Show and Tell: Rich Cairns, Jr.

A Q&A with an IXL Software Engineer

March 4, 2015


Life at IXL

In our Q&A with senior software engineer Rich Cairns, Jr., we learn about the best BBQ joint in Kansas City, what he misses most about being a kid, and more!

The Basics

Name and title: Rich Cairns, Jr., Senior Software Engineer—Foundational Technology

Has been at IXL for: 4.5 years

Hometown and current city: From Wichita, Kan., now lives in Mountain View, Calif.

Life at IXL

Did you always want to be an engineer?

I studied computer science at Stanford, and I actually started programming in fifth grade. We had to do book reports, and I really didn’t like reading a whole lot, but I found this book about learning to program Basic, so I learned how to program and thought, ‘I want to do this, this is fun!’

What do you do at IXL? Give us a taste of what a typical day at work is like for you.

Our team is responsible for making sure the servers are running efficiently and making sure everything is on the up-and-up. We’re always trying to optimize things on the IXL website, because we deal with 30 million questions answered a day – that’s not a small number, and every year or year and a half it doubles, so we have to figure out how to support that.

What do you like about working at IXL?

I know it’s really cliché, but the people I get to work with everyday are really cool. A lot of people go to work at 9:00 and leave at 5:00 and never speak with each other outside of that, but here we go play volleyball and rock climb, and hang out outside of work. I look forward to coming to work as opposed to thinking, ‘Oh crap, it’s Monday.’

Life beyond IXL

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to play flag football on occasion on the weekends [see photo, right]. I love football, so in the fall, I watch college football on Saturdays and NFL on Sundays. I’m a huge Packers fan, and obviously Stanford as well.

Do you have a signature touchdown dance?

No, usually I just drop the ball. I actually got in trouble in high school a couple of times for excessive celebrating, so I try to dial that back!

How would your friends describe you?

That’s a hard one! You should just ask some people here. I think they’d say I’m sarcastic, for sure. [Editor’s note: We asked fellow IXLers to describe Rich, and here’s what they said.]

  • Eric McCrea, Sr. Systems Administrator: “Rich is predictably idiosyncratic, analytical, and anti-Apple.”
  • Jake Levine, Sr. Software Engineer: “First, let me thank you for this opportunity to describe Rich for the world. Secondly, here are my 3 words to describe him: loyal, eccentric (I mean this in a good way), passionate.”

What’s your favorite food?

BBQ, for sure. The sad thing about that is that originally, we were allowed to pick our official company photos, and one day at lunch we went to a BBQ place and ordered beef ribs, they very were large and covered in sauce, and I had a picture where I had sauce all over my face [see photo, right] that was my company photo for a year and a half! Eventually I had to have a more professional one taken, but that was a great picture! Anyway, I was born in Kansas City so I’m all about BBQ. If you were to go to Kansas City, go to Gates Bar-B-Q, it’s really awesome.

Just for Fun

What do you miss most about being a kid?

Recess. I loved recess; that was great! We got to go play football at recess. They ended up taking the football away from us and gave us a soccer ball, so we ended up playing rugby instead. And naptime—because when you’re a kid you hate naps, and nowadays, I would give anything to take a nap. I look back and think, ‘Why did I ever fight naps? Naps are great!’

Who would star in the movie about your life?

Ideally I would star as me, because that would mean I was still around. But my friends suggested Owen Wilson, who has a really crooked nose, because I’ve broken my nose an ungodly number of times.

Finally, where’s Waldo?

Spring training for baseball in Phoenix! I’m going there in two weeks, my family goes every year!

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