My short bio: (to replace the third party one) I've worked at a number of places. I've been a pizza chef, a rock climbing instructor, a white water raft guide on the Arkansas River, and even a Slovakian rock star with a top ten hit in the Czech Rep. I was always into computers so when I came back to the states and finished my degree in info science, I got a job at NASA about three years later, I started as a "web programmer" and left last year (2016) as a "Senior Applications Developer". I graduated in 2007 from CNU (with Randall Munroe, the xkcd guy...) Now I teach Web Fundamentals and run the Washington D.C. branch of Coding Dojo.

My Proof:

Comments: 1421 • Responses: 100  • Date: 

gnex30864 karma

What are NASA's coding standards like? I've seen some of their electronic hardware standards and they're pretty extreme. Was it difficult to accomplish projects? what about debugging? Does NASA have any open source projects that the public can contribute to?

mr_yip594 karma

Their standards can be quite harsh depending on the project. At NASA JPL, for things like embedded software they have some large manual of standards that developers will have to go through. For some of the newer projects like the Europa mission that I was working on, there really isn't much for software that won't be running on the spacecraft. JPL is making an effort to branch into newer technologies and move away from some of the archaic programming languages and standards - at least from what I could tell from my short time there and talking to other full time devs.

Some projects are difficult to accomplish depending on what it is. There is a running joke at the lab that it's never good enough for the scientists, but always just good enough for the engineers. I.e. scientists are always trying to fit in more instruments to a spacecraft but then the engineers are responsible for figuring out a way to to fit it into the spacecraft and make it work. I didn't realize how much work would go into adding just another simple instrument to a spacecraft would be until I participated(more like sat in on) in some of the designing process. Every bit of weight means the entire craft must be engineered to account for it - the total payload, weight distribution, calculating trajectory, power for the instruments, etc.

Source: I worked as an intern at NASA JPL last summer. I tried doing an AMA a while back but the mods quickly deleted the thread. I tried PMing proof to them in addition to what I had posted publicly on the thread, but I guess it got lost somewhere...

gbmustardvx202 karma

I always dreamed of being an engineer for NASA, but then I read that they couldn't use pencils because the dust could damage the spacecraft, and decided that that's way more responsibility than I ever want on my shoulders.

I have a lot of respect for you.

july172017153 karma

90% of being an engineer for NASA is sitting behind a desk with a computer.

sys_oop6 karma

that and sitting in meetings...

LebaneseLurker17 karma

My dream goal is to make it as a software engineering intern at JPL. I have no degree in it but I'm currently gathering experience at a decent firm and learning on my own. Any ideas/tips you can throw my way would be GREAT. :)

sys_oop77 karma

Don't forget that JPL is essentially owned and operated by Caltech. Check out contractors like Raytheon and SSAI. Also, every year in San Fran during the second week in December there is AGU, one of the largest science conferences in the world. If you can make it there, you'll meet hundreds of interns and NASA employees, contractors you name it. You'll definitely meet folks from JPL.

assfreckles14 karma

Except for 2017 and 2018 AGU is moving because of construction at SF's convention center. This year the conference is in New Orleans. Otherwise, yep, SF in December has many many NASA and JPL people in town.

sys_oop6 karma

Thanks... it's been a two years since I've been:

kidicarus891 karma

NASA always has the best booth at AGU. It's fantastic.

sys_oop2 karma

That's one thing I miss a great deal... meeting with the public at AGU every year and hanging with my friends from JPL and other places. Make sure you guys goto AGU and get your famous calendars... I think one year we gave away 20000 calendars.

sys_oop6 karma

Check out the office of the Chief Engineer deals with all software releases. Now like I've mentioned before... there's a loophole for websites and databases.

sys_oop4 karma

I don't want to get too deep into this, but it really depends on where you work and who you're with. There are some incredibly tight shops. The main focus when I was there was about security. The other thing is that there are so many contractors in the game, they want to make sure they keep their piece of the pie. I remember meeting with the software release people, and they told me immediately that "NASA is not a software clearing house", the process for getting an app through the system is hard and can take months. However, there is an exception in the rules for websites and databases. That's where I put all of my energy. NASA/NOAA do have some projects that people can contribute to--but mainly the programming gets done by contractors and folks who are taking home a paycheck.

imanewbie477 karma

Why does this feel like an ad?

sys_oop28 karma

Well, I don't get paid any extra for answering questions, and I was really thinking with all the news about dev-boot camp and the Ironyard. If anything I just wanted to get in front of people and answer questions if they have any. So, ad? Maybe, from some people's perspective--but it's just where I work.

IrrevrentHoneyBadger366 karma

Tabs or spaces?

sys_oop631 karma

Tabs of course.

piyoucaneat318 karma

What do you think of the over saturated developer bootcamp environment with Dev Bootcamp and The Iron Yard both shutting down in the last couple weeks?

sys_oop58 karma

I'll first mention that I've met folks that worked for both those boot camps and I think the instructors and staff I've been able to interact with are incredible people who are invested in their students. I think that as this young industry continues to grow, we all have to be careful not to grow too fast and to stay focused on making people successful.

milad_nazari180 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this. Here are my questions:

  • What do you think is the mistake people make the most learning web development?

  • Do you prefer (teaching) front end or back end development or both, and why?

  • Favorite Editor/IDE?

sys_oop293 karma

A mistake that I've seen, and this goes for web dev or for programming in general, is that people get too focused on some resource rather than just coding. The only way you can learn to do web dev is to learn about it and do it. Trying to find the best program or best book, that will just waste time. Find some coding projects you can contribute to and like... then go for it.

