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He got kicked out of high school in Ohio. Today, he’s the co-founder of a blockchain technology firm.

Parker McCurley - Blockchain Developer - Udacity - Student Success

Parker McCurley is the co-founder of decent, an exciting new software development and consultancy firm specializing in blockchain technology. He lives in Miami, spends his free time at the beach, and travels the world for his business. His company is making money, and he’s now contributing his subject matter expertise to Udacity’s Blockchain Developer Nanodegree program.

In short, life is going really well for Parker. Yet his trajectory could easily have been very different, were it not for his dedication to learning and one unexpected conversation that opened his eyes to a new career.

Parker spent much of his early years in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s fair to say his early experiences there didn’t contain much of a hint about his future success.

“I got into a lot of trouble growing up. I got kicked out of high school and didn’t do well with traditional education. I never planned to go to college, and ended up working three part-time jobs in Cleveland. I was living by myself and working 80 hours a week. It really sucked.”

Parker reconsidered the idea of going to college. Despite his low high school GPA, he managed to get into an engineering program at a local community college. The college environment suited him, and he enjoyed having more control over what he was his learning. His academic performance improved dramatically, and the grades he achieved in his first semester landed him a scholarship to keep studying.  

At the end of the semester, Parker celebrated by scraping together the money to take a trip to visit family in the Philippines. It was there, during a layover in Nagoya airport in Japan, that he started chatting with a stranger while waiting for a plane.

“I met this guy with a Microsoft shirt on. We started talking about what we were doing. He told me he’d just finished a cool internship at Microsoft, I told him I was trying to go to school for engineering. He told me bluntly that I’d find engineering super boring, and said he thought I’d find programming much more interesting, far more fun, and that it had better career prospects.”

The idea that programming might be a future career possibility had never occurred to Parker, but he couldn’t get it out of his head.

“I knew a lot about how computers worked. I built my first computer when I was twelve. But I always thought programming sounded really boring. I had nobody in my life who could tell me how it works, and why I might find it interesting. But that night, I went home and looked for programming tutorials. I wrote my first lines of code and immediately fell in love with it!”

Parker started voraciously consuming whatever programming training content he could find on the internet. Far too frequently, he found the quality to be questionable, or the cost to be prohibitive. Then he found Udacity, and our free Intro to Computer Science course. It was the turning point for his studies.

“It was amazing because it wasn’t just focused on how to write code, it was teaching me how to think like a computer programmer to solve problems. The course had really high quality content, and it was interactive, which really suited my learning style. It gave me the confidence to keep learning about programming.”

He spent the next few months studying with Udacity, working part-time jobs, and going to school full-time. It was difficult to balance it all, but his interest in programming had grown into a passion, and he wanted to turn it into his career.

“I kept learning programming because I’d decided I wanted to be a developer. I didn’t know any really successful people. The people I knew had hard, practical skills. Programming was a route to do something different to that.”   

As he developed his skills, Parker’s mind turned to how he could make money from software development. With nobody to give him advice, he tried everything he could think of to land a job.

“I really didn’t have any idea how to actually find a role in development. I started going to meet-ups with other developers in the local area to try to build a network. And I literally started wandering around town, searching for work. I began telling everyone I met that I was a software developer, and started wearing tech-branded t-shirts so people might assume I was already working somewhere.”

It was unconventional, but it ultimately paid off. He had a conversation about being a developer with someone he met at a networking dinner. Their discussions continued over several more days, as they explored ways they might work together. The end result was that he was offered a job! It was the first of many successes to come.

“Programming is not easy, so I got a job to be better at it. It meant I could use the skills I was learning, and get better at applying them. Once I had the skills down, I was able to quickly move up at the companies where I worked, because I worked hard and was really productive.”

Parker left college, and flew to San Francisco with one goal in mind: to buy dinner for that person he met in Nagoya airport! He hasn’t looked back since. After honing his skills at several different companies, Parker launched his own software company focused on the blockchain space, with a contact he’d first met during his networking days going to meet-ups. In less than six months, they were successful enough to run the business full-time. They’re closing in on the two-year mark now, and already they’ve built a profitable business, with clients across the US.

Success has enabled Parker to fulfill a personal dream to live near the beach. He’s moved to Miami, and is extremely happy to be building his business in a city he loves.

“From where I am now, I can see how far I’ve come. I’ve changed my life, travelled the world, met new people, and done stuff I never thought I would do. And because I taught myself, with free resources and content, I nimbly avoided student loans in the process! Ultimately, I think trying to learn something all the time is the most important factor for any success.”

Congratulations on everything you’ve achieved Parker! We’re keen to see how your business continues to flourish, and we’re really pleased that students will have the benefit of your experience as part of the Blockchain Developer Nanodegree program. Keep on learning something all the time!

Adam Lane
Adam Lane
Adam Lane is a writer at Udacity. Happiest when telling stories and arguing over commas, he has previously written about topics such as education, law, the energy sector, and travel.