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Graduating from UW-Superior in 2005, Josh Tynjala received his comprehensive degree in Computer Science. From the time he was in high school he has loved working with computers and has been working with programming since his first computer class. It was his insatiable interest in the subject in high school that encouraged him to pursue his major in college. Tynjala is now self-employed, working as an Open Source Software Engineer.
Currently, Tynjala has teamed up with Adobe Systems, a well-known computer software company, and is working on one of their newest projects called Feathers. Feathers is an open source program that allows people to use the applications in its library to create new technologies for smart phones and computers. Tynjala explains, "The Feathers library includes things like buttons, lists, and pretty much anything that you interact with by touching a smartphone's touchscreen or using the mouse and keyboard on a desktop or laptop computer." Because the program is open source, that means that anyone who wants to download it can do so for free and make changes to it.
Even though Tynjala mainly works from his home, there is still a lot of communication that needs to be done with others working with the Feathers program. He comments, "Working on an open source library like Feathers involves a lot of interaction with other software engineers because people use Feathers merely as building blocks for creating their own apps. They may request new features or report bugs in my code." It is not always easy for Tynjala to track down where the problem is in the code or even whose end the problem is on. Since the program is fairly new, it is also a part of his job to get out information on how to use the system efficiently so he does not have to continuously explain everything to new users.
The best part of the job for Tynjala is seeing everything come together. He loves building new things while at the same time seeing other people use the codes that he has created in order to come up with new, unexpected ideas that even Tynjala himself may not have anticipated. One part of the job that he is not particularly fond of is working with people who make requests that simply are not feasible. He explains the situation saying, "They build up expectations that my code should do something it doesn't, and they expect me to make it work their way immediately. Any job where you communicate with people will be like this sometimes, and I just do my best to be polite while firmly establishing boundaries."
Since he is self-employed and does his job independently, Tynjala is able to work directly out of his home. He describes how he created an office out of an extra bedroom in the house by furnishing it with a couple of desks and, of course, his computer. Tynjala also confirms that he has "various computers and mobile devices close at hand for testing [his] code." Being self-employed and working from home obviously has its benefits, but there are also some difficulties that need to be addressed. When he does not even have to leave his house to go to work, it makes it hard to separate his job from his personal life. It is easy to let both his work and home life blend together, and he does his best to keep the proper balance between the two. Though it saves him time and money that he otherwise would have to sacrifice for a commute, he also realizes the benefits that would come with that type of a situation.
For the time being, Tynjala plans to continue working from home. In the near future, he still wants to be working with the Feathers program and possibly even create his own apps for others to use. Looking further into the future, Tynjala still hopes to be working with a job that is comparable to what he is doing now. He loves his work with computers and the surprises that come from working with the open source software.
Tynjala recommends that students obtain at least a bachelor's degree in order to get serious consideration working with computer software for a company. He also believes that a Computer Science major would be the most relevant for the job. Though he is not currently planning on it, if he ever does go back to school it will be to learn about a subject that is not directly connected to computers. By learning other subjects, Tynjala feels that he could expand how far his talents reach, because he would be able to help create software in other areas if he had a deeper understanding of them.
Though a job similar to Tynjala's may be the ultimate goal for some students, he wants them to know that the chances are not likely that they will be able to obtain a job like that right after graduation. Rather, Tynjala knows that they must work their way into this type of position over time. He says, "There's so much more to learn about software engineering after you graduate. Never stop learning, and find ways to show others that you're passionate about your work." Tynjala proves that the more you learn, the further you can take your talents towards your dream job.
Another final piece of advice Tynjala shares is not to be afraid to ask questions. If you are unsure about something, it never hurts to ask. He explains, "I once read that the smartest people are the ones who aren't afraid to say 'I don't know'. I've tried to help that guide me to be more open about what I need to work on to get better at what I do." Keeping this advice in mind, he realizes that there are also times when you need to be able to figure things out for yourself, since that is also a part of the learning process. It is important to learn the proper balance of the two over time in order to find the most success in a career. Tynjala seems to have struck the proper balance, and he will continue to learn as his career continues to develop.
Josh Tynjala was interviewed as a part of the Career Services Day in the Life project. His full interview and those of other UW-Superior alumni can be found on the Day in the Life website, http://www.uwsuper.edu/career/students/a-day-in-the-life.cfm.
Interview conducted by Kristen Jasperson on December 11, 2012. Article written by Kristen Jasperson.
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