I really like teaching and doing backend stuff, really because I love the magic in it.

My favorite editor is vi, but for web stuff, I'm using atom lately.

UnmedicatedBipolar99 karma

Why do you feel like anyone can program? The vast majority of those who graduate from boot camp can't think critically, and programming requires many years of practice to master fully. Do you think you are giving people false hopes?

kuncogopuncogo12 karma

90% of web development is learning the basics and searching on stackoverflow and google, you can get by without that remaining 10%

sys_oop1 karma

Haha... totally true. Sometimes it takes a bootcamp to get you to understand the LMGTFY joke.

sys_oop2 karma

I don't really feel like anyone can program, and I do my best to make sure that people know that programming isn't the career for everyone. I don't like how bootcamps do advertise salaries and stuff like that... If it's any consolation, I try my best to help people decide if they are really right for a bootcamp style learning experience. That starts with finding out if they are doing it for the right reasons. Money is great and we all need security. Check out what James Gosling says about it... he created Java:

sys_oop2 karma

I remember watching this video by James Gosling, the creator of Java. He believed that anyone can learn to code. Look up his video sometime... he has a great story of how he was teaching his kids. If you really look at programming, it's about learning how to put together small pieces of knowledge, little by little. I think anyone can learn how to code... can they learn how to do it at a bootcamp? Well maybe not... some people are going to need more "background" work than others...

wickedbiskit84 karma

Do you accept the GI Bill?

sys_oop83 karma

Of our locations, only the Seattle (HQ) dojo accepts the G.I. Bill. We are still working to get all of our centers approved to do the same.

wickedbiskit12 karma

Seems to be the trend. You want more business, I would recommend getting this done as there are tons of vets that would love to have more options.

sys_oop8 karma

Being a vet myself I was excited to hear about this. In the military we did boot camp style learning cycles when we had to cross-train into different roles. You can also use the GI bill to pay for commercial pilot licenses.

rhiever64 karma

No offense to OP, but please don't use your GI Bill benefits on something like a coding bootcamp. Please use it to get a real education.

sys_oop32 karma

No offense taken. But a coding bootcamp is like a welding class in some ways (no offense to welders). It's just the beginning of the journey, not the end.

JavierLoustaunau83 karma

I'm a college dropout who way after the fact fell in love with Data and became an analyst. To what extent can a boot camp lend credibility to a resume with 'some college'?

sys_oop120 karma

I believe that programming boot camps are the trade schools of today--they are designed to give you skills that you can apply immediately. I don't think that any degree or credential is worth much if you can't actually do the work that you're being paid to do. I worked with quite a few people at NASA in the data center with no college but had a lot of skills and experience. A boot camp credential proves you can work hard, learn new things, and that you are invested in yourself.

OverallBusinessGuy7 karma


He might seem as well-intended, but make no mistake, he's trying to attract you to buy his bootcamp. Almost all of the AMA's are to promote something.

No sensible company would ever consider hiring you with only these "bootcamps" and they're usually seen as waste of time ['cause they are].

These are the people who didn't make it in the industry and are back at teaching and they might be good, but understand he's doing this AMA to promote his bootcamp.

He will say that "no, I wanna help", but get real.

What you need to do is get some fucking books, follow the codex and start doing stuff right away, then optimize, ask for opinions & code review and move on from there.

Actually, fuck the books, just follow any tutorial and then search for specific stuff.

Publish your work under a portfolio and if you're skilled enough, sky's the limit.

Please don't get involved with any bootcamps or so called "zero to hero" programs.

Treehouse is a great resource, honestly, if you wanna get up-to-date information and be part of a big, active community.

I haven't used it myself, but I did teach myself html/css/js*jquery in the span of 2 weeks, where I was able to write my tiny own bootstrap, optimize CSS for heavy cpu renders and other arcane things. It's all in putting in the hours, nothing else.

It took me a lot to understand the floats and how everything flows in a row, so, you'll have lots of WHAT-THE-FUCK-WHY moments, after which you'll still be confused, but don't worry, in time, it starts to make sense.

sys_oop1 karma

Yep, I am trying to attract you to a boot camp if it's right for you...

"Boot camps" have been used by everything from losing weight to becoming a good person.

But don't put words in my mouth sir. These are your opinions.

I_69_Gluten70 karma

I have almost zero programming experience, but enjoyed my short experience with Python. I am interested in learning more, so my question is: How much Kerbal Space Program do you play at NASA programming bootcamp?

sys_oop59 karma

I'm a big fan of KSP and I played it way more when I was at NASA than now. :-( At the bootcamp we want you coding not playing games...

BondChance32 karma

Where do you see NASA going? By this, I mean, better funding and better missions, or cuts to funding for certain sectors, and not as many missions? What are your thoughts on future missions, such as the Mars mission/s, and/or the unmanned missions to both Jupiter and Uranus?

sys_oop39 karma

I see NASA a bit differently, especially from the funding and mission side of things. For me, the goal of NASA has always been to create explorers and to make people want to learn about discovery. I personally am an "ah-ha-aholic." It's even better to give an ah-ha moment to someone else. But, at the end of the day, I believe NASA's mission is, and always will be to support people to become more curious--and to provide them with the inspiration to move the ball forward.

reed_hamilton23 karma

As a computer science student, my dream is to be working for companies like NASA or SpaceX. Is there anything else I can be doing now that will set me up for a career in the aerospace industry?

sys_oop12 karma

At NASA Langley they have a number of internships available. LARS is one of the more popular ones. I agree with some of the comments below though... networking. There are many ways to get involved. Also, get involved in some of NASA's mentorship programs.

