Who Am I?

Ahoy! My name is Dan Romero. I'm a software developer, photographer, and have a passion for drawing and music. I work with some cool technologies at Geometry in NYC. When I'm done with work, I spend my time being the best daddy I can.

Morning shift on the left - Evening shift on the right.

A few years ago I did a Q&A for Hofstra University I'd like to share with you. It describes very well how I got into computers.

1) Were you always interested in computer and technology? What made you decide to attend Hofstra and did you start out as a computer science major? What were your career goals at the time?

I don’t think I’ve always been interested in computers and technology. I was raised in a very poor neighborhood in Peru where having a phone or TV was an incredible luxury. I had very few toys that I remember, so most of my days were spent drawing and fiddling around with a toy music keyboard we had. I came to this country when I was 8 years old, and as I grew older, I envisioned myself either being some sort of illustrator (I loved comic books) or composer. During the end of middle school I started taking computer classes and got curious about how computers could enhance my drawings and music. By 9th grade, I was already well-versed in Photoshop and various music-creation software, and I started thinking I could be some sort of movie or video game producer. However, it wasn’t until I saw my older brother taking computer architecture classes that I was inspired to study computing itself, especially programming. The idea of creating software that powers creativity is really exciting. So I signed up for computer science, and that’s how it all started.

My old neighborhood in Lima, Peru.

I knew Hofstra was a great school with a matching reputation. Several teachers I respected went there and had wonderful things to say. I think I made the right choice.

2) What activities were you involved with as an undergraduate student? Any favorite memories?

By the end of high school I had already created a few web sites. I liked showing off my music and drawings, in addition to keeping a blog. However, I still felt there was so much to learn, so I wanted to get more exposure to move my skills forward.

I approached the computer science department chair at the time, asking if they needed any services. He gladly took me up on it and put me in charge of redesigning/programming the Hofstra computer science web site. When that project was over, I signed myself up as a student assistant web developer at McEwen Hall. Lastly, I took the “Independent Studies” CSC courses, led by a chosen professor, who guides you as you tackle a topic of your choosing. My area was databases and web development. I feel like all these activities, on top of my regular course work, created the foundation for my current role as a software developer.

My first computer book. The first book I read about
computer science that didn't make me fall asleep.

3) Are there any professors who served as mentors to you during your years as a student? How did they help you along your educational journey? What were your favorite classes?

There certainly are! To start, I have to give great thanks to Dr. John Impagliazzo. One day he glanced over my screen in the lab and saw that I was working on my website, and he asked me if I wanted to help the university. He was the one that encouraged me to approach the department chair. He also connected me to the job at the McEwen computer center, along with many other internships and job interviews. He really believed in me.

The next person is Dr. Simona Doboli. It was through the course work I did with her that I realized that I wanted to hone in on the Web and databases. My first “real” project was an e-commerce web site, where she acted as my project manager, in addition to professor and mentor. Aside from being extremely knowledgeable in databases, she was very patient and inspiring.

My favorite classes included "Algorithms and Data Structures" and "Computer Operating Systems."

This building (Adams Hall) became my second home.

4) Can you give a short description of what your responsibilities are at Ogilvy & Mather? How has your education at Hofstra helped you professionally?

Ogilvy & Mather is an international advertising, marketing and public relations agency that works with many famous brands. In a nutshell, through them, I develop web applications for American Express, Costco, Jim Beam, Ford, Lowe's, Heineken, and FEMA, to name a few. Technologies I use are .NET/C#, HTML/CSS/JavaScript, and T-SQL. There's a lot of database work involved, and sometimes I still refer to my notes from Dr. Doboli's class.

5) Although technology has changed tremendously since you were a Hofstra student, what career advice would you give graduating and current students majoring in computer science? I would think that students choosing this field have to be prepared to stay flexible and keep learning throughout their working years.

Don't just do what you're told. Go beyond that. The technology market is very competitive, so you can't just get by on the basics. Besides working on your degree, look for internships or some pro bono work. If you can't find either, find a project to work on so you can apply what you learn in the classes to the real world. If you can't find a project, ask a teacher. Never stay idle and keep moving.

Whatever area you're in, stay in touch with the current trends in your field. Read a book a month related to your specialization. Listen to podcasts and follow the Twitter feeds and blogs of experts. Technology is a moving target, so don't rely on your current job as your only source of knowledge.

Check out my learning resources for some ideas.

90's Technology

In this section I want to show you a snapshot of my tech life as it was in middle school and high school. I can't even remember the first computer I used. I do remember it was in 1991, when I was in 5th grade. I think this may have been the first computer game I played:

The Oregon Trail. I remember we would fight in class to play this game.

Up to this point, I didn't take computers seriously. It wasn't until I was 13 when I got what I thought was the best computer in the world:

AST Advantage. 133 Mhz of goodness. 16MB RAM, 512 MB of space. Yeah baby.

I had the same computer throughout high school and never upgraded it. The following lists the software I was hooked on throughout high school.

Sonic Foundry ACID. This is what I used to track songs I would make on my keyboard.

For some time, I was into playing Doom 1+2 and loved playing and creating my own
Doom levels.

Duke Nukem 3D. Who wasn't addicted to this? My friends and I would play after school -
sometimes at school on the network.

eJay Techno. I used a handful of programs for making music. I loved this program for
its hundreds of realistic samples.

FastTracker. I was also amused by the idea of programmatically making music.

GoldWave. My favorite sound editing program.

heXEdit. I loved the idea of editing executables back in the day.

One of the many games I loved besides Duke Nukem 3D.

Music@Pasport. My go-to program for sheet music.

Some kids can't wait for the new Harry Potter novel. I couldn't wait for
this book to come out. Part of how I learned Assembly language.

Photoshop 4.0. This was my go-to graphics program after I graduated from MS Paint.

TI-85. When I needed to program on the road, I would program on this thing.

Caligari trueSpace. I was fascinated with 3D Modeling and animation. I loved messing around
with this, but rendering took forever on my machine.

This was the first language I used where I realized there were endless possibilities.