Wowing his new audience

Computer programming whiz Taylor Trimble (’14) leapt from the lights of theater to one of the world’s bright start-up companies.

This spring he launches his career at Nest Labs (hear Trimble talk about it)—famous for reinventing common electronic household devices such as the thermostat and the smoke alarm.

Q&A with Taylor Trimble

Hometown: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

What's your career goal?

I believe that more people than ever before need to be starting their own companies—and that’s what I’m going to do! It’ll be a few years from now, so I don’t know what kind of company yet, but I want it to be really fun and make things people will remember. I'm also excited to work for Nest this spring. I think I’m going to learn almost everything I know in five years from them.

Why did you major in computer engineering?

I started out wanting to study electrical engineering as a “just-in-case” fallback major, in case my career in stage lighting design didn't pan out. Which is kind of funny, looking back now! While I was at it, I found out that I was having more fun programming than doing anything else.

What do you love about computer programming?

You can combine a whole bunch of new things that used to be separate before. Like the other day when Amazon announced that they'll be sending package-carrying helicopter-like delivery drones to deliver packages to your house in 2015. It sounds so futuristic, but programmers nowadays make that kind of thing possible.

You can just go and build something really cool, really fast. I don’t have a super-long attention span, so being able to go from zero to done, and have tons of people see what I made, all in a few weeks—that’s really cool to me. And it is really cool stuff! Who doesn't want to make their own iPhone app or awesome website?

Where do you find inspiration?

I love it when two things that don’t seem to be related suddenly come together—things like swing-inspired hip hop, paintings with implanted LEDs that make them sparkle, food with weird ingredients, stuff like that. I think it's just a small way of reminding myself that thinking differently doesn't have to be hard.

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Taylor Trimble brought his computer programming skills from the world of theater into home automation leader Nest Labs

What’s one opportunity you seized at the U?

When I was a sophomore, I came up with this crazy idea to make a musical, computer-controlled winter light show on one of the enormous campus buildings. … We took over the Civil Engineering plaza and made this cool, 3D, all-around you immersive light show.

What do you do outside of class?

You can almost always find me in a lab somewhere working on some big project. The thing is though, that there’s usually a bunch of friends with me. So it’s not like we’re all by ourselves, mad-scientist style—we’re usually listening to music, cracking jokes, and enjoying working while still being together! We all kind of combine our work and play time that way.

Advice for freshmen?

Go off and start something on your own while you’re here. Don’t take research, volunteering, student group experiences, etc. just for the resume boost. It’s important to develop yourself as a leader while you’re in college, and the best way to do that is to start work on something brand new that’s important to you. That can definitely be research, volunteering, etc., but you should strive to be doing it for the right reasons, and be a leader in what you do.