Meet Bob Weilbaecher: The Most Interested Man in the World

A doctor-turned-software engineer, Bob Weilbaecher joined Revelry just a few months ago after a 20-year-long career in medicine. While I’ve only known Bob for a short time, I can say with fair certainty that he is one of the kindest, most joyful people I’ve ever worked with. He’s also one of the most impressive human beings I’ve ever met. His parents—his father a doctor and his mother an artist—instilled in their children a love for the arts and sciences at a young age. Bob has always been a curious thinker with a wide range of interests and a passion for learning. A modern-day Renaissance man, or The Most Interested Man in the World, if you will. 

Before we get to the Q&A, let’s hear Bob’s story in his own words.

My journey to Revelry has been a long and winding road. I have always had many interests.

My Early Interest in Technology

At an early age, I began making things with a friend down the street. We’d use any materials at hand—old telephones, sliding door parts, string, Legos, Erector Sets, Capsella, etc. (One of my favorite projects was an automatic clothes hanger device like the one in the Jetsons. From the bed, you’d press a button, and your clothes for the day would come sliding along a wire out from the closet to your bedside.) As a young teen, my friend and I began programming in BASIC. We made a learning program to teach people how a computer works at the machine code level. I also made some games for the Timex Sinclair ZX81.

Programming for my Cassettes and Exploring the Sky and Sea

In high school, I did some programming on the Intellivision computer (think of an early gaming console). It had a cassette drive and I made a COS (Cassette Operating System) for it that I modeled on a DOS (Disk Operating System). Interested in science, I spent my summers doing research on bacteria at Tulane Medical School where my older sister Kathy had previously worked. 

I explored my adventurous side by becoming certified in scuba diving and doing wreck dives off the Florida coast. I also became a private Pilot, flying Cesnas at the Lakefront airport. My favorite thing was flying over Michoud, the facility where they built the Space Shuttle external fuel tank and are now building the Space Launch System (SLS). 

During one of my flights, I realized firsthand the importance of training and constant practice when a wind shear got under my left wing on a landing. It flipped my plane upside down when I was just fifteen feet from the ground. I was able to perform a maneuver to correct it in a millisecond thanks to my instructor who made me repeat that same maneuver hundreds of times in simulated emergency scenarios. I wrote about this experience in my college essay titled, “Any landing you walk away from is a good landing.”

Studying Archaeology and Sailing in College

At Columbia University, my interests shifted to Archaeology. (My favorite movie as a kid was Raiders of the Lost Ark.) During the summers I would go on excavations in France, Germany, and Greece. I was also pre-Med and worked in a developmental biology lab experimenting on the Drosophila fly. 

My primary extracurricular activity was sailing. I was captain of the sailing team for all four years and competed in 420s, FJs, and Lasers. It’s a great feeling when you become hyper-aware of your environment, noticing minute changes in wind speed and direction. 

My experience with computers throughout college was primarily focused on games—flight simulators, mech combat, etc.—which I continue to enjoy to this day.

Dr. Bob: Medical School and Beyond

I went on to continue my education at LSU New Orleans Medical School. I was a little busy to do any programming but continued to play computer games to relax in my brief downtime. I did my Internal Medicine residency at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Orientation gave me respect for the cold. I was told to keep an emergency kit in the trunk of my car (road flares, flashlight, blankets, water, extra gas, radio) because breaking down in winter can be a fatal experience. 

After residency, I returned to New Orleans and began working in an old-fashioned medical practice following patients throughout their health journey in the clinic, ER, hospital, and ICU. I later shifted focus to Emergency Room care in a city environment. 

Eventually, I decided to take a year-long Sabbatical to do some acting, which was a life-long interest. I took improv classes at Improv Olympic in Chicago and attended a three-month acting seminar in London. This was a very cool immersive curriculum with all aspects of acting covered—drama, comedy, improv, dance, singing (musicals), voice acting, and television work. We ended with a variety show performed for one night in the West End London theatre district at a large theatre. Admission was free but it was still a cool experience.

I returned to medicine working in rural under-served Emergency Rooms in Louisiana until Katrina took out my house and Rita took out my rental house. I moved to Chicago to be closer to my sister—and to escape hurricanes—where I worked ER shifts in the suburbs. 

