Alumni Jesse Wright graduated in 2013 and went to the University of Texas at Austin and gained a Bachelor’s of Arts in Computer Science.
What have you done after high school?
“I went to college right after high school and studied at UT Austin for four years, ending up with a BA in Computer Science and an Information Security certificate as well,” Wright said. “I graduated earlier this year, actually, in May. The following Monday I began my full time job at Golden Frog, the same job I’d worked for a year as an intern. Golden Frog is an Austin-based company that makes a well known VPN, VyprVPN, along with a few other products. I’m a software engineer, and I work on the Windows application for our VPN client.”
What did you participate in high school?
“I did a lot of extracurriculars, mostly during senior year,” Wright said. “I started programming classes at Ben Barber by freshman year, taking the intro-level class on a whim. I ended up falling in love with it – hence the field I later chose to major in – and participated in various coding competitions over the four years that followed: UIL, BPA, TSA. I was fortunate enough to have met some really great friends in my programming classes, and we managed to win a variety of state and national competitions. I also took journalism freshman year, if I recall correctly. My English teacher, Mrs. Chambers, encouraged me to try it out after she read a vignette I wrote. She spoke with Mallett at some point, and I ended up switching into the class mid-way through the year. I enjoyed writing – not just for the forum to express oneself but also strangely because I love grammar. I later became the assistant editor for our newspaper. By senior year, the journalism team had won a Pacemaker and several other national awards. I was fortunate enough to have won a few of first-place UIL ILPC individual-achievement awards for some of my editorials and multimedia stories. I don’t think a lot of that set in at the time. For both journalism and programming, I was lucky enough to be on teams that were so good they won national competitions and received numerous accolades. It really changes perspective, even if I didn’t realize it then: I was at a high school that stood out again and again as one of the best in the entire nation.”
What made you want to do what you are doing now?
“I originally wanted to be a medical researcher,” Wright said. “Some time in middle school, I gave that up in a small fit of anger when I found out my older brother also wanted to be a medical researcher. I guess I just hated the idea of coming off as a copycat. When I started high school, I had to choose a few electives to fill my schedule. Looking at the list of classes offered, I noticed the district offered programming classes. I’ve always loved technology and tinkering with electronics, so I figured I’d give it a try. I loved it. It was total freedom for the imagination. There were no boundaries, no limits. You code, and the computer brings it to life. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”
What did you learn or experience in high school affect you in college and beyond?
“It’s hard to distill what I learned in high school down into a single paragraph or two,” Wright said. “Sure, I learned a lot in the books I, was supposed to, read and from class lectures. That only goes so far. It’s everything else that really last a lifetime. When I came into college, I was incomparably shy. If I didn’t know someone very well, then I might as well have been a mute. I just didn’t like talking to people I didn’t know personally. That started to change, though, when I started high school. I met a variety of people of different ages and backgrounds, people who were quiet like me, people who were loud, people who made life easy, people who made it difficult. The teachers I had worked hard to foster engaging and welcoming environments, and my fellow students, especially those in my journalism and programming classes, really pulled me out of my shell. By senior year, I learned what it meant to have self-confidence, to not care but in the right way – that is, to care when it matters and to let everything else roll off my shoulders. That’s something a book can describe but not teach. If I were to suddenly forget everything about high school, I hope I’d at least remember that.”
Explain your job now, what you are doing, different aspects of your job.
“I’m a software engineer, so I spend most of my day coding,” Wright said. “I work on a VPN, which is something used to secure Internet traffic for people. I maintain our current Windows application, fixing any bugs we find and adding any new features we think our users will find helpful. I also monitor a lot of the data for how our application performs, such as how often connections succeed or how long they take, and try to find room for improvement. Most of the day is really just spent at my computer. I code several hours a day, but I also research new tools and methods in the programming world to make my job easier or to improve the application. I work at a medium-size company. I’ve never really cared for the idea of working at a huge company. There’s too much room for backstabbing, competition, and bad management, among other things. I also hate profiteering, so I really resisted working at a publicly traded company, as weird as that might sound. I wanted to work at a company that stood for something, something that wasn’t money, and promoted a healthy and enjoyable work environment. I actually found Golden Frog on a whim. I was at a UT career expo junior year of college, and I had handed out my resume to several companies. UT hosts this expo every year, and every year over 200 companies show up. After walking around and talking with various recruiters for a few hours, I wanted to go home. My feet hurt, and I just wasn’t interested by much of what I saw there and had talked to the companies that did pique my interest. I had one last resume I wanted to send out though, so my friend told me I should talk to this one recruiter not too far from us. They were a privacy-oriented company, and I wanted to do security – it made sense. I dragged my feet, but I caved in and decided it would be my last one before going home. A few months later I was the intern, and few months after that I signed my full-time offer. I couldn’t be happier.”
What are your plans for the future?
“I’d like to stay where I am for a while,” Wright said. “I just moved to a calmer part of Austin than the UT area, and I’m finally getting settled into adult life. Eventually, I want to carry out the dream of starting my own company. Really, I want to change the course of how modern companies function. I want to make a company that can turn a profit while also fully respecting the privacy, security, and will of its customers. The dream is that other companies would follow in suit, pulling us away from the current dystopia of mega-companies that walk all over us.”
What is your advice to current high schoolers?
“The best advice has already been given before: Know what you want in life, and know what you don’t,” Wright said. “Stand for something and don’t fall for anything. Respect everyone, even when they don’t respect you. Always be kind and courteous, especially when it’s hard. Stand up for what’s right, no matter the cost. Don’t worry. Take a deep breath. Look for the silver linings. Challenge yourself. Strive for perfection but be OK with failure. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Finish the race. Whatever advice you choose to follow, don’t forget to live. Life isn’t a college degree. It’s not a 4.0 GPA. It’s not a bank balance with nine digits. Enjoy the life you have. Don’t let it pass you by.”