Aaron is a co-founder of Pluralsight, where he serves as the chief executive officer. Aaron has spent years developing course materials and teaching professional developers throughout the world. He has presented at many popular developer conferences like PDC, TechEd, and VSLive! Microsoft recognized Aaron as an MVP in the “Connected Systems” developer community for eight years. Aaron has written numerous books, articles, and white papers, including the Essential XML Quick Reference (Addison Wesley, 2001), Essential XML (Addison Wesley, 2000), and his popular columns in MSDN Magazine.
Sramana: Aaron, let’s begin your story by reviewing your background. Where do your roots of entrepreneurship originate?
Aaron Skonnard: I grew up in Portland, Oregon. I was always in love with computers. My father purchased one of the first Apple computers as well as one of the very first Compaq PCs. He taught me the basics of programming and things that he had learned on his own. He knew that computers were going to be the future of the world. He exposed us to that as kids, and I just latched on to it. I started writing programs in BASIC in the early days of the PC.
As I grew up math and science were a big part of my life. They were things that I excelled in. Later on I went to Brigham Young University in Utah. I studied computer science there and graduated intending to be a programmer for the rest of my life. At times I was tempted to get a business degree or a law degree because at the time computer science did not seem that professional. It did not have as much stature as other professions. I had a fear that computer science would not take me far in my career, and at the time I think that was a common fear.
I played around with other topics and tried to do law for a short time. The reality is that I did not like the other topics. As I learned more about what it would take to succeed in those careers, I realized that I had no desire to do it. I always had a love of business and I was interested in the business side of programming. I decided to just get my feet wet as a professional programmer and then return for an MBA at some point in the future. That never actually happened because of how quickly my career took off. I never had time to do it.
Over time I evolved into a CEO role. I have done a lot of self-education and self-learning. Today I am in the position that I have always wanted to be in. I run a company that is dedicated to the profession of software developers. It makes me incredibly happy. I have had more fun in the last three years than I have had in my entire career.