SirTurboDave22 karma

What does Dan feel that CodingDojo has that other cheaper/free courses do not have?

What was Dan's favorite/most memorable day at NASA?

sys_oop20 karma

I think the main benefit for attending Coding Dojo or any other paid boot camp is that you have other people trying to achieve the same goal as you are. At Coding Dojo our goal is for you to become a self-sufficient developer. One thing about programming is that you have to code to get good at it, there are no shortcuts. We create a space for you to code as much as you can, provide you with projects and problems to solve, and people to help you learn. We don't steal learning opportunities.

As for my favorite day while at NASA, it was probably when I was able to goto Alaska and work with the Yupik tribes, the project was to bring NASA data into their schools. On that trip, I got to spend a day exploring glaciers near Whittier, AK--that was amazing.

Sete_Sois39 karma

But that's what every boot camp claims.

How do prep your students for tech interviews?

sys_oop8 karma

Our career services staff have our students do mock interviews, they give suggestions on their presence online and on paper. We also try to give them confidence and build them up--to that end we do algorithms every morning on whiteboards, with the focus on being able to solve problems in front of people and communicate those solutions clearly.

kbfprivate5 karma

One thing about programming is that you have to code to get good at it, there are no shortcuts

I believe this to be true. Coding Dojo claims 20 hours for 20 weeks is adequate to become a self-sufficient developer. How many of the 400 hours is spent learning a classroom environment vs hands-on programming?

sys_oop3 karma

You're thinking about the online program. The expectation is different for the onsite camp. There students spend up to 12 hours a day coding with demos and short lectures all through the day. Some days more than others. It depends on what the cohort is struggling with.

PotRoastPotato18 karma

Are there any new, growing Web technologies you would suggest getting familiar with for someone already in the field?

sys_oop3 karma

Look at how much snapchat charges for a filter... I think companies like facebook are all over that. You should check out some of the facial recognition tools that are out there and running great in the browser.

chumba_wamba116 karma

How did you land up a job in NASA and what were the requirements? (University, Experience etc) Also, this is my first time asking a question so forgive me if I did anything wrong.

sys_oop30 karma

Well, aside from always wanting to work at NASA I got my chance through networking. A friend of someone who worked there found out I was looking for opportunities and put me in touch. When I interviewed they were looking for someone who knew how to work with sql databases. I knew a little and I got hired! It was a lot of luck and timing.

freedom_larry4113 karma

Regardless of a college degree, coding camp, or self taught, what valuable advice will you give to those trying to break into the Web dev/tech industry?

sys_oop12 karma

Be passionate about it, prove it by building some things that you really love--do things well, and focus on making a contribution. You'll get noticed.

giantqtipz12 karma

Hey there, thanks for doing an AMA. This is my first question in an AMA ever! and it's because I'm an aspiring web developer :)

Could you share your "AHA" moments that significantly improved your understanding and/or changed your perspective on web development? Ideally a moment for each of the basic languages, HTML, CSS, Javascript :)

My learning progress has been up and down because I'm constantly doubting myself. Whatever code I write, I know it could be written better -- and then I don't get anything done because I keep revising the same code. Also, everyone seems to have a different view on "best practices" in terms of code structure, organization, and functional vs imperative -- and I can't find my own comfort zone. I think I just need something, or some concepts to "click" in, so I can discover that comfort zone.

sys_oop9 karma

Hello GiantQtipZ: Thank you. I appreciate the thoughtful remarks.

I can really only echo what protect-the-zebras has posted before me. That advice is solid as it gets. One of the biggest AHA moments was that I could do web dev for a living. That was a while ago of course.

Some of the folks that I work with have kinda thought I'm a jackass because I'll sometimes send out something to the other instructors about grit. But I've seen some people succeed with pure determination and time on station. Were they the best programmers I've ever met? 6X or whatever? Definitely. They did it long and hard enough until they were great--then they took a break.

Those AHA moments will come--but only if you keep working at it. My AHA moments might be your laughable ones. Don't compare yourself to other people's "best practices"--you can't code exactly like anyone other than yourself. We all have totally different backgrounds and experiences. Coding is writing, and expressing yourself. Your first projects are going to suck. But, if you're humble and you're willing to learn from your mistakes. You're golden. Good luck my friend.

hi_people11 karma

What do you think about the rise in data science a separate degree and field of study?

sys_oop21 karma

It makes sense that the more data we collect the more that we are going to want to figure out what to do with it. In terms of that field of study, I think that it’s the new gold rush. There is so much “raw” data out there that we can’t even imagine what to do with it. Data Scientists are people that can prepare data in a way that can help people understand problems. In relation to problem-solving, data science is key and I believe the field will continue to grow and gain popularity. “A story is just data with a soul.”

Johanson6910 karma

I'm currently in the last year of my physics Master and looking to get into a simulation/visualization-based field (for example game engine development). Can you recommend what I should focus on getting experience in or maybe a path for someone "fresh on the market"? Based in Germany if that's relevant.

sys_oop3 karma

Get into OOP. Check it out.

ThatOneNuge9 karma

What is the point of a bootcamp? Why not just use a free online tutorial?

sys_oop1 karma

I'd say that it's a place where you go and work out with other people and to leverage other people's knowledge. I don't think there is any magic or anything special that we do other than try to coach you and motivate you. Bootcamps aren't for everyone, and people quit. I think of it like a long training camp where you set some goals and go and work out until you are strong. If you can learn by online free stuff, it's out there and can totally work. Other people just like the environment.

