Josh Curry is Lifting as He Climbs

"So many underrepresented people in tech don't have that opportunity to learn about computer science. If I can give these skills to kids at a young age, that's the definition of paying it forward."

Josh Curry reflects on moving from the Bahamas to Atlanta, his path to software engineering, and what he hopes to give back to the next generation of computer scientists.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jamie:Hey Josh, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Let’s jump right in. Who is Josh Curry?

Josh:Hey, I'm Josh! I’m from the Bahamas and currently live in Atlanta. I moved over here when I was about 10-years-old and have been here ever since. I'm really interested in science and technology, as well as education. My interest in education is probably because of my mother. She is a teacher and instilled a lot of those educational values in me. That’s the short spiel.

Jamie:Wow, you came all the way from the Bahamas to the American South. What was that like as a younger kid?

Josh:Definitely a lot of culture shock, I would say. I came over here in middle school and started seventh grade. And you know, middle school is a pretty, pretty rough time. Coming over here from another country, there was also just a lot of stuff I wasn't used to in the US, especially in Atlanta. I had a really thick accent. When I moved here, though, it sounded like everyone else had an accent. I couldn't understand a lot of my friends for a long time. I had to get used to the lingo and getting around the city. Overall I think it turned out well. I met some really cool friends in middle school who I still talk to, to this day. They definitely made the transition a lot easier.

Jared:Let’s go back to when you decided what to do after high school. How did Morehouse get on your radar?

Josh:I've pretty much always been interested in science and tech, but I didn't know specifically about computer science or software engineering until high school. I met a friend of mine named David during my freshman year of high school, and he developed video games. I am really into video games, and I thought learning to develop them would be really interesting. So I asked myself, “Okay, how do I do this?” David gave me some resources, and I discovered more and more until I realized that game development wasn't for me. I didn't really enjoy it. I realized I was more a fan of playing them than making them. Through this process, however, I learned about programming languages. From there, I learned about computer science and the other career paths I could take. I started learning how to program and realized this is what I would want to do one day. Morehouse was an easy choice for me because it was close to home, and I got a good scholarship. That made the decision a little easier to make.

Jamie: It's clear you love tech and that you’re very, very good at it. What struck me as interesting is how you’ve used your skills to make an impact. Your projects thus far are very focused on education and social issues. What motivated you to use your skills for those causes?

Josh:A lot of opportunities I got while I was at Morehouse were through the Culturally Relevant Computing Lab and Dr. Kinnis Gosha. He runs the lab, and he put me into contact with a lot of companies, a lot of people who had opportunities for these things. After the first year of working in the lab, I was introduced to teaching opportunities. My first teaching opportunity involved instructing kids how to use Sphero robots. I enjoyed it, and I think the kids enjoyed it as well. I was kind of the first pick for any of the teaching opportunities that came through the lab from then on, which was great because I truly enjoyed them. I did one at Mays High School, where I would go every other week to teach computer science to the students. Last summer, I taught middle schoolers how to create applications with MIT App Inventor. That was a really fun one.

Jared:What about your background motivates you to teach as opposed to other, potentially more lucrative, avenues in tech?

Josh:It really goes back to the reason my family moved to the US. Back in the Bahamas, there weren't a lot of opportunities for STEM-related activities to learn about computer science. When I was seven or eight, I visited my uncle, who's been living in Atlanta for a while and did a tech summer camp. I remember really enjoying it and thinking I would like to be at a school where we did this all day, every day. After that, my family figured, okay, well, we can move to the US if this is what Josh wants. As far as the teaching aspect goes, I didn't really try it out until college. Even though my mom is a teacher, I always told her, ‘Nah, I'd never do that,” and “I don't really know why you're into this.” But after my first experience teaching—the first time you see the lightbulb go off in a kid’s head when they understand something— it was inspiring and motivating. You say to yourself as a teacher, “Okay, I'm doing a decent job, the kids are enjoying it, they're actually learning, they're having fun. They’re happy.” Even in like class, when someone needed help, I was always the first person to offer any assistance. It's just something I enjoyed doing.

Jared:How do you see this carrying on into your career?

Josh:Over the pandemic, I worked as an instructor for this company that teaches younger students how to code. I think having a role like that would really interest me. It’s funny because I was more focused on software engineering when I entered college. I wasn't looking into a teaching role before. But now, I would definitely be open to a Coding Instructor role. This kind of role interests me simply because I didn't have the opportunity until coming to the US. Many underrepresented populations in tech don't have that opportunity to learn about computer science. If I can give these skills to kids at a young age, then that's great. That's the definition of paying it forward. I'm giving the opportunity to someone who's just like me. Having that early experience in computer science could change their trajectory for the rest of their lives.

Jamie:Shifting topics here; you graduated in 2022 as the Salutatorian for your class. Was one of your goals to graduate at the top of your class?

Josh: No, not really. When I got the email, I was eating lunch. I checked my email sometimes during lunch, and when I was reading it, I was very surprised. I thought maybe they sent it to the wrong person or something. Honestly, I was just kind of just trying to keep my scholarship. I wasn't ever striving to be at the top or anything like that.

Jared:What else were you involved with on campus?

Josh: So I was a part of Codehouse, NSBE, and Japan Club.

Jamie:I see the connection to Codehouse and NSBE, but how did you get looped into Japan Club?

Josh:So I took Japanese my last year in college because I'm interested in Japanese culture and want to go visit one day. The Japan Club had events where they would teach you about Japanese culture. It's not just anime or either. There was a TA at Spelman this year from Japan, and they came and taught the Japanese class with the professor. They also went to a lot of the Japan Club events. Hearing and learning directly from someone who lived in Japan was a great experience. I really, really enjoyed the Japan Club; it was fun.

Jared:Very cool. So what’s after Morehouse? What are your plans?

Josh:I'm taking a little break. I think it's well needed, well deserved. Just trying to figure out what's next. I do know that I want to do something with teaching. Not sure exactly when or where, but I’ll figure out where the pieces fit.

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