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Thoughts of a Recent Graduate: Tyler Jensen

'11 MCS Alum Tyler Jensen at Kiew Lom View Point outside of Pai, a small backpackers paradise in Northern Thailand.

Tyler Jensen is a 2011 MCS graduate. He is the Co-Founder & CTO at SpareChange Inc.

When did you graduate from Iowa and what degree(s) did you get?

I graduated from the University of Iowa with a BS/MCS in Computer Science in the winter of 2011. I took advantage of the combined 5 year MCS program but ended up completing it in 4 ½ years.

What has kept you busy since you graduated and what are you up to now?

After graduating I spent an amazing 4 years at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington working on 1st party mobile apps for Windows Phone and then switching to hyper-scale cloud services across Xbox Live and finally Microsoft Azure. Eventually I decided I wanted to travel and focus my skills on making a more positive impact on the world. I jumped at the chance to start my own company, SpareChange, after hearing an idea from a former colleague while we were at a computing conference at Twitter. Rather spontaneously I quit my job and moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand which is a popular spot for “digital nomads” who run various sorts of businesses remotely while taking advantage of Thailand’s low cost of living and excellent internet infrastructure. This was my first time leaving North America and it was quite the experience! If you ever have the chance to immerse yourself in a different culture, absolutely seize it. After a half year of developing an initial version of my app and traveling around Southeast Asia, I moved back to Seattle to be closer to my business partner and find networking opportunities to promote our app and raise funding. In April of 2017 we launched publicly on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and will begin looking for investors shortly. It has been a wild ride, and I could not have done it without the opportunities the CS department afforded me.

What does SpareChange do?

SpareChange logo

SpareChange (gosparechange.com) lets you make tax-deductible donations to any of the 1.9+ million registered non-profits in the United States. Specifically, you can attach micro-donations to different types of transactions so you don’t even have to think about giving back to your community. For example, you can donate $1.00 every time you take an Uber, or $2.00 every time you buy gas. We noticed it’s difficult to navigate the world of non-profits. If you want to make a donation to someone, often times you have to sign up with them individually, enter in your payment info, etc. for every single one. Even worse, a majority of donations today are made by cash or check. With our platform, you can donate to any non-profit using modern payment solutions such as your credit card, bank account, and eventually Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Paypal. I like to describe it as the Venmo of non-profit donations.

Tell us about some of your favorite experiences as a student in the CS dept at Iowa?

Most of my favorite experiences as a CS student were in extra-curricular activities. I was Vice-President of the ACM for 2 years and had a blast meeting other students interested in computing, planning events and organizing the University of Iowa Computing Conference where I got to design and run the annual coding competition. When I was in grad school I absolutely loved being a teaching assistant and helping new students learn the basics of programming. Being a TA was probably one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I also had the pleasure of being a research assistant for Professor Stump and Tinelli where I got hands on experience designing and implementing the initial version of StarExec.

What advice do you have for our students?

Take risks. If you’re young and in technology, the world is your oyster. Do bold things while you don’t have a family to support or anyone who relies on you. If you fail who cares, there is a massive shortage of good tech workers out there and jobs really aren’t that difficult to come by. I think a lot of people just assume that you get a job, work until you’re 65, then retire and die. There’s way more to life than that, but it’s up to you to truly live it.

 

Other "Thoughts of a Recent Graduates" at this link.