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The Tools to Do It Right Enterprising Aggie Wins Cash for Phone Application Since I graduated in December 2005 , the value of my Texas A & M education has kept growing. Without it, I would not have won Google’s 2008 Android Developer Challenge—with a $ 275,000 cash prize—for my cell-phone applica- tion, ShopSavvy. (This application uses the camera in your phone to scan the bar code of any product to find the best prices on the Internet and at local stores.) Looking back on my computer engineering coursework, perhaps the most critical skill A & M professors helped me develop was learning how to teach myself. Because of the con- stant changes in technology, it’s something I do every day. I always wanted to build things, and computer engineering was a per- fect fit— a nice middle point between hardware and software. Even when I had free time at A & M , you could always find me on my computer building something new. One of those ventures was Textbook-Trader.com, a Web site I created as a sophomore so Aggies could save money on textbooks by buying and selling directly with each other. I learned soooo much on that project: design patterns, best practices and the fundamentals of database 44 T E X A S A & M F O U N D AT I O N Rylan Barnes ’04 says the Incredible Hulk statue in Big in Japan’s offices makes a statement about the Dallas software company’s culture. design. It was my first Web site and I had to build it twice to get it right. The experience gave me a great head start in several classes. It also got me into a bit of trouble. I hosted the site on a friend’s server in a closet at Walton Hall. Students aren’t supposed to run businesses from campus, so I had to explain to admin- istrators that I wasn’t making money. Chris Pick ’ 99 , who had never even met me, learned about the server has- sle from a Battalion article and offered to host the Web site off-campus for free, which was a really nice favor. With Pick’s server, the site kept run- ning until I finished my degree. (Incidentally, I never made a dime off the Textbook-Trader Web site. So let me offer a bit of advice that I wish someone had given me: Technology developers interested in starting their own businesses should take courses in entrepreneurship. Running a business requires a different set of skills and knowledge than technology expertise.) One big step toward my post- degree career came from interning at Hewlett-Packard in Texas A & M ’s Re- search Park. It was a huge factor in getting a job after graduation, because you can’t get a job without work experience and you can’t get work experience without a job. These days, I work at the Dallas company Big in Japan, which I co- founded in August 2008 . We develop fun and exciting mobile applications for platforms such as the iPhone, Android and Blackberry. Our appli- cations are varied, but one we’ve just started is a set of tools to help people become more eco-friendly. This pro- gram, which is well-received so far, will suggest proactive and remedial ways of protecting the environment. The best part of my career is that I work at a place that encourages cre- ativity and at least a little wackiness. How else can I explain the bigger- than-life Incredible Hulk sculpture in our office? In short, I get paid to do what I love. I never plan to retire; I see myself building until I die. It was born in me, but Texas A & M gave me the tools to do it right. — by rylan barnes ’04