Category Archives: Technology

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?

3 Reasons Why the Tech and Startup Scenes are Amazing

A lot of entrepreneurs and developers are really passionate. Entrepreneurs usually can’t go a conversation without talking about their start up idea. Software developers can usually talk your ear off about some technology they are using and you have no idea what they are talking about (i.e. “WTF is JavaScript?!”). Why is that? Why are these people so excited about what they do? I believe these people truly love what they do and they love being in the tech and startup scene. It makes sense to me; it is amazing.

During my senior year of college, I had a random idea about creating a web platform for students to interact with other students in the same classes. This startup idea introduced me to the concept of entrepreneurship. I began talking to more professors and going to a variety of events around entrepreneurship. Ever since, I have been chasing entrepreneurship. The chase led me to learning web/software development and getting involved in technology. I now run MakerSquare, a 22 person company in Austin and San Francisco that trains adults to be full-time software developers through in-person training. This journey from college to MakerSquare has allowed me to recognize that the technology and startup culture is very unique. I consistently attempt to persuade some of my close friends (Zahid LodhiaNikki Desai, Priti Patel, and Parag Dadhaniya) who work in Corporate America to give this culture a shot. I believe it’s like nothing else. Below I have listed all the reasons why I think this culture or scene is amazing.

1. People are very helpful. In 2012, I paid $8,000 to take a program in Chicago to learn how to build web applications. The program provided me with a mentor. This mentor was a senior developer who volunteered his time every week to help me with my code. I paid $8,000 a semester to attend the University of Illinois as an accounting and finance major. No professor in accounting or finance was openly volunteering 1 hour a week to give me 1 on 1 attention. After I graduated from the coding program and eventually started working full-time as a developer, my mentor continued to volunteer his time to help me. I had a brief stint at Ernst & Young and I can’t imagine trying to find someone from another accounting firm (i.e. a senior accountant from Deloitte) to help me become a better accountant for an hour a week. Developers and entrepreneurs legitimately want to help other prospective developers and entrepreneurs reach their goals. Our company MakerSquare continues to thrive, because our students get help from mentors and we get help from advisors.

2. People are chasing dreams, not money. At MakerSquare, our curriculum is project-based. In an effort to make our students projects more meaningful, I started a program that we eventually titled Coding for a Cause. The program is designed to take interesting web application ideas that support a good cause and have our students work on them for free as projects. In running this program and MakerSquare in general, I have had the chance to interact with hundreds of developers and entrepreneurs. I can say with confidence that most of these people are chasing their dreams and not money. One aspiring entrepreneur shared that his dream was to give more low income students access to SAT preparatory classes. He was blessed to be born into a wealthy family, so he had the opportunity to prepare for the SATs and be admitted to a recognizable University. His goal was to build a web application that provided free interactive lessons to prepare for the SATs. He wanted this application to be free for all low income students, so they can have the same opportunity he did. I had the pleasure of allowing him to join our Coding for a Cause program and now Prepify is providing free SAT prep for low income students around the country. I have numerous stories that are similar, but I don’t want to go on and on (for example, Connect2Good provides non-profits an easier way to receive donations from people and corporations giving away extra resources like desks, computers, chairs, etc.)

3. The environment encourages you to reach your potential. When I was in college, I was surrounded by people that were aspiring to work at the top consulting firms and investment banks. Most students would be proud that they could drop a lot of jargon like 5x EBITDA, cash is king, and market cap. At times, I did not have a complete understanding of these concepts. However, I did not feel comfortable asking, “why is cash king in a business?” The question seemed too ‘simple’ that I was scared I would feel stupid or inferior. When I am learning how to code or when anyone in the tech community is helping someone to learn how to code, everyone constantly encourages the learner to ask as many questions as possible. Learning to code has taught me, along with so many others, to continue to ask questions until everything makes sense. This concept of never settling until you have a full understanding has translated to everything I want to learn. I always ask questions until it completely makes sense. And now, I believe I have such a deeper understanding of entrepreneurship, technology, and startups. I might even have the opportunity to be a keynote speaker for a 350 person event at the University of Texas. I thank this community I have been referencing for allowing me to aspire for such exciting goals.

For all the people who have seen me along this journey of becoming a computer guy (as my brother used to call me) and an entrepreneur or anyone that may have randomly ended up reading this post, I encourage you to give the tech and startup scene a shot. I swear you will think it’s amazing as well.