Neil Orzechowski: Sentient Like the Rest of Us
My first impression of Neil Orzechowski was that his Slack avatar was Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a personal favorite literary character. My second impression was his impressive resume, and as a bit of a finance-lore nerd myself, having someone who spent time on Wall Street piqued my interest. After getting to know him, I see that there’s much more going on than just a solid CV, a deep computer science background, and deeper electrical engineering chops.
Getting to work with Neil, I was unsurprised to find that he was a gem of a programmer, with a creative spirit that appears to be boundless. I am very pumped to have his mind aboard team Revelry to “solve all the major mathematical, physical, chemical, biological, sociological, philosophical, etymological, meteorological and psychological problems of the Universe except for his own.” Not that he has very many, but he’s a sentient being like the rest of us.
Neil Orzechowski, why do you do what you do?
They (the proverbial powers that be) say that every person should have three hobbies: One that makes you money, one that keeps you fit, and one that harnesses your creativity. I follow this mantra closely with the addendum that you must enjoy each respective hobby. Being a software engineer is not a career choice I fell into; it’s the hobby I most enjoy doing while getting paid.
What stood out about Revelry that drove your decision to join the company?
A combination of the flat team structure in which the expectations for all team members are uniform, and the flexibility and freedom to approach any engineering problem with a clean slate.
What is your programming language of choice?
I do not have a favorite overall programming language. My philosophy is that for whatever problem you’re trying to solve you should not be burdened to choose any particular language and instead make an individual decision for each case. For example, if I were asked to doing some web scraping I might choose python, but if I were asked to manipulate some excel sheets I wouldn’t mind choosing VBA if it made sense.
Which of your daily work tools is your favorite?
Any IDE with a good integrated terminal in conjunction with a pad of paper to doodle ideas.
Tell me what it was like to be raised homeschooled
I was homeschooled all the way through to college. In college, my peers were mainly surprised when they learned this. “But you’re so normal!” and “How did you learn to talk to people?” were a few common remarks I got, which to be honest were mostly warranted.
Here’s how I typically responded:
“But you’re so normal!”
It wasn’t like I was isolated from society or lived under a rock. In fact, I was the captain of my local high school’s track team my junior and senior year and when I did have to enter the high school most of the kids in the hallways knew me and were excited to see me since they weren’t tired of seeing me every day.
“How did you learn to talk to people?”
As mentioned above, I wasn’t isolated from society, and furthermore, my siblings and I were taught to talk to people of all ages meaning my communication skills weren’t just limited to peers my own age.
At its core, being raised homeschooled gave me freedom I didn’t realize I needed. I wasn’t required to wake up at 6am every day, I had a diverse set of responsibilities in the forms of chores around the house, I was able to study piano and violin at a high level and practice up to 2 hours a day, I was able to work in high school and make money, take classes at the local community college, and the list goes on.
Tell me more about why you decided to study computer science and electrical engineering?
I was inspired by my grandfather who was an accomplished and brilliant electrical engineer. Unfortunately, he passed before I graduated, but during my senior year in a Digital Signal Processing class I was thrilled and comforted to find a function in MatLab called stmcb(), an algorithm he developed while he was a professor at Princeton.
What’s your favorite sport to play or watch or geek out about?
I love playing ultimate frisbee, but my favorite sport to watch is basketball — a sport I have never played in any official capacity nor am good at in any stretch of the word.
Tell me more about that one wild or wacky job you held
I’ve had a lot of fun and fulfilling jobs throughout my life. As a kid, my best friend and I mowed lawns together and called our business “Neil and Ben’s Lawn Care and Computer Repair Service”. We only mowed lawns for a few dollars an hour (snacks and cold drinks were always a bonus) but Ben was good with computers so we bundled that into our business venture as well.
When I was 13 I inherited a job at a small organic beef farm from my brother when he went off to college. The owner of the farm was a Dartmouth undergrad and Harvard business school alum who chose to drive trucks for a living when he graduated. After that, he drove in a transportation unit in the National Guard, and eventually settled down in a small town in NH where he served as city manager and started a farm. In his early 40s, he suffered an unexpected stroke during a training exercise. Although he lost control of the left side of his body, he kept the farm going and most impressively kept his CDL. To this day he is the best big rig driver I’ve ever seen — he uses a knob on the wheel and shifts by tilting his entire body to the left.
In high school, because I was homeschooled, I continued to accumulate jobs including giving private lessons in piano and violin and teaching music one day a week at a local Montessori school. After I graduated and during summers in college, I started working as a carpenter for a general contractor — a job I got because my other brother worked there before he went to college.
When I started living in NYC, I worked at a popular bakery (Levain) on the Upper West Side where I served delicious ½ pound cookies to a revolving line of New Yorkers, celebrities, and tourists alike.