How I Broke Into the Startup World After High School

June 2, 2017 Dwayne Forde

This week for Pivotal Voices, we’re featuring Dwayne Forde, Director of Engineering at Pivotal Toronto.

“High school is when I got interested in programming and started reading a C++ book. My first programming job was making a Flash ad system to play ads in stores: I had to make a server and send the ads to screens using ActionScript.

I did not go to a university. I got hired out of high school to do small programming jobs. From there I worked for a couple of startups, then eventually started my own company where I was making a mix between FreshBooks and Google Docs before those things existed.

Then my high school friend Boris, who was working at Xtreme Labs [now Pivotal Toronto], called me and said “Hey, come check out Xtreme Labs”, and I’m like “I don’t want a job.” So he was like, “Just come and hang out.”

When I went to the office, I got shuffled into the games room. Then one person would come in and ask me a few questions, and another would come in and ask a few more… At the end, both founders came in and said, “We really want you to join. There’s a project that you need to head up and you need to learn Rails in 3 days.”

I was still young and realized I needed to be in this kind of environment. I took on the challenge and stayed up night and day just reading Rails books and making small projects. Then I was able to easily integrate with the project that they wanted me on.

It’s a nice to know that a few lines of code can be distributed in Pivotal Cloud Foundry and make thousands of lives easier, better, faster, and more efficient.

Xtreme Labs didn’t have anybody who knew IT, but I had learned those skills. I set up a system where we bonded DSL lines together because we couldn’t afford fiber. But it was a bit unstable, so I had to be on-call inside and outside the server room, and on client calls. It was fun. Everyone knew that if the internet went out, they just had to yell “Dwayne!” and I’d come fix it.

What I like the most about Pivotal is the people. The pairing, stand ups, culture and all the communication that you have with really smart people is irreplaceable. It’s nice to be in an open environment where you can just collect all these tidbits of knowledge from all these different people and raise your own skills to the next level.

I’ve always categorized myself as a problem solver, and programming is the way for me to make the most impact in terms of solving the most problems in the world. It’s a nice to know that a few lines of code can be distributed in Pivotal Cloud Foundry and make thousands of lives easier, better, faster, and more efficient. My dad worked in construction so he does that; I guess I inherited a little bit of that kind of construction — taking bits and pieces and making something out of them. I feel like I do that with coding.”

Change is the only constant, so individuals, institutions, and businesses must be Built to Adapt. At Pivotal, we believe change should be expected, embraced, and incorporated continuously through development and innovation, because good software is never finished.


How I Broke Into the Startup World After High School was originally published in Built to Adapt on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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