A little, big island

How someone from the small island of Bermuda found themselves in the Silicon Valley

As a student enrolled in the Computer Information Systems program at Bermuda College, I would frequent the campus quite often. During a break I had in between classes one day, I decided to visit the library as this was not something I had done yet. I wasn’t particularly looking for anything that day until I spotted a book spine with a unique title, “Rationality and the genetic challenge: Making People Better? By Matti Häyry”.

The times between my classes were oftentimes long and dragged out. This time however, the hours flew by as I swept through the pages of this book. It covered the data science behind calculating obscure probabilities such as having genetic disabilities and other similar mathematics. After explaining the contents of the book to a great professor of mine, he recommended that I reach out to the head of the science department who was familiar with topics similar to this one. Without hesitation, an email was sent to her within the hour.

Her reply explained that she had just been conversing with someone from the University of Oxford who works with genomics and DNA sequencing. By some unimaginable stroke of luck, this person was on their way to Bermuda to host an event on this same topic!

The Bermudian-born doctor hosted an event titled, ‘Bermuda Principles: 4th Annual Conference “Impact on Transcriptomics”’ which I was invited to attend. At the tail-end of the conference, the doctor introduced me to a man who was a Bermudian entrepreneur. This entrepreneur was the co-founder of a math tutoring company for Bermudian youth and I had the wonderful opportunity of assisting him there for a short time. One day, a few months later as my life ‘returned to normal’, the entrepreneur reached out to me explaining that there was an internship role that would suit my desires very well.

Reading into this internship, it was notable that the company was a start-up in Silicon Valley. The very place where tech giants headquartered and thrived. The very place I strived to work towards and end up seeing one day. I spent the next month preparing my application. The company used Flutter and Dart, two things I had never heard of. After countless hours of working with things such as emulators, Docker containers and SSL certificates, I submitted my application. It was accepted and I found myself being interviewed by two of the three founders of the company itself. I was terrified, as this was the largest interview I had ever had. Showing off my extremely limited skills I obtained with Flutter and Dart, the founders were impressed with my proactive approach on learning their technology before even applying. Suddenly, I found myself working for a startup company. My first professional position.

During the first couple weeks of my internship, the company hosted info sessions, some of which were easy to follow concepts such as funding a startup, and what team work looked like in the workplace. However, at the time of the internship, the technology being built with the company was still in its birth year, meaning that everything was bare bones. The info session regarding how to work with the internet protocol the engineers had built was completely using terminal and command line. I dared to never venture into uncharted territories such as this one. I couldn’t believe that this group of engineers could remember such incredibly complex commands and knew exactly what all of them did! I felt so ignorant and lost during all of these sessions.

I decided to spend my 8 week internship developing an app called ‘@onboarding’. It holds some similarity to a released app called ‘@mosphere Pro’. Before the internship, I had never developed an app before, so everything I was doing was completely new to me. A new foreign language to learn. Although everything I was doing was in the wake of ignorance, I still went through it all with a smile and determination! Of course, I stumbled, and oftentimes fell, I always got back up and toughed every situation out. It was all for experience and I loved every minute of it.

My favourite part was the large showcase sessions where I had the opportunity to display all the work I had done during my time as an intern. The scariest part was always the audience as there were not only just the team members of Atsign in attendance, but actual investors. I was terrified, and I remember every time it was my turn to present, my mouth went dry, and my hands trembled uncontrollably. But I still always started the demonstration of my work with a smile, because I always reminded myself where I had begun, and where I was in that moment.

Fast forward two years later, and I find myself in an entirely different world, not as an intern, but the coordinator of the same internship program that I once found myself in. Not a day goes by where I do not appreciate the people who lead me to where I am now. I always looked at this story as good fortune, ‘a one in a million opportunity’, but I continuously forget how hard I had worked in my previous years to get here. I had forgotten the incredible connections I had forged during these times. Though I wish some of these connections were as strong today as they were in my previous years, I still owe them everything I have today.

I’ve often thought about what my life would be like without The @ Company (now known as Atsign), but such a life is mind-boggling at this point. I always dreamed big. So big that some people told me that I shouldn’t dream so unrealistically. But when I found myself in California standing in front of the headquarters of tech giants, not as a tourist, but as someone who was part of the industry, I realized that I was living the dreams of a Tyler long ago. So what’s stopping you from dreaming big?