How My Visit to the White House Was Exciting and Eye Opening

Our company, MakerSquare, was invited to the White House and I had the privilege of being one of the team members to go. The experience was  amazing, exciting, and eye opening.

The point of this post is to share my experience and to answer a few of the questions my friends and family have posed: how did this happen, who attended, what was discussed, and what was it like. I may go off on a couple tangents.

Thanks to all the positive people in my life. I posted this exact line on Facebook and I thought I would reiterate. All through my life I have had the chance to meet really great people. Lately, I have come to appreciate the positive people in particular even more. In the hour following the news, “Shaan, we got invited to the White House by the CTO of the United States of America,” I decided to call some of my family and friends. I eventually started calling some people. These people that I called were the first people I could think of and it’s because these individuals were always positive with me and they always had faith. I would love to recognize them (there are others, so I apologize for forgetting): my parents (Kirit and Nita), my brother Niket, Monica Novales, Savrut Pandya. Danielle Davis, Ms. Kathy Boller, Priti Patel, Nihar D. Shah, Niketa Shah-Patel, Kyle Blasco, Vikas Gandhi, Gourang Mehta, Raj Patel, Sunny Vempati, Ishan Dahal, Austin Hughey, Paul O’Brien, Brian Dainton, and Vicki Patel. These individuals are not people I regularly speak to, but I just feel like they are always positive and I think it’s awesome.

How did this happen? The leaders of the US Veteran’s Affairs and the CTO of the United States among others did research over the most effective forms of education. Also, with the increased demand for technical skills, the research determined that some of the best education for veterans could be provided by “Accelerated Learning Programs” or ALPs. The senior advisor to the CTO then reached out to the schools they deemed the best, which included MakerSquare.

Who attended? There were 30 plus people in the room. In attendance, we had 5 other schools like ours with representatives (Hackbright Academy, Hack Reactor, Dev Bootcamp, Wyncode, Flatiron School), we had some government officials (former Google exec and recently appointed CTO of the US, veteran affairs’ leads, Deputy Secretary), other companies that support technology education (Coursera), and large corporations (IBM, UPS, HP, UST Global). Other than the US government, MakerSquare had the largest presence with four attendees: Harsh Patel (fellow co-founder), Amanda Contreras (our Austin lead), Jason Watson (Air Force Veteran and MakerSquare alumni), and myself.

What was the discussion? The meeting was a Roundtable Discussion at the White House on providing effective education for veterans. The table was not round. And we were not at the White House; instead, they put us in the shed. Just kidding! They did tell us it was at the White House, but we met at a building next door: the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB). The discussion was awesome. Everyone was trying to learn more about one another and the topics they were uninformed on. What was my favorite part? Cracking some jokes/comments. An VP at IBM mentioned to the extent of “how can we trust these ALPs and what if they are no good after we financially support them?” Our response: “for starters, you should talk to your team in Austin because you have already given us a positive review and agreed to pay us for internal training of your staff. Second, if our Yelp reviews drop below 4.9, you can stop funding us.” And the crowd cracked a few laughs and smiles.

What was it like? This was probably, so far, one of the coolest experiences of my professional career. To fly to DC on a whim from Las Vegas, because you have a meeting at the White House. It’s pretty amazing; who woulda thought?! To be in a room with corporate executives and the CTO of the United States of America. Again, amazing. Lastly, to leave a meeting with 30 other people having multiple people recognize that your tone of fury was simply passion to make a difference. I had the chance to be one of the most vocal people in the room. It’s hard to explain all the excitement and emotions running through my head, but just like any other day, I am happy.

Are we wasting our money by paying taxes? Maybe, but not entirely. It was great to see a former executive that lead a team at Google (Google[x]) that builds self driving cars and Google Glass to be leading our country as the CTO. The government has smart people; however, the government is over 200 years old, so there are a lot of questionable people and questionable processes that still need improvement. They seem to be facing the same problems a 200 year old company would face.

All in all, it was a great experience and it was eye opening to be in the same room as the leaders of our country.

Feedback/questions. What else would you like me to answer? If you had a chance to be working for the White House, what changes would you want to make to our country? Do you like that I make these posts? What do you like/dislike?

5 thoughts on “How My Visit to the White House Was Exciting and Eye Opening

  1. Glad to hear the meeting went well! As a current student at MakerSquare, I understand that some companies are skeptical about the quality of the developers that come out of bootcamps. It’s a structural change in the industry and therefore it might take some time for these graduates to prove themselves as productive members of the tech community. But the fact remains that we are learning valuable, marketable skills at a fraction of the cost and time of a full college education. For those who want to dive in to web development, it’s a great opportunity to get your feet wet! Many companies are already excitedly hiring grads with proven work-ethics and skill-sets. The rest of the industry will catch up.


    • Kelsey, you brought up a good point here: some companies don’t “believe in” the effectiveness of programs like MKS. To them, I’d say this: show me a college graduate at the B.S. level with a focus on theory that’s as effective as an MKS graduate at actually *shipping* code. Chances are, those folks are few and far between.

      The problem we have in this industry is that the emphasis on “computer science” – theory, design, etc. – is essentially useless when it comes to actually shipping production code. That sort of thing is quite useful when performing research and building new technologies (e.g. new programming languages, making changes to operating system design, new security models, etc.) but pointless when it comes to writing and optimizing a SQL query, or writing a configuration file to look for HTTP headers forwarded by a load balancer, or building a user authentication system, etc.

      So don’t let the industry’s focus on “traditional” education get you down. Focus on delivering and shipping quality, well tested code, and show that you know your stuff. Eventually the better companies out there will catch wind of your skills and ask you for an interview.

      Good luck to you and the rest of the MKS graduates and students!


  2. Shaan, I just wanted to leave a personal comment here to congratulate you and the rest of MKS on coming from Chicago just a couple years ago, putting things together as well as you did, making the proper inroads in the community here in Austin, and now visiting the White House. That’s pretty amazing progress for a small start-up, and you guys have a lot to be proud of. Way to go, dude. Way. To. Go.

    As always, let me know if I can be of assistance to you guys. I’m very happy to see all your had work paying off, and humbled to have been a very small part of your success.


  3. Jacob Kang says:

    I was in the September 25th event and this came up. Wow! Going to the White House sounds like an incredible opportunity. Just keep pushing on and doing what you never thought you’d be able to do!


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