Team Q&A: Jonathan Jackson – Software Developer Intern

Growing up in rural Kentucky shaped our software developer intern Jonathan Jackson, pressing him to help with the clean energy transition. Join us in welcoming Jonathan to the Virtual Peaker team!

How did your previous life prepare you for Virtual Peaker?

If we’re talking technical skills, then Code Kentucky (an offshoot of Code Louisville) and class work at Western Governor’s University helped me start my journey into coding. But growing up in eastern Kentucky is what truly shaped and prepared me for Virtual Peaker. That experience has caused me to appreciate our mission at Virtual Peaker, to make the world a little greener, and to want to help during the clean energy transition. But before I can get into that, I need to describe what life is like in eastern Kentucky.

Jonathan Jackson clean energy transition 1

Eastern Kentucky, more specifically Martin County (born and raised) is a small, beautiful place nestled in the Appalachian Mountains and its lifeblood is the coal industry. The effects of coal in this area run as deep as the mines themselves, it has touched every aspect of life here. In 2000 there was a coal slurry (leftovers from cleaning the coal before it can be used) spill. Over 300 million gallons of coal slurry flooded this county, killing everything in the creeks and contaminating the water table with mercury and arsenic.

Jonathan Jackson clean energy transition 2

Twenty-three years later, you can’t even drink the tap water (near constant boil water advisories). Clean drinking water is something most people don’t even think about, it’s something taken for granted, but bottled water is the norm here. The wealth in this area came from the ground, instead of the people and that has led to rampant poverty, drug use, and lower education levels (these are less tangibly connected than a slurry spill, but still a very real consequence of coal). You might be wondering about the penalty for poisoning the water supply, and it’s “try to clean it up, and pay $5,600.”

I’m leaving out a lot for time’s sake, but I needed to say all of that because it’s a wildly different background than most of my coworkers I’ve talked with. The majority of my life was spent “looking up at broke” with everyone around in the same level of poverty, and that shapes a person. You must learn to adapt quickly to life’s challenges when you’re broke because help isn’t really an option. If the water lines burst in the winter, congratulations to me, I’ve been promoted to plumber. Did the floor just rot out? Well, today I’m a carpenter. Hit a deer on your 40-mile drive to work? Time to head to the junkyard and find the pieces to put it back together (it might be 4 different colors, but it runs). That adaptability is something that life has taught me much and prepared me for Virtual Peaker.

Tell us about your role at Virtual Peaker.

As a software developer intern, I mostly handle bug fixes or changes to our apps. Interns get to touch a little bit of everything. I love my work; every day there’s a new puzzle that I get to solve and get paid for it! Some of the more notable work that I’ve been a part of is, working on sites for utility companies and writing a script to migrate devices into our database. My work has affected hundreds of people already and I’m just 2 months in! I’m truly grateful to have the opportunity to learn and grow as a developer while doing something that helps so many people.

How do you personally engage in sustainability efforts?

Jonathan Jackson clean energy transition 3I wish I could do more, but I don’t really have the opportunity to do much. The only places around to recycle are scrap yards that only accept metal. I try to not waste anything and to reuse as many items as possible. Sidenote: old tires make great planters. I also use an electric lawnmower and weed eater. The batteries from them are great for all the home projects that keep happening.

What can you tell us about yourself?

First and foremost, I’m a dad. I’ve been blessed with 2 very smart little girls (ages 2 and 4) who both have me wrapped around their little fingers. Most of my time that isn’t spent at work or doing schoolwork, is spent with them and my wife. I love going to the park, taking the kids to see the wild horses in the area, or just having a fun day out with the family. I love making sweets! Once a week, I try to make at least one made-from-scratch dessert, in can be anything from homemade ice cream, cookies, brownies, or whatever anyone in the house has a craving for. Recently, it was chocolate cookies with Reese’s peanut butter chips.

Come work with us to help change the world!

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About The Author
Bill Burke blog author

Bill is a serial entrepreneur with a PhD from UC Berkeley in Controls and Artificial Intelligence and 10 years of experience with high performance residential energy management and connected appliances. He was previously at GE as an Advanced Systems Engineer in the Connected Home Software Group, but left that role in May 2014 to pursue entrepreneurship full time.

Bill grew up in Louisville and returned with his family in 2010 after a long stint in the San Francisco Bay Area. He loves Louisville and is working to make it a better and more attractive city for high tech startups.

More About Bill

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