Josh Larson

So, a little bit about me...

I was born and raised in Iowa, which is smack-dab in the middle of the United States. I grew up in a rural area, surrounded by corn and bean fields.

Now, I live and work in Waukee, Iowa, which is a suburb of Des Moines. It's a quaint but quickly-growing town with good schools and lots of opportunities.

Professional Life

I am a software engineer at Vox Media. I'm part of the Concert Platforms team, which supports the engineering products behind Concert, a premium digital advertising marketplace.

At Vox Media, my official title is Lead Engineer 2. Fancy, right? It means "senior with a hint of principal." I serve as a technical lead on my team for our ad placement library written in JavaScript, which is responsible for taking ads delivered by our ad server and inserting them into the article a user is reading in a friendly, non-obtrusive way.

I've also pioneered efforts to create a real-time bidding server which serves Concert ad creative to our 100+ Concert network publisher partners. It's a thrill to build a service that scales to 1+ billion monthly requests and to see it contribute directly to the company's bottom line 🎉.

More recently, I'm leading our team to build a self-service ad builder tool to support local advertisers and growth accounts at scale. We're building an amazing end-to-end user flow with React and GraphQL for the entire ad creation process, from uploading assets to entering payment details. I can't wait to share it with y'all.

I really enjoy working at Vox Media because I can work from home along with my other talented colleagues across the globe. Our culture is very nurturing, diverse and respectful. I love that I can go for a random afternoon jog and not have to make up the time later on, or mark a timesheet at the end of the day, or ask my boss for permission. I think a lot of workplaces could be like this, but the leaders do not place the amount of trust Vox Media places in its employees to do good work without micromanagement.

Prior to Vox Media, I was a lead developer at an ad agency where we created a bunch of cool WordPress websites for lots of small regional clients.

In 2019, my wife and I founded a startup called Barkpass, a dog park management and pet licensing software for local goverment and small businesses. We operate it on our own time, but we hope to invest more time into it as the business grows.

Personal Life

I married Bri in 2015, and we had a son Barrett in 2020. Our dogs Luna and Sonny keep us company. We get along awfully well together.

Our hobbies include watching almost every television show known to humankind, going on walks with our dogs, and hosting variety shows in our basement.

Music is a big thing in my life. I joined band in elementary school and learned how to play the piano, clarinet, tenor saxophone, and guitar. I joined the marching band at Iowa State University, as a sax the first three years and finally as a drum major my senior year. It was one of the most worthwhile and valuable experiences in my life. I still enjoy playing music with friends when I get the chance, and fiddling around on the piano during the day.

I studied journalism and Spanish while I was in college. Guess what? I don't work in either of those fields! But I did start my career as a broadcast TV producer at the local CBS affiliate in Des Moines. I produced the weekend morning news. I also did some on-air reporting as an intern. It was neat, but it was also a ton of work for not a ton of reward.

I was in Scouts as a kid, and I achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. I can't wait to get my kid(s) involved someday!

Miscellaneous Life

When I find the time, I try to give back to the community. I serve as the treasurer of the local chapter of the Lions Club, where we offer free vision screenings to children in local schools and daycares, provide eyeglasses and discounted checkups for adults in need, and hold fundraisers and food drives for folks who need help feeding their families.

I'm a co-organizer of a monthly local web meetup, where I push to recruit membership and speakers from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

I'm also a mentor for the Waukee APEX technology program for high school students, where I help teach software development using real-world, hands-on projects like Barkpass.

Bri and I built and maintain the website for a local pet rescue. It's also where we adopted our first dog, Luna!

Since 2016, I've been going to a CrossFit gym. It's been one of the best communities I've ever joined, and I really enjoy the health benefits and accountability of working up a few times per week.

In the past, I've been a newsletter editor of my college alumni band, an alumni adviser and treasurer for my college fraternity Beta Theta Pi, and a videographer for my college marching band.

My Principles

Here are some of my principles. These will change as I change, but they feel pretty good at the time of writing. Maybe they'll feel good to you, too, if you enjoy the ideas of a 30-year-old moron on the internet:

  • I'm a creator, not a critic. I've started noticing two distinct groups of people emerge in my life: creators and critics. There is no better place to notice this than the dumpster fire that is Twitter — where only hot takes and put-downs gain any traction. It's incredibly easy to put down someone or something, and it's so ridiculously hard to create something in earnest. I want to be in the arena and be a creator, and I love finding other likeminded creators.
  • Micro-activism will always beat macro-activism. I'd rather put my time, money and effort into improving the lives of people in my community than posting memes about presidential candidates 80 times a day or joining a pile-on about some brand's latest Twitter gaffe. If we spent more time caring about our neighbors and community leaders and less time being outraged about something happening thousands of miles away, we'd live in a happier and more just society. This doesn't mean macro-activism doesn't have its place: system racism and sexism exist at a macro level, and breaking down those walls requires both micro- and macro-activism. But I think micro-activism is absolutely necessary to get us there.
  • Curiousity is at the root of growth. I've learned so much by being curious and open to new ideas. The best people I've known and worked with are constantly curious. I'd hate to be surrounded by people who think they know how everything works — or don't know, and don't care to know.
  • Self-worth drives outward action. This is a hard lesson I've learned in my 30 years on this planet. When we don't feel good enough or fit enough or worthy enough, we often project these emotions onto other people in the form of anger, mistrust, and greed. I've been guilty of this many times. Thankfully, I've been reading a lot of Brené Brown and have been working on Rising Strong in my life. It's also illuminating to see that when other people lash out and put you down, it's almost always driven by their own insecurity and lack of self-worth.
  • People are universally complex. Every single person has a unique story, and their actions and feelings are the result of their own histories. They are complicated, lovely shades of gray. It's important to see this in everyone in order to grow closer. It's also important to watch out for the opposite: With few exceptions, if a person tries to convince you that someone is "evil" or "irredeemable," you might want to evaluate this person's motives. The same goes for if someone can "do no wrong" or has no faults in a person's eyes.