WangtorioJackson9 karma

What do you think about flat earthers and how they believe NASA is in on the whole conspiracy to make people think the earth isn't flat, and have NASA guards posted at the ice wall that circles the edge of the earth, and magnetic waves that erase your memory if you somehow make it past the guards?

sys_oop19 karma

Well... I usually tell them to buy a go-pro and a zero-pressure balloon. You can fly the go pro up on the balloon to about 100K feet, and then you'll be able to see the curvature of the earth... Go empirical on them... plus you probably could do this experiment for under 500 bucks... Make sure you get some radar reflectors on your balloon though, and I think you need to check with the FAA.

UnethicalVT8 karma

So is it possible to get ahold of some of this jerky?

sys_oop9 karma

I make it mostly in the fall and winter... maybe when I retire I'll try my hand at trying to sell some of it. My base marinade/cure is 50%soy sauce and then 50% Worcestershire sauce, after that I find the hottest hot sauces and then add as much as I think I can handle.

pizzabuttsdrvemenuts6 karma

What schooling did you have and what IT jobs did you work before you landed at NASA?

sys_oop8 karma

I studied information and computer science. I did a lot of freelance work and I also worked as a systems administrator for a few years after I got out of school.

Mandalor5 karma

At what point in a career would you recommend attending a programming boot camp? Is is enough to understand what variables, functions, classes etc are and how they work or should participants go in with a lof of hands-on experience already to really get the most of it?

Bonus question: How many times did you have to clarify that you're not an astronaut when you told people you work for NASA?

sys_oop3 karma

Lot's of our students don't necessarily understand variables, functions etc... I think when you decide that it's something you really want to do, then go for it. Figure out it programming is right for you. Don't think about salaries or anything. I know that's generic advice but I don't suggest our program to anyone who hasn't spent some time deciding they love to work with computers. As for the bonus... haha--many many times... They especially got confounded when I told them I was in an Earth Science part of NASA. I got the alien question a lot as well.

Soulicitor5 karma

How often are you attacked for having a part in "covering up the flat earth"? You must be very strong if you are able to battle gravity as well as carry the weight of such a vast conspiracy on your shoulders.

For the record the earth is not flat its clearly a cube and thats why they think its flat.

sys_oop5 karma

Hilarious... I got to meet Neil Degrasse Tyson one time at an ASP conference.... check out what he says: I've been attacked more because people believe that contrails are evil.

derekcanmexit5 karma

I have very basic coding experience from my time in high school. Now I am a middle aged man who is interested in taking it up again and possibly switching careers. What has been your experience in teaching older students? Any success stories?

sys_oop5 karma

Okay, first of all we have quite a few students that are in your shoes. I'll say that for some folks it's harder than others... Overall though older students have way more skin in the game, and they work hard. That's been my experience. If you look me up on LinkedIn and PM me there, I can point out a couple of folks that have done well... but I'd say they were probably superstars before they came to us. If you think that programming is something you'll love doing then I think you should go for it.

Dom_Flannel_Guy5 karma

Hi there! I am a Computer Science student in his 4th out of 5 years of study. Although I find my major interesting and enjoyable (at times), I find that I truly struggle with programming. I am at a level where they expect too-tier coding skills from me and each semester, my lack of experience is causing me to struggle more and more. For someone who is in as deep as myself and who does not wish to leave my study, what advice do you have to get me back on track and more proficient into coding? Thanks for any response!

sys_oop6 karma

First of all you have to be honest with yourself about how much time you're putting in. If you're doing just the minimum then that's not enough. Learning to code comes from putting in time. I sometimes have to do things at least 3x to figure it out for real. Don't beat yourself up--Don't compare yourself to others--Keep solving problems and challenging yourself.

emrickgj5 karma

As someone in the industry and has works with Code School graduates, do you believe they are as qualified as their associates who pursued and obtained a 2-4 year degree?

Do you believe that some Code Schools (or trade schools as you called them in an above post) are much better than others?

sys_oop5 karma

My opinion on this is that they have different goals. Colleges have been more aligned with giving people the big picture and giving you some exposure to the skill you're learning. As for being as qualified, I've met CS college grads who didn't code much at all as a student in a 4year--and couldn't solve FizzBuzz if you asked them... but they know a lot about the history of programming and computers. But, then I've met bootcamp students who don't know anything about Alan Turing or Moore's Law, and they are really talented coders. They are fundamentally different IMO. I believe that like everything else, some schools and bootcamps are better than others... of course they are. But I also believe that you get what you put into both of them. It's more important for you to focus on you and what works for you best and your conditions.

locotxwork4 karma

  • How do you feel about the current craziness in the Javascript library wars?
  • Do you ever feel that most of programming is simply: Identify Data, Get Data, Store Data, Process Data, Present Data and that if you can grasp those concepts, then programming is pretty much trivial (aka semantics)?
  • Do you feel if the US does not seriously start teaching more tech/math/science in schools then we as a country are doomed?
  • Do you ever worry about security in your projects and if so, how much does that influence hamper your creativity?

sys_oop2 karma

A colleague gave me a book that taught me a lot about design patterns. So when it gets crazy, I just try to remind myself that it's the concepts that matter. There are more than one type of burger places out there... and there are more than one JS lib... the best one is the best for the job you're tasked with.

In a lot of ways yes. Problems that people want to be solved can sometimes get mundane and follow the pattern you're describing. If programming something can make someone's experience better I'll do it. Even if it's a little boring. Even though I might get lost in the code, it's still cool to see someone benefit from a clever program.

