Computer geek, rock star, motorcycle racer. Life has been … interesting.
My name is Brian Roach. At about the 7th grade, after suffering every conceivable joke/pun related to my last name … I just sort of embraced it. Since then I’ve simply gone by ‘Roach’ (now to the point where if you’re addressing me via ‘Brian’ it may not register immediately).
I started programming when I was 10 years old on a second-hand Commodore VIC-20 my mom bought from a co-worker who didn’t really know what to do with it. Endless hours were spent typing in (and then … debugging) programs from the latest issue of Compute! and later Compute! Gazette magazine. Oh, and two words: Cassette Drive. After moving up to the Commodore 64 (with a 1541 floppy!) I wrote my own BBS system and ran it for several years.
Then late high school happened and I discovered music. As in … playing guitar in a band. Seemed legit; learn to play guitar, get rich and famous. Who knew a significant amount of bar tending and waiting tables was involved as part of that?
Fast-forward a couple years. Figured out that whole rock star thing probably wasn’t going to pan out. In 1993 I went back to what I knew and took a job with this little online company in Tyson’s Corner, VA. You might have heard of them … America Online. We had < 300 employees when I started, and about 10k when I left (Don’t blame me; I voted against the TW merger as a shareholder. My last day was in Jan 2001 when the merger was finalized.)
While AOL is now the brunt of many a joke on the internet, in the early days it really was simply one of the most amazing places to work. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we didn’t have the internet; we had walled gardens. And quite frankly, AOL was a big damn garden. If you want to talk about scale, try having millions of persistently connected, simultaneous users. On 1995 hardware. I ended up as a software engineer in the email group, contributing to the internal email system and the internet gateway. I learned an enormous amount about distributed systems while working at AOL, and had great mentors.
At the end of 2000 I was kinda burned out, and bearing witness to the .com bubble burst … so I decided that working on motorcycles and racing them sounded like a lot of fun (I’d owned and ridden motorcycles since I was 18). I took a job spinning wrenches at a performance shop and started racing at the club, semi-pro, and pro level. Along the way I started an eCommerce business as an extension of the shop. With my wife I made a go at running our own business. If you ever have the chance to do this, I highly recommend it. You may not become rich or even succeed, but you’ll certainly learn a lot about business.
Six years later is was simply time for a change due to a number of factors. In 2007 at the urging of an old colleague I took a software engineering job in the Denver metro area. I’d always loved CO (I started skiing when I was 4 years old) and there were a ton of opportunities in the area.
In late 2011 I was recruited by Basho and honestly … wow. Such an amazing place to work. Brilliant people, doing very cool stuff. Overall, I’m a bit of a polyglot. At heart I’m an old C guy, but have worked professionally in C, C++, Perl, and Java. At Basho I’m sort of the cat wrangler for client library development, and also designed the new Java client for Riak 2.0.
Sadly, Basho is no more. It’s a long story ™ which you can probably find on the internet.
Unfortunately once the writing was on the wall, a lot of us chose to depart Basho and find new homes. Mine, which came as a shock even to me, is Oracle. They recruited me in 2015 and I’ve been there ever since. I work with a great group of people and overall the company has been great place to be. I’ve been working on cloud storage for the last few years, including running a team with 7 people as direct reports.