My Name Is Barry Paul — This Is Why I Joined Aha!
I discovered my two great passions in high school — windsurfing and computers. I loved spending time with my dad on the water, speeding through the waves near our home in Ireland. I also loved being part of a small computer club. I was fascinated with how I could visualize the math and physics I was learning in school, creating my own simulations of planetary orbits.
Both passions brought me the same kind of thrill — the adventure of harnessing something vast and mighty to create my own expression.
Computers brought me to Trinity College Dublin. During my senior year there, a group of us were recruited to work for a computer gaming company in California. The thrill-seeker in me was excited. After working at the gaming company for two years, I eventually made my way up the coast to Seattle.
I joined the research and development team at Siemens, helping to design and build new ultrasound technology. I loved the work and the Pacific Northwest. Both were new to me — medical technology and the mountains near our home, where I often went climbing and snowboarding.
Five years later, my wife and I decided to embark on another adventure. We left our jobs, sold everything we owned, and traveled around the U.S. and Mexico in a van with our 1-year-old daughter. Those 10 months on the road gave me time to reflect on my career path. I wanted to work in an area that felt challenging and where I could make a real difference for people.
I joined an educational software company, where I got to help design and build a learning program for professional development. My position there was remote, which enabled my family to live in the place we loved most — back in the Pacific Northwest in Hood River, Oregon.
The way humans learn is always changing. I wanted to take the science behind that and transform it into something useful.
Over the next decade, I continued to seek out an adventurous career — both as a consultant and as the owner of my own software company. I eventually came back to education full-time in 2009 as the CTO of a small startup. We built a “micro-learning product” that helped working professionals improve memory and retain information. I stayed there for nine years, scaling the engineering team and supporting our business as it quickly grew.
It was around this time that a colleague suggested I read the book Lovability by Aha! co-founder and CEO Brian de Haaff. I completely identified with the rejection of a VC-driven, grow-at-all-costs, business model. So, I went to the Aha! blog and read about the company’s principles and culture. Everything resonated with me.
I then signed up for a trial of the application and was blown away by how it could help build meaningful products. I saw that Aha! was built on Ruby on Rails, with the same tools and technologies I had been using for the past 9 years. It was one of those perfect moments — I knew I had to apply.
The interview process was both organized and highly technical. I spoke with several members of the engineering team and we discussed real computer science problems. The conversations felt meaningful. I loved talking through the more complex issues and knew I wanted to join.
At Aha! I get to work with a world-class engineering team that loves to share learnings and adventures.
I have also gotten to build some larger features — like the detailed views for strategic goals and initiatives. And I did a lot of work “under the hood” for our reporting engine as well, which resulted in our advanced filtering for reports feature.
The work is fast-paced, varied, and yes, thrilling. I am able to take everything I have learned about technology and harness it into a powerful tool that is changing lives for the better.
That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.