Meet the 16-year-old computer programmer

A local high school student has gone from unpaid intern to money making computer programming wiz at Rocketspark in just two months.

Ryan Cherry, 16, started at Rocketspark to gain some work experience in computer programming and coding after showing exceptional promise at school.

Cambridge High School, where Ryan is a year-12 student, was forming a relationship with Rocketspark and they saw that he was over achieving in his digital studies.

Carol Webb, Deputy Principal, said the school initially came to know Rocketspark a few years ago at a Smart Waikato's Secondary School Employer Partnerships (SSEP) meeting.

“At that stage Rocketspark said to us that they would love to work locally with Cambridge High School and we thought that’d be great, but it kind of got put on the back burner,” Carol said.

Then, last year, Rocketspark was invited to an SSEP meeting at Cambridge High and indicated it was on the hunt for a student who would be a good candidate for some work experience.

“Ryan came to our attention because he was showing a great deal of interest and initiative around the use of technology, and we really did feel that exposure to an organisation like Rocketspark, would give him a very positive way of harnessing his interest.”

Carol said after chatting to Ryan’s parents, it became clear this was the kind of route he was incredibly interested in. 

“Ryan has spoken to me about learning first hand what teamwork is required at Rocketspark. Our teachers often talk to students about how valued teamwork is in the workplace, but when a student can come back and say, ‘I’ve seen teamwork in action and that’s how the industry works’, that is such a powerful example of what this kind of partnership really means.”

Ryan said when the school asked him if he wanted some work experience in computer programming, he jumped at the opportunity.

For the first two months Ryan learned a lot from Richard King, Rocketspark co-founder and developer, about Vue, a programming language. 

“It gave me a feel for the work environment. Then I got contacted by Jason Tiller, Head of Partnerships, asking if I wanted to do site migrations as a part time job and I was like cool! Steady paycheque!” Ryan laughed.

Jason said it had been awesome having someone with such an interesting mix of analytical and creative brain power on board. 

“Ryan has delivered some real value to us as a business, and I’ve really appreciated his conscientiousness,” Jason said.

Wiz kid Ryan now does at least two days a week after school hours and during the Christmas holidays he came in for a few full days.

“I migrate websites from other providers like Squarespace, Wix and all of those. So, I copy the website and create it on Rocketspark,” Ryan said.

Rocketspark has had great interest from people looking at moving across to Rocketspark and how they can bring their portfolio with them. Ryan has been helping with piloting the website import programme, in order to make the transition easy.

The website import programme means you can have your current website moved across to Rocketspark hassle-free.

“I have a group of friends from school who help me with it. It’s repetitive, but it’s fun because you’re interacting with the Rocketspark system and you’re learning how to use it and I can almost tell you where anything is on the system now without even going into it,” Ryan said, a big achievement for someone who's only been here for five months.

Outside of work and school Ryan likes doing a lot of development just for fun, stuff, he said, that nobody really sees.

“I play computer games too. I like to play Minecraft, I have my own server. I also like to play an older game called Overwatch. It's a first person shooter game, but it has a bit more lore to it. I like to stick to games, I don’t like to change every time a new one comes out.”

Ryan was in the air cadets not too long ago and even got to fly a few planes. 

“I love that kind of stuff, but it’s not really what I’m into at the moment. This year I’ve got into photography a bit, I’ve had my own camera for a while, but it’s nothing fancy. I’ve been taking photography as an NCEA subject this year, it’s my favourite, I’ve been learning a lot more about it and I’m getting credits while having fun.”

His favourite assignment so far was having to replicate another artist in his own style. 

He chose Anthony Goicolea, who stitches different photos of the same subject in the same place together seamlessly. 

Ryan used a tripod and his mate, Rees Williams, volunteered to be his subject, striking three different poses for the artwork. 

“We take those three shots and combine them together in photoshop and it looks like we’ve just cloned the person in different states. I’m really proud of it.”