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July 25, 2013: People of ACM: Andrew Conklin

Today's Topic: People of ACM: Andrew Conklin

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Andrew Conklin chairs the Washington, DC ACM Professional Chapter, where he builds relationships with technical user groups, professionals, and organizations in the area on behalf of the chapter. He formed DC Nightowls in 2011 to give self-starters and aspiring entrepreneurs an opportunity to get work done at night, with help from their peers. New business relationships are often formed in the group.

In 2012, Conklin founded routeam, an online community and resource centering on health and fitness. Prior to that, he was managing director of FounderDating, which connects founders to each other, and senior developer at Synergy BIS, a federal contractor doing proof of concept Java EE development in secured Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) web services.

Other positions include application developer within the Application Development & Maintenance Center of Excellence of CGI Federal, which provides support for the Department of Justice and other government bodies; and software engineer at Systems Management Technology, where he provided software development and IT services management for government and small business commercial clients.

Conklin earned his BS degree in Computer Science and Mathematics at Western Michigan University in 2005.

When did you first learn about ACM and what prompted you to join the DC Chapter?

I first learned about ACM through the Computer Science department at Western Michigan University during my undergrad years. As a student, I was provided a free membership. As a professional, I started following the Washington, DC Chapter of ACM in 2007, after a few years of living in the area. I decided to become a more active contributor in 2009 by volunteering for the board, starting as Secretary, then Communications Chair, to Vice Chair, and most recently, Chair. I'm most proud of the DC ACM team that I've led or have been a part of, as we produced presentations, dinners, and workshops with prominent leaders in the field, from Vint Cerf, to Simson Garfinkel, Larry Davis, and Richard Stallman.

Why have you been called the Cal Ripken, Jr. of #coworking. founder @routeam and @dcnightowls, seeker of #firsts and #fitness, and what, if any, is your connection to baseball?

I've been labeled at one point as the Cal Ripken Jr. of coworking for attending every single weekly coworking event put on by my community group, DC Nightowls, for over 1 year. Coworking is a term coined for people who work in the same space and help each other with ideas and expertise, even though they work on separate projects for their own small businesses. Its roots stem from the community table at coffee shops. Through DC Nightowls, my after-hours community group for self-starters, I attended a White House Social Innovation Summit with prominent not-for-profit businesses and B corporations in 2012. We hosted Congressman Jared Polis (D - CO) in 2013, we held a coworking session at The Capitol with other politicians and staffers, also in 2013, and amassed over 1,100 individuals within our group.

What is your role in the DC Lean Startup Circle and how has it impacted your computing career?

My career path has traversed small and large software engineering endeavors in Federal contracting, mostly with the Department of Justice and Department of Defense and their agencies, to my more recent efforts as an entrepreneur in health and fitness. Building a business has been challenging in many ways; learning more technical and regimented approaches like the Lean Startup methodology is helpful. The DC Lean Startup Circle Meetup group has been great for introducing me to new approaches and new contacts that are applying those approaches.

As a software engineer, what advice would you give budding technologists who are considering career opportunities in computing?

I highly encourage you to read a few books about the marketplace so that you know where you are placing yourself as you seek prospective employers and interviews. Find a business that's working on a project, product, or service that excites you and pursue it. Books I recommend for you to read are: The Passionate Programmer (ISBN: 1934356344), Cracking the Coding Interview (ISBN: 098478280X), and The Healthy Programmer (ISBN: 9781937785314). If you put the time into developing a professional passion, you will reap many rewards—the prized one, in my view, being able to set your own work environment.