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After speaking with Scott Moss (HRSF November 2013), there is only one thing that’s certain: you will feel lazy. Scott seems to never stop moving; he is always trying new things and taking advantage of opportunities, including speaking at conferences, starting companies (Tipe.io and OneSpeed), teaching courses on Frontend Masters, working out twice a day, and taking a risk and going to Hack Reactor.
Scott grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, with his mother and four brothers and three sisters. Scott’s family did not have much money while he was growing up, which caused them to move frequently. Scott ended up attending ten different schools by the time he graduated high school.
While in school, Scott enjoyed math and science, especially chemistry. He was always in the advanced math courses and excelled in them, at least when he attended school. Scott did not see the point of school while growing up and often skipped to play basketball with friends.
When Scott was fifteen, family circumstances led him to Florida to live with his father. The nearby high school was so bad that Scott could not be bothered to attend. Scott’s father did not find out until five months later. When his father went to the school to inquire why they had not notified him of his son’s absence, the school officials responded that Scott had been attending daily. Scott’s father agreed with Scott that this particular school might indeed be a waste of time.
Scott’s father was, in Scott’s words, quite a nerd, who worked at IBM and always wanted to build projects with computers. Many of these projects were incomplete, so Scott started messing around with them and became enamored with technology. This adoration and understanding of the power of technology never left him.
One year later, Scott moved back to Georgia to live with his aunt and began attending school again. Various circumstances led him back to Florida with his father, though his father had moved to St. Augustine, which had a good school nearby. Scott was able to finish high school one year late.
Still, Scott was not known for his attendance. He skipped school one day to play video games, and a Navy recruiter came by his father’s house to look for the previous tenant. Scott and the recruiter played video games together, and Scott signed up to join the United States Navy the next day. He went to boot camp one week after graduating high school.
Scott’s ASVAB scores were sky high, and Scott wanted to do nuclear engineering, but there were not job openings at the time. After completing his physical test, Scott was recommended for special operations (which included a 40k signing bonus), but he did not enjoy the program and began looking at other job opportunities.
Scott eventually became a helicopter mechanic and attended training in Pensacola, Florida before getting stationed in San Diego.
Scott always knew he did not want a career in the Navy and was already thinking of next steps. The logical next step was to become a pilot through the Navy’s internal programs to become an Officer and a pilot.
However, Scott realized that he wanted more freedom and that this was not the life for him. He gave up all of the work he had put in the last two years to immerse himself in technology. Scott began reading Hacker News and start-up magazines. He had to find out what the tech entrepreneurs he was reading about knew that he did not.
At the same time, Scott was about to be stationed at sea, and he was dreading it, afraid of not learning anything, missing out on speaking to his son in Florida, and not progressing.
When Scott went to the doctor for his physical, Scott brought up that he had gone into rhabdomyolysis, in which muscle breaks down rapidly and damages the kidneys, four times. When the doctor saw this and realized there would be no dialysis on the ship, he immediately recommended Scott for discharged. Scott knew he’d be getting out of the Navy within a year and had to figure out his next steps. He kept learning about technology and working out twice a day.
Scott thought about studying computer science at San Diego State, but he knew that the best place to be in technology would be in Silicon Valley. “If it’s (referring to new technology) anywhere, it’s gonna be there.”
Scott’s solo project was an MVP that connected to the Fitbit API and made a dashboard of your Fitbit data in one chart. He extended this in his group’s thesis project by creating a native mobile app that allowed users to compare their data to friend’s data and see who was “winning”. This was creating using Angular, Express, MongoDB, and an Ionic framework.
After working as an HIR for three months, Scott began cold applying before finishing up career week and received job offers at Instagram, Google, Uber, Pinterest, and Adobe. Scott believes that his soft skills and ability to learn quickly and remain calm made up for his weaker technical abilities. These same skills have served him well in participating in conferences and starting companies.
He echoes this sentiment in his advice to new Hack Reactor students: “It’s not about the technical skills. You’re not going to get a job from Hack Reactor. No algorithm will get you a job. You need a network and soft skills. You can talk your way into and out of anything.”
Scott had been working with Ruan as his career coach. Since Ruan knew all of Scott’s offers, he could counter with a higher offer to continue working at Hack Reactor. Scott stayed on at HR for over a year, where he was in charge of rebuilding curriculum, creating the HR Remote program from scratch, and helping to create Telegraph Academy with Albrey and Bianca.
Scott left HR before Telegraph Academy was fully off the ground and began working at Udacity. He enjoyed his work there, but he had always wanted to start his own company. In his free time, Scott was always trying to build something. However, none of his projects amounted to anything. Maybe, he thought, writing code was not the secret to start-up success.
Scott was drawn into consulting with Patrick Stapleton. Scott had already done some freelance work for Google, spoken at conferences, and wrote books, so he had the template, but now was the time to make it a full-time gig. Scott and Patrick worked together for two years and hired many friends. However, though the money was good, it involved constant traveling and could not scale. Scott was getting burned out from switching time zones too frequently and being away from his son.
He decided to go back to creating software. After all, big companies had problems that needed fixing, and Scott and Patrick now had those connections. Since they were out of money, they did a Hail Mary and applied to Y Combinator in order to gain funding for what would become Tipe.io.
Scott and his co-founders, Patrick Stapleton and Mike Moss (Scott’s younger brother), did not even have an MVP to show to YC. However, they had several advantages: they had worked together frequently (which is very important for start-up founders) and they were all engineers, so building the product would be the easy part.
Scott does not get to code much, now that he’s the CEO of Tipe.io, but he is still staying up to date with trends in technology, including GraphQL and front-end microservices architectures.
Scott’s current career goal is to get to the point in the tech world where he can provide value in the minority community. He wants to create a network of shared resources knowledge to allow people from underrepresented communities to become inspired to become successful and re-invest money into minority-owned enterprises.
Outside of work, Scott continues to work out twice a day, collect sneakers, listen to music, and build custom computers and play games on them with his eight-year-old son.
When I asked Scott his thoughts on Hack Reactor, he did not take long to reply.
“It was the single best decision of my life. Unlike the military, there was no ceiling, no boundaries. This allowed me to think differently. Learning about technology changes your view of the world. I realized I could learn and build anything I needed to myself.”
If there’s one thing Scott wants to pass on to anyone wishing to do something similar, it is this:
“Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Never coast.”