Two years later I returned home to remodel my gutted house. I did a lot of the work myself courtesy of “Home Depot U”. I now know my way around a Miter saw. At the same time, I was working in a private practice internal medicine group, where I learned the valuable lesson that running a business was not my forte. I was heavily in debt and went back to working in rural ERs to dig myself out of the hole.

Back to My Tech Roots: Becoming a Software Engineer

After a 20-year-long fulfilling career in medicine, I decided that I wanted to get back to my tech roots. I moved to Austin and enrolled in a coding boot camp at General Assembly and learned the wonders of web programming. It was an immersive boot camp—probably about 90 hours a week—where we lived and breathed code. It was a fairly broad curriculum covering HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Ruby, Rails, MySQL, Postgres, Node, Express, Angular, React, Mongo, Meteor, Python, and Django to name a few. 

I had a very cohesive cohort, and we enjoyed both coding and going out on the town together. We did a hackathon right after graduation. I fell in love with hackathons and did them regularly while in Austin. I then taught at a coding boot camp and went on to work at a software company as a Tier 3 tech support engineer. I also built internal tools in Salesforce and React

After some time I felt the need to do more variety of coding projects, and New Orleans was calling me home. I found my way to Revelry last Fall and am loving the challenges and learning a ton. My life’s journey has had a lot of ups and downs, but I think I’ve made a good landing. I’m eager to see what happens next. 🙂

Q&A Time

See what I mean about The Most Interested Man in the World? In case you’re not already inspired (I don’t know how that’s possible) read on to hear more.

Why do you do what you do?

The prime motivator for me was to be able to do something creative and to build things. Being a software engineer is a nice mix of the artistic, the scientific, and the mathematical. It’s why I like code. You’ve got all these problems, and you’ve got a lot of different ways you can solve them. 

What stood out about Revelry that drove you to join the company?

The biggest thing was the bios. I went to the website and checked out the team and started reading everyone’s little snapshots. It just seemed like a cool place to work. And the mission statement resonated. It was unique. Revelry seemed like a place that not only had values, but they actually lived by them. The languages that we use here also stood out. I’ve always wanted to get into Elixir and Phoenix. To be in a shop, so to speak, that’s cutting edge is really cool.

What is your programming language of choice?

JavaScript is the prime language that I have. And Node. Those are the two I’m most comfortable with because that’s what I did my training in. But since being here I’ve been loving Elixir and Phoenix.

Which of your daily work tools is your favorite?

It may sound silly, but it’s probably Slack. It’s nice to have a resource where you can communicate with your team, and if you run into an issue you can get ready answers instead of being stuck in a hole. Being able to ask for help out in the open helps to save time. The more engineer-focused answer would be Git. Just to have that version control so you don’t mess up the code base is great.

What mobile device do you use and what app do you use the most?

I have an iPhone X and my most-used app is Sudoku. I use it all of the time when I need to get out of my headspace.

What non-digital product could you not live without?

My electric lawnmower. I just got it recently and have used it quite a bit.

Who inspires you and why? 

This is going to be the cliche answer, but my dad. I don’t know where it comes from, but he is the eternal optimist and a life-long learner. Even though he’s retired, he still takes college courses, he travels a ton, and he’s on all these boards. He’s constantly learning and exploring. When we were kids and went on family trips, we’d have to stop and see every museum, every church, every historic site. We’d wake up first thing in the morning and go all day. He’s just got such a thirst for learning. That’s how he’s always been. And he instilled that in all of his kids. And I can’t leave out my mom. She was an artist and she always inspired us to be creative and to always look at things with a creative eye. She was pretty amazing. She was on the cover of magazines and had her artwork in museums. I’ve always looked up to her. Her artwork is all over my walls.

What’s one of your favorite pastimes?

I’ve always loved reading. I have pretty wide interests. Philosophy, science fiction, fantasy, and high literature. I mix it up. And I love the arts. My dad and I enjoy going to art shows, plays, and various musical events around the city.

What’s your favorite Slack channel?

It’s gotta be #watercooler.

Favorite emoji in the Revelry Slack?

I just discovered this one today—:philosoraptor:Philosoraptor emoji

What’s the best thing about your job?

Being constantly challenged. I went from a field where I was an expert to being in a position where I have so much to learn and I have to ask for a lot of help. It’s humbling. But it’s good. I’m exploring new things, and it’s giving me new energy. You know, you can never learn it all. There’s always something new to learn, and there’s always a new way to do something, which is challenging. And I love the challenge.

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