January 29, 2015
Category: InspiringApps News, IA Team
Ralph was born and raised in northeastern Tennessee in a town called Johnson City as the fifth of six kids. He spent his childhood enjoying comic books and running his paper route. His love of the outdoors started early, when he frequently hiked the Appalachians with his scout master dad. When Ralph was 17, he embarked on his first trip west with the Boy Scouts to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. After seeing the vistas for the first time, he instantly fell in love and knew he would eventually head west permanently. After 15 years, the dream became reality.
But first Ralph studied journalism, then spent the next several years working for small newspapers in East Tennessee. He left journalism to study computer science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville after his sister – who worked in the computer science department there – showed her boss Ralph’s GRE scores and got him a graduate assistantship. Ralph worked at the university for awhile, eventually moving to research administration. When writing technical documentation for the department of network engineering, his boss asked him to make it available via the internet. How? A new thing called “the world wide web.” Within months, Ralph was making websites for the school using this new revolutionary technology.
Using his expertise in building websites, Ralph moved to Atlanta to work for CNN, helping to get cnn.com up and running in 1995. He states that it was really exciting work because “we were making everything up as we went along.” The first really big story on the site was the OJ Simpson verdict in 1995, followed by the Clinton/Gore presidential election in 1996 which killed the servers because of the load. “We couldn’t throw hardware at it fast enough,” Ralph recalled. During his time at CNN, Ralph helped to build the CNN/Sports Illustrated site, the financial site, and the politics site for the brand. He moved on to work for Cox Interactive Media and then as a contractor for IBM interactive where he helped to build sites for the Grammys, the NHL, the NFL, and the Hermitage museum.
Around that time, Ralph planned a vacation to Boulder, CO and then spent the next year looking for a job here. He found one with XOR Network Engineering and moved west in 2000, making that childhood dream come true. The company started to unravel during the first internet bust and Ralph switched to contracting for a few years. He contracted with InspiringApps and soon became employee number three (after Brad and Aaron Gerber)!
Ralph enjoys working for InspiringApps because “the work varies a great deal.” Ralph states that since InspiringApps is small, there is not a lot of hyper-specialization, allowing him to write code, talk to a client, work on a server, and investigate a database…all in the same week. “Our small size keeps us nimble and we have a good culture and environment. The location and view are wonderful and I’m still very much in love with Boulder,” says Ralph. “The scenery, the mountainous beauty that is right there. The bike culture is great. I like the outdoorsy culture.”
In his spare time, Ralph likes to tinker with hobby electronics (“pretty blink-y lights”), do a little soldering, and program Arduinos. He’s built some cool stuff for his trips to Burning Man and gets a lot of inspiration from that event and the amazing engineering and art on display there. Ralph tries to bring that inspiration back and integrate it into his work and non-work life.
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