Ideas Menu Search

Ten Minutes with: Nick Alto

If there was such a thing as a Renaissance developer, Nick Alto would be a great example of it. His code “fingerprints” can be found on the Design Maturity Survey, PizzaTime, SCHARP DataSpace, 10,000ft Insights… Want to be like him? We are hiring.

When did you know that you wanted to be a developer? 

The first experience with technology that really changed my life was playing the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on my Nintendo 64. I’d had many other encounters with technology and video games prior to that but this was the first game/experience that really consumed every moment I had. It was to the point that I was reading game guides at school, and playing non-stop after school. It made me want to learn as much about computers as possible. So I tried a few times to teach myself but got too overwhelmed each time and gave up. It wasn’t until working at The Mac Store, selling computers, that I learned how to really use the command line and understand how the operating system really worked. That’s when things clicked for me and I’ve been fascinated with computers ever since. 

What is in your notebook?

Lots of random notes and sketches. I find it extremely helpful to sketch out an idea or relationship on paper before implementing it.

What is the thing (product, service, etc) that you would die to develop? Why?

I don’t know if I would die to build it but it would be amazing to contribute on the systems at SpaceX. To have that kind of impact would be incredible. I’m sure the development process would be incredibly slow and tedious but to ship code that furthers space exploration would be extremely rewarding.

What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?

Don’t sell your SNES (or Super Nintendo Entertainment System, for those that are too young to remember). Also you should check out Earthbound, and ChronoTrigger – they’re awesome games I wish I played earlier. Finally, I hate to tell you this, but you are not going to make it to the NBA.

Where do you want to be in ten years?

Still writing code. There’s a lot left to explore and it’s an exciting time for the field of computer science. Virtual reality is ramping up to be huge, along with machine learning, natural language parsing, etc. There are too many areas to explore to sit still.  

What would people never guess about you?

I’m a huge hip hop head. I can’t get enough of it. The history of hip hop is fascinating. I was lucky enough to be a part of a local Hip Hop 101 class that was taught after school by local rap group Livesavas. They not only shared a ton about the history of hip hop, but put us on to some awesome old school records that I might have missed out on. We got schooled on sampling, the history of beat making, and the progression of the art.

What is your favorite Artefact project and why?

Dreambox Learning. It was one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever worked on but the end result was awesome. In a matter of weeks, we were able to deliver an incredible amount of work. It’s an awesome tool for educators. I’m very proud of the attention to detail and the level, at which we were able to execute on Dreambox Learning‘s vision.

Where do you go/what do you do for inspiration?

I find a lot of inspiration from nature – especially camping. It’s a nice disconnect from the digital world that I live most of my life in. I also find inspiration in painting. I have a special place in my heart for graffiti – it goes hand in hand with hip hop. I’ve been scribbling in notebooks and canvases for years. It’s good to balance out the creative and logical sides of my brain.