From Rocks to Rails: An Unusual Journey into the Software Industry-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

From Rocks to Rails: An Unusual Journey into the Software Industry

Gordon McCreight (MS SE M09) came to the software industry down an unusual path. In 1996 he graduated with a degree in Geology from the College of Wooster in Ohio. While he was studying rock formations and fossils, his father, Edward McCreight (Ph.D., MCS70), also alumni of Carnegie Mellon, was busy working at Adobe Systems. McCreight received a copy of their new video product, Premiere, and this sparked his interest in digital video, which eventually led to a job in animation and video editing, then multimedia, which, in turn, led to web applications.

In 1999 McCreight began working with a professor at Standford on an NSF funded project, Multimedia Fluid Mechanics. The project spanned seven years and, according to McCreight, “that is how I really became a Software Engineer.” After seven years of embedding himself in the fluid mechanics project, McCreight was ready for something new. He heard about the Software Engineering program at Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley (CMU-SV) through his father, who is long time friends with Jim Morris, formerly dean of the Silicon Valley Campus. He attended the full time program beginning in August 2008. McCreight says, “although I had learned software engineering on my own through seven years of hard work, it was still very useful to obtain a more formal education in the area. The faculty at CMU-SV were well-versed in the field as many of them had worked for software companies prior to teaching.”

After graduation, McCreight began to frequent the newly opened Hacker Dojo in Mountain View. This unique incubator-style venue provided McCreight the opportunity to meet other hackers with a passion for software development. McCreight explains, “the Hacker Dojo is a coffee house, plus, plus! Although there are a number of coffee houses in the Silicon Valley area that are frequented by software geeks, at the Hacker Dojo, they actually get involved in conversations where collaboration then occurs. This is where I met Ajay Kamat and Himani Amoli, entrepreneurs who were looking for a software engineer who was familiar with Ruby on Rails and deploying scalable web applications.” McCreight was that person.

The resultant product, Micromobs, is a group messaging application that allows its users to organize what they read and what they write according to social networking groups or by topic. The idea is to organize what you say and read according to social stratification, or “mobs”. Anyone can create a mob. And the mobs can be public or private, organized around its members or by a simple topic.

Amoli provided the vision for Micromobs with mock-ups and screen flows, and McCreight developed most of the software from the ground up. “It was hard, occasionally tedious work, but the innovation was challenging and launching the product was a great experience,” says McCreight. Now that the product has been announced and has been well received, McCreight is working on new features to improve and increase the excitement for Micromobs. “We are all very excited at the prospects for the future development of mobile and embeddable versions of the site.”