I don't think that we are doomed just because of one thing. As far as teaching and the specific subjects go, let's start treating our teachers and scientists like rock stars. When our culture swings a bit more towards the value that is created in our professors, teachers, instructors and mentors. I think we'll be fine. Think about it this way, remote sensing has been around for what... like 70 years? We are at the very beginning of the Einsteinian era in relation to science. I think there is way more ahead.

Of course, I worry about security. In fact, my co-worker was freaking out when he saw my "proof" for this AMA. He's the one that made me take a pic of my NASA award with my user name. I've studied photography as well... I thought it was like science and art mixed together and I loved that. I sat through a lot of brutal critiques from my peers for a while. Being creative is being courageous. No one likes it at first.

ps3o-k4 karma

Yo. How much experience do you need before going into a boot camp? Thanks!

sys_oop2 karma

We require that you have looked into programming, know that you will enjoy it and are passionate about learning. a little background information is suggested but not required. we believe we can teach anyone how to program and start from the basics

snorlz4 karma

Why does the NASA certificate look like it was made by a 10 year old in Word?

sys_oop2 karma

LOL, probably was.

kjdsgdsahasads4 karma

Do coding bootcamps really exist with guaranteed jobs at the end? I never finished my degree and I'm in a really bad situation financially.

sys_oop1 karma

I do believe that there are some camps out there that promise some kind of job. I wouldn't work for one that did though. They usually have a bunch of strings attached. It's about you... if you love programming and you are willing to code and learn, then maybe you have a good chance... but lots of times people who are great technically fail because of other things... like they can't work well with others or whatever. Soft skills are super important as well.

GoingOnYourTomb3 karma

Are aliens real?

sys_oop2 karma

Aliens are absolutely real and I know one named Dave.

ahhhhhhhhyeah3 karma

What advice you give to someone who is a professional developer (1 year into my first job) with a BS in physics who wants to work for NASA one day (in development or engineering)?

sys_oop3 karma

Network! Get out to some science related conferences where you know NASA will be at: AGU (American Geophysical Union), ASP (astronomical society of the pacific)-- start with the big orgs!

Anonymouz13 karma

How can I get a job working at NASA as a software developer?

sys_oop1 karma

Start applying on jobs at and also start telling people that you know that you want to work at NASA. They might know someone who knows someone. That's how I caught my break.

Pielo3 karma

Do you really use Chrome Ultron?

sys_oop2 karma


CoNcEpTInc3 karma

Are there aliens? Have you met one?

sys_oop1 karma


dim3tapp3 karma

I have been interested in getting into a coding bootcamp, but it seems like there is an overwhelming concensus on the web that these things are a scam and you're better off with book learning.

Are there any good ones out there that you can rep in addition to your own? What do you have to say to these naysayers of coding bootcamps?

sys_oop1 karma

All I can say is these boot camps are things that you get what you put into it. In other words... Boot camps are definitely not the panacea for learning. Everyone is different and there are plenty of people who join up on these types of things that absolutely shouldn't.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and when I first found out about the coding boot camp model I wasn't sold. When I went to train, I learned some things when I went through our boot camp, just so I could experience what people go through. That was an eye opener. The other thing that got me wasn't the curriculum or the facilities... it was the students. These guys are experts in all these other things coming in to learn. They were invested not in me, or the school, but in themselves.

What would I say to the naysayers? Sure: Are there bad schools, bad people and bad whatever out there? Of course, there are. Someone told me one time though, that I can always find bad stuff about something if I look hard enough for it. It was at a point when I was totally skeptical about religion... I wanted to throw it under the bus and I did in a lot of ways... but even though I had bad feelings about it, there were good things that come from it. My advice would be to do what you think is right for you, go out and meet the people that are working in the bootcamp you're looking at. If they suck--move on.

StruckingFuggle3 karma

Do you ever worry about reaching a tipping point where teaching people to code ends up more driving down wages than getting people into well-paying jobs?

sys_oop1 karma

I've never thought of it because I think that the number of people retiring soon is going to cause a greater demand in programs those folks were working on. I read a quora question the other day that got answered with something like COBOL still being used all over the place and that there are tons of people leaving COBOL based jobs. We can look at a lot of job figures but I think that there is solid demand for coders for at least a good while.

conanap2 karma

What are some jobs available at NASA for a CS student after I graduate (undergraduate)? Thanks!

sys_oop1 karma

So check out they have the civil servant jobs. For a job as a contractor: there are lots of companies... Start with SSAI, then goto Raytheon or one of the other big companies. You can start looking at companies that won IT support contracts and stuff.

thatguynation2 karma

You're my hero now. Where can I join?

sys_oop2 karma for NASA jobs, there are tons of great ways to get involved with comp sci and developing... pick one.

Arcanehavok2 karma

Where do I sign up for the programming boot-camp? I'm a propulsion system engineer and want to expand my horizon. Maybe something I can work out with my employer.

sys_oop1 karma

You can apply for Coding Dojo here:

However, before just jumping in, I would recommend attending an open house and doing as much research as possible. You will want to make the best decision for yourself so take the time you need to come to a conclusion.

judrt2 karma

Is there an ancient alien civilization on Mars?

No for real tho

sys_oop2 karma

Yes, there are probably Martians. Ancient? Obviously.

SpaceCat872 karma

In your opinion, where is the best place to start? I have been doing IT for years so am familiar with technology but I want to get into coding. How do I get going?

sys_oop2 karma

If you're like me, then when I was doing IT and was a big shot "systems admin", I felt more like a slightly higher paid computer tech. I was always fixing something or tinkering around with some hardware, like new UPS or whatever.

