Mike Rice is a juggler. Not in the literal, swords-swinging-in-the-air-while-he-breathes-fire sort of way, but in the side-project way.
Working on websites and playing with code was always a spare-time activity for Mike, 20, who has been programming since he was 13. So when he and a friend were bored one day, they decided to create a solution to their own digital-age problem.
“It’s really important for students to realize that what they do outside of school is what they’ll learn from the most. Do something in the real world that real people might use and get feedback from something other than grades.”
—Mike Rice, Co-founder of RememberToWatch.com and Web Developer at TalentEgg
“There was no real way for us to get reminders for when a new episode of a show was coming out. We had that problem a lot, like, ‘Oh, I missed that last episode of Entourage.’ So, how can we get notifications directly?” Mike says.
He and 22-year-old Paul Dufour built RememberToWatch.com over a couple of weekends over Skype while working on their undergrad degrees – Mike was a Computer Programming student at the University of Toronto, Paul a Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts student at San Francisco State University – and launched the site in November 2010.
RememberToWatch works by sending you free SMS and/or email reminders before your favourite show airs.
Then Mike presented RememberToWatch at DemoCampUofT, an annual event held by U of T’s Web Startup Society where students can demo their personal web or mobile applications projects in front of an audience, on Nov. 23, 2010. He says he “walked off the podium, went into the hallway and was approached by someone saying ‘Hey, I’m really impressed with what you’ve built, would you be interested in working with us?’”
His work on RememberToWatch landed him some freelancing jobs that expanded his network and enhanced his career to the point where his formal education was no longer his biggest professional selling point. His practical knowledge and skills were the star of the show, and his employers knew it. From there, he continued building experience and credibility through freelance work and the StartupNorth index, which ultimately helped him land a job as the in-house Web Developer at TalentEgg.
Mike’s experience so far shows that some things, like skills and ideas put into practice, can sometimes be even more valuable than grades and assignments. Having interests outside of class not only makes you a more well-rounded person, but it can also spark that moment of utter creativity that will be a defining moment in your career.
TalentEgg founder Lauren Friese says she believes that students make their own experience. “So many students and graduates face the ‘no work, no experience – no experience, no work’ dilemma. By identifying a problem and building something to fix it, Mike was able to overcome this dilemma and, as an employer, this definitely stood out to me.”
Mike’s best advice for students? “It’s really important for students to realize that what they do outside of school is what they’ll learn from the most. Do something in the real world that real people might use and get feedback from something other than grades.”