It isn’t every day that you meet a senior software engineer who is also a trained opera singer. Kevin Lighthouse, senior software engineer for Apex Clearing, a PEAK6 company, is both—and more. He joined PEAK6 in 2019 after three years at Nike, where he was in software engineering for backend web development. Here’s what Kevin shared about taking computer science classes with his older brother, his team’s development process and the creative wonder of pirate festivals.
I’m a senior software engineer, and my role includes responsibilities for a position we call a “feature captain,” which is basically a team lead position for a sub-team of cash management. I interface with people in Apex outside of the engineering team, and then use that information to provide direction and organization to the developers on my team. As a senior engineer, I also provide technical feedback and direction for other developers on my team.
My brother, who is eight years my senior, was at the University of Utah working on his master’s in computer science when I was getting my bachelor’s degree in engineering. He convinced me to take some computer science classes with him. I immediately loved the work. I could stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. working on homework and found it invigorating, not exhausting.
Proud tech moment:
I’ve worked on scalable systems that were able to handle vast amounts of traffic. That’s really satisfying. But most of my pride in my work comes from the team that I’m working with and helping to form. At PEAK6, we’ve been given the liberty to determine our own processes and organization to push out quality code quickly that holds up to our high standards. It’s been rewarding to take responsibility for our own day-to-day work life, and determine how we can best meet our goals.
In a computer science class I took with my brother, we worked on a joint homework assignment in a functional language called Racket. We discovered that we could use Unicode characters—you know, those weird characters that let you type things like this (ಠ_ಠ) —to define the methods and variables in our code. One night we were a little slap happy, and decided to do our whole assignment in Unicode art. It compiled and ran and worked as a valid submission for the assignment, but it was an elaborate mural, complete with mid-line comments packed to the brim with silly pictures. Our professor was endlessly amused, and decided to take 15 to 20 minutes of the following period to present our masterpiece to the class.
Most of my career has been about making systems that are scalable for big data, but I’ve been really interested in security and static analysis.
When I’m not working:
I’m trained as an opera singer. I took private music lessons in college and continue to take private voice lessons. I auditioned to get into the Portland Opera Chorus this year, and I didn’t make it this time, but I’ll audition again in the future. There are a couple of yearly pirate conventions here in Oregon that I frequent. They are a bit like Renaissance festivals—big events with merchants and performers, and everyone is dressed like a pirate. The ingenuity at these events is remarkable. People show up with elaborate costumes and gear. A lot of camps will show up and build life-size replicas of ships and galleys, complete with a “crow’s nest” that you can scale ropes to get up into.
Throughout college I had a hobby of picking up old computers, installing Linux systems and getting them up, running and functional. I frequently used Ubuntu to get an operating system on them with minimal effort. I think it’s awesome that people are willing to pour their time and effort into something for the community, without compensation.
Tech for the greater good:
Income and opportunity equality are really important to me. People at the bottom of food chain have to work so hard to simply live and feed their families. Black Lives Matter is really important and I’m glad it’s getting so much attention right now. Voter reform is another issue I care deeply about. Our single-vote, winner-take-all system encourages a two-party system, and because of the “spoiler effect,” it forces people to vote ways they don’t really want to vote. I’d love to use my tech skills to advance any of those issues.
Best part of my job:
The best part of my job is creating professional relationships with highly focused and capable people, who are fun to work with and good at creating valuable software. I love to inspire and be inspired by a team that does good work.