App Developer by Day,
NHL Official by Night.
The Secret Double Life of Park Anderson
At Newtek, we believe what makes us different is our people — from engineering to customer support. As an ongoing, occasional series, we’re sharing the personal stories of Newtekers, like Park Anderson, who are not only talented, hardworking professionals, but also interesting people outside the office.
“But I want to talk about that,” said Park Anderson, a four year fixture in the department Newtekers simply call ‘Dev.’ For many, Dev, or “development,” is unwittingly regarded as well, pretty much another world. Dev is a place for quiet, intense focus, and computer screens crammed top to bottom with seemingly misplaced symbols, as if fashioned by an energetic toddler slapping a wireless keyboard like it’s a bongo drum.
It is the place where the coders gather, together but separate, glazed over in variant levels of self-induced catatonia – a geographically close yet dogmatically distant intra-office locale where fingers speak secret languages, whispering life to software applications via seemingly meaningless sequenced characters (if such tasks were left to the devices of mere mortals.)
Yes, developers are a special breed to be sure. But do not be fooled by preconceived notions – while quirky, these code spinners are impossible to stereotype and light-years removed from what you might expect.
Enter Park Anderson.
Like his developer peers, there is a close connection between Park and technology. You sense that immediately with the state-of-the-art Bose sound blocker headphones that are fastened to his head as he works. By and large, however, Park will tell you his profession is misperceived, even by others who inhabit the disparate verticals that comprise the ever-morphing world of technology. But more on that later …
Instead, it seemed worthwhile to ask Park what technology the world was currently in greatest need. “Well, I prefer to walk to work, and I guess you could add having access to my own restroom,” he curiously began. It turns out, a fully virtualized work pod is a part of his semi-sinister plan.
“I mean it wouldn’t be like staying at home,” he elaborates, “I don’t think most of us do as well without the opportunity to collaborate – or at least have some temporal accountability to go along with our assignments. Instead, you would be in the pod, both aurally and visually connected to your co-workers. But, when you had to step away, it would be to your own kitchen, bathroom, you know. And if that didn’t work, I don’t mind mobilizing the whole operation. Like, get in the work pod, start up – and let it get on some sort of delivery track that takes you right to the office.
“Self-driving cars seem a bit archaic. I mean, if we don’t have to drive them, what is so appealing about their design from a passenger perspective? I would far rather be in a more productive environment if I no longer had to concern myself with navigation. Or maybe some smart companies could just provide work pods, on location. If work were just a short walk away, it would be one thing, but that damn commute is one of the most unproductive aspects of today’s working world.”
Wait, we know what you are thinking. “OMG! Total, tech nerd.”
And then our comfortable, compartmentalized perception of what a man, who has spent 30+ years in technology and development begins to crumble. Why? Because it’s Saturday night and Park is sitting about a foot away from all-world Washington Capitals winger, Alex Ovechkin in the visitor’s penalty box at Phoenix Coyote’s home Jobing.com Arena.
“Wow,” thinks Park. Typically, he is far too busy to note who has shuffled in to do their time, but D.C. native Park is a life-long Caps fan. The cool, off-ice NHL official, bequeathed the responsibility of coordinating commercials for the league’s TV contracts, considers, “I am in front of the front row, sitting right next to Ovechkin. This is pretty cool.”
Penalty time, over.
The superstar nods to Park Anderson as he steps out of the box. No, it’s not a mobile work pod; it’s an NHL penalty box – another place you’ll find the developer 20+ nights a season.
“I am in front of the front row, sitting right next to Ovechkin. This is pretty cool.”
“It’s fantastic,” says Park, of his ‘other’ occupation. “I played hockey my whole life; but as I got older, the physicality didn’t really align with my lifestyle anymore, so this helps me stay close to the game. My whole family are players turned coaches and officials. Hockey’s just in our genes.”
You were saying something about tech nerd? (Not too loud, for your own sakes, please.)
“Yeah, of course I’ve dropped the gloves a couple times. Been awhile, though,” admitted Park about his younger, on ice days.
Baffled yet? Don’t be.
“Development is trying to make the complex simple,” says the former D.C. native who has been living in the Valley of the Sun for 22 years now. “Our job is to stack sand grains in order to build the castle that our client, or our organization, and really the end user needs and will benefit most from.
“The difficulty about our work is not necessarily ‘the code,’ as so many people think. That’s just language. You pick that up. Rather, it’s listening, and then looking ahead to deliver what users will actually NEED, not necessarily what executives say (or think) they want when they first propose or assign a project.”
Park even has a perspective about non-techies that may surprise you. He shakes his head when he hears that someone “just doesn’t get technology,” or that it is too complicated for them to comprehend.
“Because I am on the ‘inside’ so to speak,” explains Park, “I think it is important to mention that people do not give themselves enough credit. As humans, our minds are so much more beautifully designed than today’s computers, software, or programs. Really.
