What is your current professional role and how did you get here?

I’m currently taking a sabbatical, but my last role was as a Principle Software Engineer at Fitbit. I suppose I got there by a pretty winding road. I started programming in High School, entirely self taught. In college I majored in music, after our CS department was eliminated. I did have a bunch of internships at software companies during college, which helped me get my first professional job later on. I started out in mobile by working at Palm on webOS, and then switched to iOS when the iPad came out in 2010. From there I did my own thing, then worked at a few startups, and most recently at Fitbit.

What was the first app you worked on and what did it do?

The first app I worked on turned your iPad into a Lite Brite. It was for a small company I started with some friends, and it was a lot of fun. It recreated the Lite Brite experience, including the templates, but also added the ability to play your designs back as music.

What went well? What could have gone better?

I learned a ton about app development, and we made a pretty cool little app. Somehow it was relatively stable, even though I had no idea what I was doing! Almost everything could have gone better. Like I said, I had no real idea how to make apps, or even how to structure my own programs. Everything about that code is bad, it’s a mess of poorly designed abstractions, and spaghetti logic, but it was definitely a great learning experience.

At App Camp, we emphasize that it’s important to have interests outside of tech and to take breaks from looking at screens. What are some of your interests outside of tech? What do you do when you need to take a break from work?

I have way too many hobbies! I make podcasts that aren’t about anything tech related, I write about movies, things like that. When I need to take a break, I usually watch a movie, or read a book about jazz for my jazz history podcast. Or I hang out with my fiancé or friends. It’s really important not to spend too much time working, or even using computers. I think it’s also really helpful when you’re stuck on a hard problem, to go do anything else for a while. I usually end up figuring out the solution to my problem when I’m least expecting it.

Why do you support the goals of App Camp?

We live in an incredibly unequal society, where engineering is often seen as a purely male profession. This isn’t just sexist, and historically inaccurate, it’s destructive to the goal of making better things. Ignoring different voices, and only allowing for a monoculture, leads to massive blind spots. App Camp’s goal of gender equality in tech isn’t just the right thing to do for equality sake, it will also lead to us making better apps.

What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?

Listen more than you speak. This is a good lesson for everyone, but especially if you’re a majority member who wants more minorities in your field. It’s hard to be a minority in anything, and when no one will even acknowledge the challenges you face, it only gets harder. Listen, and then be prepared to hear something you might not like.

How can technology be a force for good?

Technology isn’t good or bad, it just is. It’s what we do with it that will lead to good things. So by being better ourselves, and working to create a more fair and just society, with equal opportunity, and representation for everyone, will also inevitably lead to technology also doing more good. Ultimately, it’s always all about the people.

You can find Arik on Twitter, Instagram, and his personal sites Cinema Gadfly and A History of Jazz.

Help more girls learn software development. Contribute to the App Camp For Girls Indiegogo fundraiser, get a cool perk, and enjoy the feeling of having helped the next generation of software developers.

Ross Kimes, Weather Decision Technologies
Johann Garces, Facebook