Coding is definitely a change. You should start from the very beginning and forget what you think you know about programming and programmers. Find some habits like playing codewars or solving code based algorithms.... I'll get back to this...

Corruption1002 karma

Has anyone asked about aliens yet?

sys_oop3 karma

Only about 100 times... but it's still valid... I dunno.

HempCO7192 karma


sys_oop2 karma

Yes...[sigh] There are aliens. One alien I know is named Dave.

scharkfin2 karma

Could you explain the programming boot camp a bit more? What all is learned in it? Are there any requirements/restrictions for those who can join? How does someone who would like to join do so?

Also, how was working at NASA? How did you get the opportunity to written there?

sys_oop1 karma

There are quite a few bootcamps and programs that get you programming. It's like a hardcore workout program where you code. You learn how to learn coding... at our bootcamp there aren't any hard requirements--we do check and make sure you're serious about learning and that you're not just in it for the money.

It was great working for NASA, in fact, when I interviewed for the bootcamp job I told the founder that I didn't want to leave and that he was going to have to convince me why I should. I was interested. Anyway--I got the opportunity because I was always interested in working for NASA (to be an astronaut) but my vision sucks so I would have never made it. Anyway--it was networking and just getting the word out...

billwithesciencefi692 karma

I'm a high school senior, and I wanted to know if a computer science degree or an aerospace engineering degree is preferred to be a developer at NASA?

sys_oop2 karma

I worked with a woman at langley who has a degree in Math, and I have to say she's probably one of the smartest and best programmers I know. I also know a geology major that's a front end dev... so while it will help get your foot in the door... If you can do the job people will give you a shot if you can get in front of them. Generally speaking though, employers could use more math people... at NASA and everywhere else.

queeflatifah3212 karma

How did you come to be a web developer for NASA and did it require more qualifications beyond web development knowledge and experience? -Current CS student

sys_oop1 karma

Well... first I let people in my network know what I wanted to do. I talked about NASA and eventually I got my shot. Luck and communications... goto places where you'll meet NASA employees. Every year they do some outreach things like NASA's Day of Education--And most centers have an open house annually.

middlefingerboss2 karma

My friend currently is working as an intern developing some wikis for NASA! He says there are some hidden neat Easter eggs that some developers leave on some of the pages. Can you attest to that?

sys_oop3 karma

Hmmm... I've not heard that one... I'm geeky enough sometimes to do stuff like that but I never did.

EricHunting2 karma

If one wanted to create a new and international TMRC around amateur space telerobotics, where would one go for help?

sys_oop1 karma

There is a guy named Nick Skytland that is a tech evangelist--his group runs the Space Apps Challenge. He'd be a good guy to get in touch with.

marcelloandres2 karma

Whom would you recommend programming boot camps to?

sys_oop1 karma

I guess I don't do that very often, especially considering my current line of work. But there are a ton of people that put all boot camps into the Devry/ITT boat without considering that some people actually do have integrity-- I'll get on with the answer:

I almost never know who is going to be successful. We as an org have tried to figure it out and, I've reached out to people like Angela Duckworth, a Stanford professor working with UPENN has been trying to figure this out. This is a cool talk if you have 6min:

So, if I had to go out on a limb--and put my reputation and integrity on the line. I probably would only recommend a boot camp style path to those who I could objectively identify the presence of grit in their character... and this would be super hard to do in an interview, right. And, so I guess I wouldn't recommend it to many. My job though isn't necessarily to pick people, I'm just a coach and a mentor. I can guide people, I am a good leader.

In many ways, I work with people that would have been successful with or without me or my boot camp. I would recommend that if you really really really want to code, you don't need a boot camp. We just assist you in that journey.

yes4me22 karma

How can I land a similar job at NASA? Is there any special requirement? Can I add you to linkedin?

sys_oop1 karma

Of course, please add me on linkedIn:

There are no specific special requirements that I know of, I do think you'll need to pass some sort of background (public trust) check at the very lowest level. Check out this website... they have jobs for NASA: and specifically in science.

Nsraftery2 karma

How do you feel having a fake job for a fake administration? This is what I'd ask if I were a "flat-earther."

As a sane person that adores science and space exploration, I'd like to know what you think of "flat-earthers" - do you have anything to say in response to their crackpot theories?

sys_oop1 karma

See my other response about doing an experiment to see the curvature of the earth with a go-pro and a zero-pressure ballon.

KaiSanTastic2 karma

What are the coding languages that you know? How did you learn them and how are some of the ways to practice them? Where do you think is a good place to start learning code(i.e. "beginner languages)?

sys_oop5 karma

I started with C++ but that was only because the college I went to taught that as our first language. It's object oriented and like zeinoth is saying it's more important to understand the concepts and knowing how to apply the language you know to solve a problem. Also, if you want to develop games then you need a language like c++. Once you learn one, it's way easier to do things in others. I play codewars when I have time just to keep sharp and solving new problems.

A lot of programmers believe that python is a good starting language because of its syntax and widespread use. We start with that in the dojo.

Right now I'm into a bunch of languages, and I've forgotten more than I probably know now.

sharpShootr2 karma

Hi Dan, I'm a Computer Science major at school, but at home I live close to JSC. So this past summer I was thinking about doing an internship with JSC for computer science but I've only completed my intro CS classes. Do you think you could tell me the expectations and required skills for a NASA computer science internetship?


sys_oop1 karma

Hey there, thanks for the question. I think the first thing you need to do is be on time... and first in line. That's key. The internships that people get are given to people who get their applications in line, and and also have some good recommendations. Make sure you're watching the NASA OSSI website and of course the JSC intern page:

KOSisKurama1 karma

You didn't work there when McKinnon did his thing?

