Inspired & Impacted By a Young onTRAC User
The story of meeting 10-year-old onTRAC user, Toby Tate, and providing him with a short mentorship was one that inspired employees of Interactive Achievement, leaving us revitalized with the contagious childhood energies of curiosity, playfulness, and an enduring sense that the world is but our oyster; filled with infinite opportunities to explore and fulfill dreams. In a most-humble summary, this was a mentorship that mentored us, too!
Discovering a Gem
Monday, July 7th, 2014 was a typical summer day at Interactive Achievement. The Technology team had just settled into their summer routine, shifting away from production support and into feature development. We were in the process of reviewing resumes from a number of candidates when a message from Dr. Scott Tate, a Research Associate at Virginia Tech came across our HR Director’s desk. He attached a letter from his ten year old son Toby expressing his desire to be a software designer and interests in Interactive Achievement, our development practices, and our core values. He wanted to know if there were any opportunities to “volunteer” and work with our developers.
He Arrived Like a Jedi
When Toby and his dad arrived, it was clear he was prepared. Notebook in hand, he had a list of 30 plus questions he wanted to be answered. As we toured the building, we shared questions, answers, and stories. The questions ranged from “how did you get interested in writing software” to “where do you think the software development market is going” to “what do I need to do to become a better software designer?” He was also curious about inspiration. He was precocious. He was persistent. He was patient. He was on a mission!
I did my best to field his questions, and I asked a few questions of my own. His answers were well-thought out and open. If he did not know the answer, he said so, asking questions to better understand the context of the inquiry. It was clear the experience and opportunity had extreme value to Toby, and he was taking in everything.
Impacting the Team at Interactive Achievement
We wrapped up our tour of the office with a visit to our HR Director, Jacqueline Lackey’s office.
In her words:
“He came around the corner and asked if he could ask me a few questions. If there is one thing this kid is good at, it’s making adults truly think about their education and career choices. Toby asked me about how I ended up at Interactive Achievement and how I knew I wanted to work in Human Resources. I had to be perfectly honest and tell him that I tried a lot of careers out before I ended up with one I loved. He asked me to continue exploring volunteer opportunities, and I promised I would. With the pressure off of me, I walked him upstairs to the technology department where he continued grilling the employees. Having his energy in the building was refreshing and inspiring.”
Next up was Rob Williams, our Development Manager. Toby asked direct questions, maintained good eye contact, and explored insights into Rob’s experiences as a developer and manager. Rob shared our agile approach to getting from point A to point B in the development cycle and how to adjust to the unexpected (sometimes on a daily basis). Rob explored a project Toby had discovered; the dismantling of a tube TV Toby had found in the trash. They discussed the various types of people and processes involved in building the TV.
Toby met with two members of our development team next, Derick and Carine. Derick is one of our senior developers and architects. He has a soft spot for mentoring. Carine is a User Interface developer with an eye for design and simplified user experiences.
In Derick’s words:
“Before his visit, I had already heard that Toby was using the Internet to teach himself a programming language, and he was only ten years old. I remember thinking to myself, ‘That’s some initiative for such a young person!’ I was not completely surprised when he walked into the room with us, introduced himself, and then pulled out a clipboard and a pen and announced, ‘I have some questions for you.’ He asked some great questions, and it was fun to tell him the stories about the paths we have taken in life to end up at Interactive Achievement, working on a product of which we are all very proud.”
The day was also amazing for Toby’s dad, Scott.
“We really appreciate the time you and your team spent with Toby on Friday. It was a valuable experience for all of us. Please thank everyone for us. Just this morning, as we continued to process the visit, Toby mentioned how everyone there seemed so excited about their work, passionate about the company and had such interesting stories to tell. Meighan and I also feel really fortunate to have had a chance to meet such a great group of people and to learn more about your work.”
Embracing Our Company Culture of H.U.G. Everyday
This is a drawing by Toby, representing his experience at Interactive Achievement.
This is one of the many reasons I do what I do. I love connecting people, solving problems, and growing community. Kids are an integral part of that community.
Toby is an exceptional human being, and I look forward to hearing about his adventures. His parents, Scott and Meighan, have their hands full. Supporting their son’s adventures and explorations in his community and his areas of interest can be time-consuming and expensive. They are doing it right, and we here at Interactive Achievement live our core values every day.
H.U.G. – Honorable, Unselfish, and Generous. It is how we do business every day, with our clients, our students, our staff, and in our community.
Thank you Toby, for an exceptional experience!