Featured Alum: Warren Turkal , Computer Science 2003

I graduated with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Art in May of 2003. I have had quite a few interesting experiences and jobs since then and am now living in Campbell, California, part of Silicon Valley. I am also very involved in educating folks about free software (free as in freedom, please see http://www.fsf.org/ for more info). I have given talks to various groups and have engaged in consulting various companies on using free software.

Warren Turkal and his new son.

Shortly before I graduated I was summoned for jury duty at the Federal court in Memphis, TN. Originally, my service was scheduled for the same week as my finals, and I thought that conflict would get me out of it. I was wrong; I just got rescheduled. Considering that I didn’t have a job yet, I thought it would probably be an interesting experience, and I hoped I would get selected. I did, and I ended up serving as the foreman on a really interesting criminal case. After the defendant was convicted, he fled and became a fugitive. He was actually caught in late 2007.

My first job after college was as a contact Unix System Administrator at FedEx Services in Collierville, TN. I paid off all of my student loans during this contract. I strongly recommend avoiding student loans (and any other debt) if at all possible. During my FedEx contract, I actually interviewed for a contract position with Google in Atlanta to work in a data center, and failed to get hired. I actually paid one of my friends to drive to Atlanta so that I could try to rest on the way as I had to leave immediately after work to get there on time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get much rest. We got to our hotel after midnight and with only a few hours to spare before the interview. Then, I woke up later than I wanted to. However, I feel that my greatest mistake was wearing a suit to the interview. I was interviewed by one guy with a backward hat, jeans, and a T-shirt, while the other fellow had on jeans and a casual shirt. Due to lack of rest, I blanked on some really simple computer trivia, and I was kicking myself the whole way back to Memphis as a result.

Back at FedEx, I eventually converted to a full-time employee, and my title became Technical Analyst. With this, I realized a goal from the time that I was a young teenager. One of my close family friends was an employee of FedEx, and I always wanted to be employed there. However, things didn’t work out so well there. While certain positions were almost certainly more interesting than mine, I found myself less and less motivated by my work as time went on. My manager also made my time there really unpleasant. I have some really good stories though. During most of my tenure at FedEx, I was also consulting with local businesses on IT issues involving Linux and other free software on the side. I ran a company called Penguin Techs during this time. I worked at FedEx at night and ran my business by day. Having gone as far as I felt that I could in my FedEx job, I quit for a job with a small web hosting company in Memphis in late October 2005. I was willing to go anywhere to get away from my group at FedEx. This new job only lasted for about two weeks.

I finally realized that I just needed to leave Memphis to take my career where I wanted, so I took a road trip to visit some of my family near Denver, Colorado. I applied for nearly every job for a Linux systems administrator in the greater Denver area while I was there. I received no callbacks during the trip, and headed back a couple weeks later. I then got a call from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, about a job as a Research Associate (actually a Linux systems administrator) for a small research group in the Department of Atmospheric Science. I flew out for the interview in December and started the job in the middle of January 2006. I also moved Penguin Techs to Colorado. It was a beautiful location, and I learned a lot by being the expert for all of our systems. I really enjoyed the Fort Collins area. My favorite part of the town was the local free software scene. There was a weekly group that I attended called Hacking Society that had a lot of really interesting people involved. While this group wasn’t strictly a free software group, there was a lot of discussion around that topic. I also had the opportunity to consult with an attorney on some computer forensics during my time in Fort Collins.

In early 2007, I was contacted by a recruiter at Google for a Site Reliability Engineer position in Mountain View, California. I was certainly surprised they called me back given my abysmal interview performance before, but I certainly was interested. After a long and arduous interview process, I found out that I had the job. I moved out to Campbell, California, and started in July 2007. I have one thing to say about this job. This is the best job I have ever had, by a long shot. I currently work with the infrastructure systems. I also have a few other projects on which I work that make up about 20% of my work. These projects are related to free software production or research and development of new technology. I also get to work with a lot of really great people. Some of the most notable include Ken Thompson (one of the creators of UNIX), Guido van Rossum (creator of the Python programming language), and Jeremy Allison (core developer for SAMBA). Shortly after I started at Google, I had the opportunity to address the Public Relation Society of America in Memphis. I got to talk about the future of mobile technology and where I thought it was headed. It was a really fun experience.

On July 4, 2008, I got married in Las Vegas, Nevada, with my wife’s and my family there. I got to drive a DeLorean back to my hotel that night. On October 9, 2009, Aerick Linus Turkal, my first son, was born. Things just keep getting better!

I would like to end with a little advice. Don’t ever stop looking for what makes you happy. I feel that my willingness to think outside my box has allowed me the opportunity to go much farther in my life and career than would have otherwise been possible, and I am very happy for that. Also, if you have an interest in free software, please don’t hesitate to contact me by email at wt@penguintechs.org with any questions.