I play games with regularly. As for rock climbing, I got really into it when COVID hit as lockdowns heavily restricted the types of activities I could do with my college friends at the time. As a result, a small group of friends all decided being outside was safe so we would go hiking and rock climbing all over the Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia. It was a pleasant break from some of the monotony of the day to day in early lockdown times.
If you could pick another role to try within Brightspot for one week, which would it be and why?
I think I would try sales because I think I would be awful at it and think it would be a really humbling experience. Interacting with strangers is already not my strong suit so I cannot imagine adding on trying to sell them something. That being said, I do think I would learn a lot in the process and gain valuable experience.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
Thanksgiving is my favorite because my extended family has a tradition where all of my dad’s side of the family meet up at my aunt’s house in Ohio. My mom and my aunts are all great cooks so it is a week of great food and great company. It's also one of the few times I get to see my extended family as we are all spread out over the U.S. now and it has been harder to get together as we all grow up.