“Even the most sophisticated code doesn’t compare in the slightest to a midnight dream of a human being. Believe me, my job is to get functionality to be useful to the sophisticated human mind; not the other way around. You, me, we, all of us get technology, fundamentally. Those of us working in this field are trying with all of our might, to get it to catch up with you.”
So how did a hockey playing, code writing, NHL officiating, penalty box sitting, work pod dreaming developer get his start?
“Internship,” he says, without blinking.
His father apparently had some gumption in the same disciplines, though Park points out the landscape was a bit different back then. “My dad was the Director of Computer Training for the Civil Service Commission back in D.C. One of the perks of his position, at least for us, his kids, is when he would bring home the newest modems and things for us to try. We were introduced very early to the world of computers.”
That experience got him a summer internship in high school, printing invoices for a security company. Not long after he began, the guy he worked for noticed Park had an interest in technology and showed him a little bit of code – then, just a few weeks later, the same guy bailed for a fancy job a Hewlett Packard. On the way out the door he shared with the team, “Park can help you a little bit, I showed him some code.”
Necessity truly became the mother of invention. Park the intern, became Park, the highest ranking computer man on the staff, literally before overnight even happened.
“I was there 9 years,” he reflected. “I stayed throughout college and even a few years after. Most of what I dealt with, at least starting out, was written in Extended Basic and I could actually remote in from my Apple IIe. The Execs were worried that someone could gain access to their files, so I actually used assembly language to program the mainframe to hang up any incoming call, and instead initiate an outgoing connection to my IIe. When it connected, it would say, “Would you like to play a game?” (Old-school movie buffs will remember War Games supercomputer WOPR.)
Needless to say, anybody who’s found their calling so early on probably has some insight about the like-minded. Park is quick to explain that all developers need some time between projects to get away from it. “We have to get in there, into the most elemental details, and try not to break concentration. If we do, we typically will have to rebuild the sequence we are working on from the ground up. At least I do, and some of my colleagues. So try not to interrupt us,” he gently laughs – but you get the impression he is not kidding all that much, just good natured.
“Yeah, most of us do our best work if we are allowed to work in bursts – whether its hours, days, weeks, months. But, when we finish a project we need to clear before we begin anew. I know for me personally, I completely immerse myself in whatever I am working on. I have these amorphous dreams that somehow relate back to the task at hand. For example, I was dreaming about unloading a truck full of stacked palette boxes. I had to unload them one box at a time. I kept thinking how I needed a forklift or something. It was so frustrating.
“When I sat down at the office later that morning, I remembered my dream. Then it struck me – I would be better off if I utilized a caching strategy. Then I realized I was dreaming code symbolism. I don’t know, what can I tell ya?”
How would Park rate his connection to technology outside of the office?
“I guess I’m about average,” Park surmises. “I like gadgets and things, don’t get me wrong. But, I like to get away from it too. I like to be outside. One of my colleagues at Newtek rocks his Google Glass at work and those things are still on when he leaves. That’s a bit much for me. Maybe if I wasn’t staring at code all day, I’d be a bit more intrigued.”
Remember Park insisting (right in the very first sentence of this profile) that he wanted to talk about something? Well, as his interviewer, I had suggested we stay away from Company-centric talk. I didn’t want him to feel pigeonholed into a marketing piece. After all, that is not the intent. The idea was simply to introduce him and some other behind or semi-behind-the-scenes contributors to our clients and potential clients.
However, that perspective was a mistake. Park wanted to communicate his feelings about his Company. He made the point of letting me know that while he discovered Newtek by chance, his being here was no accident.
“I guess I’m about average,” Park surmises. “I like gadgets and things, don’t get me wrong. But, I like to get away from it too.”
“We found each other. But back then and still to this very day, I am so proud to be a part of Newtek. To be here and contribute to the growth of a Company that is so deeply devoted to the development of small businesses – to me, that’s the most rewarding part.
“Watching some of these fledgling businesses start out with a $72 website and then adding some ecommerce a few months later … Then noticing when they increase their hosting plan, or get some liability or even cyber insurance. The next thing you know they’re talking to our loan department and that little website is now a thriving ecommerce business with some brick and mortar locations.
“I mean to think that they’ve been with us every step of the way – and to know that their industry expertise, complemented by our suite of services built specifically to benefit small businesses – is really nothing short of amazing.
“There is nothing professionally that is more satisfying. To see the projects we work on contribute to the ongoing success and growth of so many – to me, that is what gives Newtek, despite being a growing publicly traded Company, an undeniable family atmosphere.
“From support, to marketing, to development, we actually know our clients because they are our partners, too. And whether I am working on an internal solution or a piece of code to help a client/partner, I know the takeaway will be something tangible – something that I can see. I wouldn’t change what I am doing, or who I am doing it for – for anything.”