Idk just found the mckinnon story neato and wondered about hacking nasa.

Thanks your hard work no real ? Here

sys_oop2 karma

Nope, that was a bit before my time. I did have a site that I was managing get hacked though. It was because I opened an account for her and it was a weak password that she was supposed to change. She didn't and it got dictionary attacked. Luckily the hackers didn't do anything very nasty, just a post on the homepage, and they didn't get past the firewall. We caught it though seconds after it happened.

nkleszcz1 karma

Thank you for this AMA!

My family is going to the Kennedy Space Center next month. Is there a hidden feature of that place that you most highly recommend families to check out, that few people know about?

sys_oop2 karma

Hmmm... I'm not aware of anything... "secret" necessarily... but make a whole day of it. I would say though that don't miss the VAB and the bus tour... the rocket garden is awesome... I dunno... if you know someone with a CAC card they can get you on.

BenderButt1 karma

If you had the ability to do so: would you mandate that schools offer Java or some programming language to count as a foreign language credit? I'm talking jr high/high school.

sys_oop2 karma

Yes. I think that we need more computer science and programming in our schools. the kids love it and are totally in position to be the best programmers we've ever seen. Plus, they are smart, have time and energy to solve the really hard problems.

killrwr1 karma

Do you have to be an American Citizen to work for NASA in Computer Science? (my country doesn't have a huge space industry, although with RocketLabs its getting there)

sys_oop2 karma

You don't, there are plenty of foreign nationals that are working at NASA. Again... check out and also look at people who are winning technology contracts. Each NASA center has it's own subset of contractors.

GKinslayer1 karma

Question, got a nephew who expressed interest in learning code, is there a resource you would suggest for a 14 year old kid to learn?

sys_oop2 karma

Totally, start here

PanchosLegend1 karma

I'm actually trying to start a local tech/programming club. Any suggestions?

sys_oop2 karma

Just fire up a meetup! I'm sure you'll find others in your area.

KJ6BWB1 karma

Why does your bio talk about you in the third person?

sys_oop2 karma

Yeah, cause I'm a redditor noob... I'll fix it. [edit:] I fixed it and re-wrote it.

realsjw1 karma

How do you make friends?

sys_oop2 karma

2cups of flour, 1 T of sugar, Water, 5 eggs, and beer. Mix and bake.

ada2211 karma

Do you use google ultron?

sys_oop2 karma

Nope--but i do have a soft place in my heart for comodo icedragon

Wolpfack1 karma

Also, what kind of drone(s) do you fly?

sys_oop2 karma

Right now I have a couple, but the best one is the DJI phantom 3 pro. I am primarily flying that... I did break the gimble on it though so it's going to be a pricey fix.

Wolpfack1 karma

Any thoughts on Iron Yard announcing they're closing yesterday? They are/were a pretty big outfit in the southeast.

sys_oop2 karma

Yeah--it's sad... one of their DC recruiters contacted me right when they went public with this--to divest some of their students to us and GA. She didn't tell me why, but just that it was out of their control

redline971 karma

What is you favourite OS?

sys_oop1 karma

Linux all the way.

NippleJoe1 karma

[Serious] What are the potential effects of a zero-gravity environment on natural breast enlargement, and what efforts are currently going toward researching this cause?

Thanks, huge fan.

sys_oop2 karma

So, what you're asking is really does skin get looser or stretch less in a zero-g environ? There has to be a bunch of research out there considering the amount of money spent in this area. I, however, don't know of any studies currently in progress on this interesting topic.

bnmhjkuiopl1 karma

What did you enjoy the most in your job ? And what did you least like ?

sys_oop3 karma

I enjoyed the freedom to greate almost anything I wanted within the scope of Earth Schience and Data Viz. I got to hang out with some great people and travel all over the place. I've been to every state besides Hawaii, and 23 different countries. What I didn't like is the paperwork... lots of that. Oh, and meetings.

salmjak1 karma

So this camp, does it boot from drive, USB or CD?

sys_oop2 karma

It's a network boot so via network card.

salmjak2 karma

You can do that? Learned something new today! :) (This actually answers some of my day-dreaming questions as well)

sys_oop1 karma

it was a clever play on boot and camp... I got it... but yeah you can net boot anything really.

jhoffmcd1 karma

Applying as a developer for NASA, do they put you through a hardcore code challenge?

Were there positions the focused on a specific discipline, for example front end web dev? Looking though some openings at JPL I only see fullstack positions.

sys_oop2 karma

During my first interview, I sat with a senior dev and she quizzed me on sql queries and how much I knew about postgres. They had already checked my references and I had a bunch of work online back then. I didn't get any code challenge at all. They were more interested in my team mentality and how coachable I was. There are definitely positions that are advertised as hard-core but unless you're working with flight or some hard core engineering group you'll probably have a lot of freedom to do things the way you want. At JPL they have a science education outreach team there--get it touch with them. There's a guy named Peter Falcon that is on the SMAP team and he will know a lot of places to find some jobs. These guys do science reporting work as well so they are the front facing guys in the org.

jhoffmcd1 karma

Great! Thank you for the info, lots of good advice I'm seeing here. Thank you for taking the time out to speak about your experience.

sys_oop2 karma

You're welcome. I'd post Pete's email here but you can find it online if you google SMAP + his name. Good luck! Remember that a lot of times the job requirements are written to conform with a contractual agreement rather than by the actual daily duties you'll be doing. And that the person that makes the hiring decision is rarely the person who's writing the job advert. In the interview, the main thing is to be confident and don't oversell. If you don't know something, say, "I don't know." and move on. I asked a candidate just last week to define a: "associative dangling pointer", just to see if I could get them to say it.

