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JOEL DEAN, SOFTWARE INNOVATOR

In this issue of Digital Life, we continue the Jamaica Computer Society’s Youth Innovators in Tech series with Joel Dean. He’s senior software engineer at Automattic which owns the popular WordPress blogging platform that has more than 135 million active websites around the world and powers 40 per cent of the Internet.

One could say technology was in Dean’s blood, as his father was a technician who fixed electronic devices like TVs, radios and eventually computers. A curious young Dean started working with old parts to conduct early experiments in his father’s workshop.

He credits his time at the Northern Caribbean University, where he acquired a Bachelor of Science in computer science, for exposing him to the world of software engineering, programming and app development. That is also where he entered competitions and collaborated on building apps.

“That [affinity for] innovation began its development when I was exposed to what technology can truly do from a theoretical and academic standpoint, and I was able to enter competitions and start my contribution to the open source world,” Dean said.

Being part of the open source community opened up new possibilities in the tech space for him.

“My life… changed,” he said, “because within this community there are no barriers on language, nationality, qualifications or the lack thereof – this space only cared about enthusiastic people who were passionate about sharing, people who cared about the greater good that technology enabled.”

Ultimately, however, Dean is convinced his passion stems from being Jamaican as he believes his countrymen are innovative by nature and out of necessity.

“Innovation truly means the ability to use the resources you are afforded to make a way and a dream a reality,” he says.

Dean has been blazing a trail, taking every opportunity to, as he said, “contribute”. This is why on his GitHub site you’ll find available for use several pieces of software, including a script that can create an animated effect for buttons similar to the animated effect on Twitter.

“I see us equipping ourselves with the right tools [in] this digital age as the next step to truly unlocking our creative freedom in a way that can end up changing the world. Do not fear the opportunities or the challenges that may be presented because it’s all online – everything you need is online,” Dean said.

At Automaticc, he has been heavily involved in core projects such as The Gutenburg Editor and the WordPress iOS and Android apps. Dean has worked in over 50 countries on projects that have reached over 1.5 million users communicating in 40 languages. He is the lead organiser for Google Developer Group Kingston and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.

Watch the full interview with Joel Dean on the Jamaica Computer Society’s social media channels – @jamaicacomputersociety @myjcs.