Leaving a Lasting Legacy Through Meaningful Development Work

Written by: Nicole Hunt

From volunteering at his children’s school to creating development solutions for his local newspaper, Brandon Tilley is passionate about making the world a better place. As a Senior Software Engineer at Urban Emu, he channels this passion (along with his love of solving complex puzzles) into creating development solutions for our clients.

Q. You’re a Senior Software Engineer at Urban Emu. Can you tell me about a typical day for you?

A. My daily tasks change from week to week, but generally speaking, I like to start my mornings with learning and reading about development; there’s so much to stay up to date with within the development world. Then, I get my kids to school and walk my dog in the wooded trails behind my house.

When I start my workday, I tackle the small one-off tasks before we start our stand-up development meetings. After that, it could be anything. Last week, I spent a great deal of time working on security audits for one of our clients. I also made a last-minute DNS change for a client over the weekend since their outbound emails were having issues. Today, I downloaded and organized the monthly security scans for several clients. Later this week, I’ll be doing preliminary audit work for a new project that I’m looking forward to. I love that my days are varied!

Q. How did you get started in software development?

A. In 1983, my dad was a middle school principal. When the personal PC was first available at his school, he brought home what I’m pretty sure was an Apple lle. The monitor only had the color green. I loved games like Oregon Trail, Lemonade Stand, Microzine, and Pac-Man!

I got my first taste of computer programming that same year at the age of 8. I took a Computer Programming summer school class that year. The class mainly dealt with computer graphics using functions like PLOT and HPLOT. When Netscape Composer came out, I really learned what software development could do. Creating something out of nothing felt like magic to me.

Q. Do you have a philosophy when it comes to development?

A. I always write code so that either another developer or I can easily understand the code segments. Comments and documentation can help this process, but ultimately, it comes down to how I write each code segment. There are usually multiple ways to solve a task in coding. It’s nice to write the least amount of code possible to solve a task, but it is also helpful to look at someone’s code and know exactly what it is accomplishing.

Q. What do you enjoy most about software development?

A. I love that it’s different every week or even every day. I don’t spend my time on tedious or repetitive tasks. I also love working on projects I’m excited about, which happens a lot at Urban Emu! So many of the projects I work on have far-reaching impacts, so that’s really fulfilling. I also love that I get to work with several different tech stacks like Drupal, WordPress, and React. I basically get to spend all my time solving problems and working on complex puzzles.

Q. Is there a particular project you’ve worked on that has meant a lot to you?

A. The first project I worked on at Urban Emu was for a non-profit called 1,000 Days. They support children worldwide for their first 1,000 days of life – from birth to age two. I had no idea at the time what impact it would have.

I’ve also loved our work with MyPlate. My first realization of how far-reaching that project was was when I went to my daughter’s middle school and saw the MyPlate posters on the school cafeteria walls. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing my work makes a tangible difference for people.

Q. I know you do quite a lot of volunteer work in the community – including at your kids’ school. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

A. Yeah, volunteering is very important to me. Working from home, I don’t get to see my co-workers or get out in the world daily, so it’s nice to see other people locally by volunteering.

I volunteer in a lot of different capacities. I used to run the Dad’s Volunteer Group at my daughters’ elementary school for five years. I also coach a middle school swim club twice a year and do development work for a local independent newspaper in Asheville. Every year, they run a Best of Western North Carolina voting campaign that allows people to vote for the best-of-the-best in Western NC (in almost 600 categories). I manage the entire process using an open-source and custom-built voting platform and work with the entire voting statistics data set. I have also been involved with Camp CARE for 20+ years. Camp CARE provides a summer camp and year-round activities to children who have (or have had) cancer and their families in the Charlotte area.

I live my life by four pillars of improvement: improving myself, my family, my community, and those outside of my community. Volunteering allows me to accomplish the first three pillars. I largely achieve the fourth pillar through my work at Urban Emu.

Q. How so?

A. I’m not really capable of improving the lives of people outside of my community alone. At Urban Emu, I work on projects that have a positive impact not only on people outside of my community but, in many cases, the world. It’s amazing to know that my work can have that much reach.

Q. What do you like most about working at Urban Emu?

A. From day one, it has always been the people. I remember the first day I started at Urban Emu in November 2021. We kicked off the 1000 Days project. My morning started with a Google Meet with people I had never met. I had worked from home for the previous six years, and I had not had a video call with anyone during that time. All my previous employment standups and meetings were audio only. I didn’t realize how important seeing other people’s faces was. There are so many smart, creative people working at Urban Emu. It’s great getting to learn from them!

We’re so grateful to have Brandon on our team to drive development solutions that help our clients make a lasting impact. Stay tuned for more teammate spotlights.

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Urban Emu is an experience agency with a fast growing team of experience designers, facilitators, strategists, researchers, UX/UI designers, and software engineers that create innovative experiences to improve and transform businesses.

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