Aleusis1 karma

My question might be none of your concerns but there it is : I will enter a french engineer school in IT in September, and we have to go like 6 months in any enterprise for our final year, so do I have any chance to be accepted at Langley NASA center ?

sys_oop2 karma

Sure! you should talk with some of the ESA folks and the CALIPSO project... CALIPSO is a joint mission and I'm sure there are ESA folks involved. Get some guys to send you some recs.

PatrioTech1 karma

What's your favorite part of working as a developer? I'm currently a student and intern at a software company learning and I'm loving it so far! Thanks!

sys_oop3 karma

My favorite part is the problem solving part. And doing something that is of actual value to someone else.

kadam231 karma

Nasa has great snaps. Who's takes all snaps?

sys_oop3 karma

Those images are processed by the guys/gals at NASA EO. Great folks.

roger_ranter1 karma

Is it difficult to program and teach in zero G?

sys_oop2 karma

Nope. It's super easy.

nuclearwombat1 karma

Thanks for this AMA! Hopefully this question isn't too late for you to notice, it'd really mean a lot to me if you could answer.

In the fall I'll be a senior in high school. I'm currently the president of my school's FRC team, and have done the majority of the programming for the past few years. I'm really interested in getting into software engineering, the specifics of which I'm not certain. To best ensure success in the coding industry, what types and levels of education and skills should I acquire now and in college to keep myself viable and marketable?

Again, thank you so much for this opportunity!

sys_oop2 karma

nuclearwombat--so when you get into school, make sure you check out ACM- it's the association for computing machinery. They have chapters in quite a few universities and colleges. That will get you around people like you.

Aside from that, just keep your chin up--have fun with it and take your time. You've got your whole life and career ahead of you. Make good relationships with your classmates. They will be your co-workers and friends forever.

Your best skill is to remember you're always going to have to learn something new. Don't get bored with that don't become a C-teamer just because everyone else is doing it.

Last but not least, do what you really enjoy doing--don't ever let the haters get to you.

arthurstavern1 karma

Is 41 too old to land a Jr dev job if you completed a bootcamp? Would a bigger company or a smaller company/start up be more likely to hire someone my age? And last.. what are the best US cities for someone like me? Thanks!

sys_oop3 karma

Nahh... 41 is the new 21. If you have some skills and are willing to get paid a bit less at first--people want people who can do what they say they are going to do... but you know that. I think that any cities that we don't hear about like Cincinnati or Tulsa, or Grand Rapids, but have great economies and people are going to be where I'm putting my money soon.

matrixcode3211 karma

I'm having trouble getting into online coding exercises, which really sucks because I want to do it as a career. Do you have any recommendations for how to learn online?

sys_oop2 karma

Tough question because I've been there myself. I'd say that you try to understand as much about what you can't figure out and then ask someone on stackoverflow or someplace like that. Make sure you include a lot of your own code and the things you tried to do already. Don't waste someone's time with a question you haven't spent at least 20-30 minutes trying to figure out on your own.

prototype__1 karma

What is the most inane standard you had to meet/implement?

sys_oop2 karma

Every time someone would try to hack one of my sites--this would usually be on a friday afternoon, weekend or holiday--I would get a huge 100 page report of literally dozens of "vulnerabilities". We could start there but it would take forever. They were usually security related... but there was one time that I spent more than a week working with a scientist who couldn't decide what color blue was the best...

TheHopskotchChalupa1 karma

Are you the reason NASA's website is the only government website that doesn't look like the CSS was written in under 5 minutes? (Supposed to be compliment)

sys_oop2 karma

That's funny because I was one of the first devs to try to use drupal. They hated me for that. I hated myself for that as well on some days.

Heavyinbitcoin1 karma

Are you a spacex fan?

sys_oop3 karma

Yeah I'm a big fan of SpaceX and Blue Origin--I'm amazed by their innovations.

quarkquark_1 karma

Why does such an advanced space program use such an irritating font?

sys_oop2 karma

Probably because of budget cuts... ;-)

FreedomPanic1 karma

I'm an engineer and I lost my job, and I'm sort of in a rut. I have a biomedical engineering degree and I have worked in mechanical and manufacturing.

Any advice or info on how to switch my trajectory towards NASA?

sys_oop2 karma

Sorry to hear about that. Make sure you start looking at the jobs on could also look at other groups like USGS and NOAA as they work a lot with NASA. I know it sounds a little desperate, but post some NASA stuff up on your social media and let everyone you know that you want a job working for NASA because it's your passion and dream job. You never know who people know. I got my start through this path...

FreedomPanic1 karma

Thanks for the advice. This is legitimately helpful. I appreciate it. Hope I didnt come off as dower, I'm hopeful and I have some back up plans. I will put your advice to action.

sys_oop2 karma

I didn't think you were a downer at all. I remember feeling pretty down on myself between jobs in the past. It happens to us all, in that we all find ourselves unemployed from time to time. I think you're doing the right thing and deciding now that you have the opportunity to make the most of it and start vectoring in the direction that you want to make a change for something that you've always wanted. Don't sell yourself short now that you're out of work, or at the very least hold off as long as you can until you've really decided what it is that you want to do.