CfA Yearbook: Ryan Closner

Code for America Yearbook is an ongoing series of my interviews with 2013 Fellows about their year at CfA. Last week I sat down with Ryan and here’s what he had to say.

Name: Ryan Closner

Fellowship City: Las Vegas

Hometown: Portland, Ore.

Current Neighborhood: Mission

Role: Programmer

DOB: 3/29/89

Q: How did you find out about the Code for America Fellowship?

Somehow I stumbled across the CfA website, maybe two years prior, when Max Ogden was still a Fellow and it sort of stuck in the back of my mind…and now here I am.

Q: What lead to your decision to accept the 2013 Fellowship offer?

Frankly, I’d just gone through a pretty tough year…and I was excited about the prospect of moving and the prospect of doing something completely new.

Q: So let’s get back to the fundamentals—how did you begin coding?

I was working as a salesman for an e-commerce company in Seattle. They had me doing these cold calls and I had to call gaming and hobby stores because that’s who they sold their software to. It was day in and day out of me calling these people, and, well, cold calling just sucks. So I was about to quit, and then I found out that there was a development position opening up. I told them I knew how to program (even though I didn’t know much), because I didn’t want to find a new job and I didn’t want I was doing, and they ended up giving it to me.

Q: Are there any programming books you’d recommend to beginning coders?

Yeah, absolutely. There is one book in particular, Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby by _Whytheluckystiff. It’s this beautifully illustrated programming guide for Ruby. And the guy who wrote it is something of an artist and I find him really compelling. It’s nice to learn programming through a fox adventure in space and that’s the narrative that he tells it through.

Q: Since you’re a recent transplant, what’s your favorite place to hang out in San Francisco?

The Lexington

Q: Describe your neighborhood in three words—Go!

Young, Quasi-Bohemian, Dated

Q: Your Fellowship city this year is Las Vegas—can you speak to what the government culture is like there? How about the tech scene?

The government scene is a group of individuals that are really excited about doing their community good but they’re not fully equipped with the tools that they need in order to actually succeed at serving their constituents. Due in part to the financial recession of the past few years, they’ve had to maintain a lot of services while minimizing staff.

Regarding the tech scene, it’s really fragmented. Las Vegas is sort of dualistic in nature—there’s the actual city and then there’s the strip. And the majority of the employment for technologists is down on the strip because they have these massive security systems and a huge need for technical talent, whereas the downtown area is sort of a burgeoning startup scene. And so new tech talent has been drawn to that area. It’s all still in in its most nascent phase.

Q: What has been your favorite Las Vegas moment from the Fellowship?

My absolute favorite Las Vegas moment was after a long day at the city, going up to our group apartment, walking inside, and finding a man that none us knew, sitting with a dog on his lap.

Q: What music are you listening to while you program this week?

I listen to anything that doesn’t have a harsh verbal recurring pattern to it—because that gets really distracting. But I get around to lots of different genres. Lately I’ve been jamming to Dizzy Rascal and Sonic Youth.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“I have solved every problem that I have solved.” -Ryan Closner

Q: Do you have any advice for future Fellows?

Don’t move into a trailer in West Oakland.

Q: Where do you see yourself a year from now?

Mayor of Las Vegas or maybe taking care of Jen’s chickens.

Questions? Comments? Keep the conversation going and tweet @rclosner.

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