Meet Our Team: Ben Allen

Ben Allen BitTorrent

Next year, you’ll see some amazing browser applications based on BitTorrent. Want to know what we’re working on? Well, we can’t give it away yet. But we can introduce you to one of the guys behind web initiatives. Meet Ben Allen.

From working in an art gallery to fixing up old motorcycles, Ben found his way back to San Francisco, and in to BitTorrent, as a JavaScript engineer. We asked Ben about the journey from OK to SF, the state of his bike, and the importance of staying curious. Here’s what he told us.

What’s your role at BitTorrent?

I’m an engineer of some kind. JavaScript engineer, web engineer, call me what you will…I collaborate with the Torque team to write applications that are meant to run in your browser.

How long have you been a BitTorrent user?

About 8 years by now.

What’s the last thing you downloaded?

I really like all of the old books and recordings available from the Internet Archive. Last night I got into a wintry kick and found exactly what I was craving: A recording of Debussy’s Clair de Lune.

How did you get into engineering?

Bootstraps. I’ve always had a predisposition towards understanding technical processes. About two years ago I thought I’d dip my fingers in this whole JavaScript development thing. I found a certain amount of pleasure in solving series of tiny puzzles, and quickly became hooked. 2 years later, I work for BitTorrent and I love my job. Somewhere back there I took the right turn.

Any advice for people who want to get into it, too?

All the knowledge that you would ever need is freely available at your fingertips. The biggest trick is learning to ask your search engine the right questions. After that, study, try, and fail, over and over. Once you’ve got that down, the world is your oyster.

Where are you from?

Oklahoma, and proud of it. I was born in Oklahoma City, but call Tulsa home.

How’d you end up at BitTorrent? Why did you decide to come here?

I wandered into San Francisco a few years back, not really sure why I’d come here. This city can be very taxing on those with no direction, and I was no exception.

After a year here, I found myself back in Tulsa working the stock room at a retail store. I decided that I wouldn’t last long, and definitely wouldn’t stay interested in my work. So, I quit that and committed myself to learning JavaScript. After a few months and some very ugly code, I was competent enough to get myself a job at a small design firm in Tulsa. It wasn’t much, but being able to work on that skill everyday allowed me to grow very fast as a programmer.

Eventually, San Francisco started calling me back and when I finally made the decision to move back to California, BitTorrent popped up on my radar and I jumped at the opportunity to interview. After using their products for years, I had to, right? Anyway, I guess we impressed each other.  They offered to hire me, and I happily accepted!

How long have you been here?

Since June. I’m still pretty fresh.

What do you like about working here at BitTorrent?

I think it really comes down to the people. This is the smartest bunch of people that I have yet had the opportunity to work with. They’re open, honest, and helpful. Couple that with the technical knowledge that sort of lingers in the air, and it’s enough to almost satiate my curiousity on a daily basis. Almost, but not quite. My curiosity is pretty insatiable.

Oh, and they have a huge user-base. The chance to write code that is used by tens of millions of people around the world is kinda neat.

What are you passionate about?

Learning new things and trying to become a better person in the process. That, and the people I hold dear. I’m fiercely loyal.

What keeps you busy in your free time?

This fall, it was working on a crappy old Honda motorcycle that I hastily bought. After ripping the whole thing apart and rebuilding it enough to reliably transport me around the city, I’ve kind of been at a loss for what to do with my spare time. I’m sure, in the next month or two, something else will arise for me to pour my energy into for a few months.

Other than that, I like to keep it simple. Bad beer with good friends and lots and lots of movies.

What’s a fun fact about you? Something cool that not everyone knows?

I’m a glassblower. I blew glass to support myself in University and one day I will have my own studio. By the time I am 60, I will have blown the perfect goblet.

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