Why This High School Physics Teacher Became A Full Stack Engineer

Bakari Holmes was applying his degree in physics by teaching in high school when a representative from USV came to speak to his class about the benefits of hands-on, team-oriented learning made possible by working on real-world problems. In particular, the rep spoke about a video game program in which students designed and built apps in classes that are organized like studios and employ industry roles, methods and tools. Bakari had always loved video games and imagined how great it would be to participate in one of the most dynamic industries on earth.

As a new father, Bakari loved physics and enjoyed teaching, but had come to the realization that another career path might better enable him to provide for his family. For him, going back to college for another degree required a cost-benefit evaluation which would continually surface and guide his path going forward. Throughout the years it took to get his new degree, Bakari would continually re-evaluate his position on his path towards this goal. The hands-on nature of his classes reinforced his decision. As his skill set evolved, so did his outlook on what was possible.

At first, Bakari thought his interest in music translated directly into designing the audio elements of games. He had always loved exploring musically, even publishing a Bobby McFerrin-style vocal solo on his zeemee.com portfolio. He was inspired to explore how sound influences the behavior of players in video games just as they influence the emotional response of movie audiences. Exploring the world of sound design opened his eyes as well as his ears.

Bakari soon discovered that mobile games must use audio resources efficiently in order to respond to user behavior and to embrace a wide spectrum of sound designs. For instance, a sound like an explosion must be assembled algorithmically. By combining a “bing”, a “bang” and a “boom” in different ways, a smart game developer can bring a wide variety of soundscapes to their work. When viewed from his cost-benefit perspective, Bakari saw his path veer towards hands-on programming. He wouldn’t just produce the sounds, he would explore developing the games themselves.

For the summer before his senior year, Bakari landed an internship at the Sony Playstation program in San Diego, which led to a contract position at Sony Playstation in San Mateo. It was clear how important teamwork was for him in landing the consulting opportunity after his internship. “A lot of the people skills and passion that I have was really huge and stood out. Being able to answer questions about my previous experience, about what I did on teams, being specific about how that connects to being a successful candidate, that all stood out.”

After his experience working in San Diego and San Mateo, along with attending industry conferences and mixing with professionals in the field, Bakari’s academic decisions now factored in not only his family interests but also honed in on the skills that would serve him best going forward. He became keenly aware of the wide range of technologies involved in delivering video games to users who ran them on mobile devices connected to the game and to others by networks. While he had already directed himself towards a career in the game industry, Bakari also saw the value brought about by a broadened perspective.

In his final year of college, he set about to finish the courses needed to be a full-stack developer. He focused on the JavaScript/MEAN stack — including NodeJS, AngularJS, ExpressJS, MongoDB, ReactJS, and D3JS. As a generalist, his talent stack could now address issues across an entire spectrum of connected devices, databases, networked APIs, and business logic to develop robust user experiences.

Bakari graduated with his second college degree in Software Engineering and was hired as a JavaScript Sr. Software Engineer with Accenture’s Liquid Application Studio. His online portfolios not only feature him singing with his acapella group “Business Casual”, they highlight his fluency in interface design and his passion for physics.

Of course, nothing stays the same for long. To update this post, Bakari writes:

“I am now a Developer Content Engineer for Roblox — the most awesome 3D platform for powering kids’ imagination on the planet. We currently have 64 Million monthly active users, a catalog of 29 Million+ User-generated games, and expect to pay out $30 Million to developers in 2017.

“What I do is write, review, and publish API documentation for our game engine. I also write coding tutorials, manuals, and create video content to empower developers to create on our platform. My responsibilities also include helping manage and publish content on our website. My team is called IX (Information Experience) and it’s a division of Developer Relations.

“I really love what I’m doing… and for the past year I’ve been singing in the award-winning jazz acapella group RoShamBo!”

From the Roblox “About Us” video below, it’s easy to see that Bakari has found a way to bring his love for physics to millions around the world.

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