Brandon Reynolds can’t remember a time when he wasn’t tinkering with computers. Growing up in his father’s computer shop, he began pulling apart and rebuilding computers at the age of five. Some years later, Brandon became bored with tinkering, “I had learned how hardware worked, how it was put together, but I was deeply interested in what its brain was like, and how computers think.” So Brandon, now twelve years old began reverse engineering video games, intentionally obscuring the games written code to deduct what the code controlled. Now, twenty-some years later, Brandon is the lead software engineer, managing teams of software developers creating virtual reality simulations and digital applications, at CSE Software in downtown Peoria.
In case you haven’t noticed Brandon has a deep passion for learning, and this is a skill critical not only to software programming, but to any career path. “Being a self-starter and continually educating yourself is key, especially in software development. You have to stay on the bleeding-edge of technological development and there are a number of great resources out there to do that,” he says. For students and adults who are looking for the best introduction to the world of software programming, Brandon recommended getting started on CodeAcademy, which offers self-paced lessons and assignments in a myriad of different coding languages. For those more seasoned coders looking for real-world applications of their knowledge, check out GitHub, where you can find open-source software, work to code fixes for the software, and submit those fixes to the community.
In high school Brandon was formally introduced to coding through a web development class and went on to study at Illinois Central College in Computer Information Systems with a focus on technology. However, Brandon hints that this isn’t necessarily a common route. “I think this may be unique to the software programming and development field, but you have the ability to be hired not based on a credential or certification but rather on your proficiency, expertise, and skillset. In fact we have a number of individuals at CSE that don’t have a formal certification from an institution, but are talented programmers. This is their passion, and they’re committed to being the best they can be at what they do — that’s what employers are looking for.”
Outside of being a passionate self-learner, Brandon also advised gaining a strong background in algebra, logic, and physics, as well as strong communication skills. “We, as programmers, have to understand several different coding languages have to communicate with other team members who may be working in a different one, but also have to communicate these complex concepts to our clients and customers — this can be very challenging.” If you or one of your students are interested in programming, check out some of the resources above. Contact Brandon here with any other questions you may have about computer programming.