Introducing Alex Overbeck: Developer of Few Words
By Davey Strus /

Fretless recently added our fifth team member: Alex Overbeck. I stopped by a client site to check in with Alex a few months into his tenure at Fretless.
Alex Overbeck
Hi, Alex!


Welcome to Fretless!


Thanks for letting me subject you to this. It's become a tradition.

I like it.

A tradition that has lasted a whole two people.

That’s thirty percent of the company or something. Twenty percent.



So how did you end up here? What's your story?

Well, I started working as an apprentice for a different company, but I worked a lot with Miles [Sterrett, co-founder of Fretless]. You’ve been kind of a mentor of mine through the years, and it was one of those moments where the time has come.

So although you're a new full time employee, this is not your first experience with Fretless.


Do you remember the first project you worked on?

I do. It was a Rails upgrade, and I was not ready for that thing. But I got through it and learned a lot.

You survived the trial by fire.

Sort of.

Well, you're here.

Yeah, that’s true.

And you did a few other things for us between then and now.

Yeah a bunch of stuff. It’s been fun.

Mike actually went from a student to a client, to an employee, and you went from protégé to contractor, to student, to employee. You were in the very first cohort of our Ruby class at Eleven Fifty Academy.

I was.

How was that experience?

It was fun. I liked it. I think you and [Dave Jones] make a good combo. It’s always nice to brush up on some of the stuff that you think you know but you’re not really sure because you haven’t done it in a while.

That's very much the same from the other side of the table. If you want to make sure you know something very well, promise somebody else you'll teach it to them. That's the way to do it.


So rumor has it you have a bachelor of science from an art school.

Yeah. Sorta.

So what's the story there? You have the piece of paper, right?

I got a piece of paper. I don’t know…

That says bachelor of science?

It does say that thing. After high school, I went to Minnesota for a time to study graphic design. Found out real quick that I don’t like to draw, which is a big piece of graphic design. So I kind of settled on web development because I still liked the creativity and problem-solving aspects of it in a more technical field.

Now you get to tell something else to draw it for you!

Yes. And then I transferred back to Indianapolis, and then I got my apprenticeship [with Supermatter] through that program, and the rest is history.

I didn't know that. How did that work with Tony [Dewan, founder of Supermatter]?

Tony was my teacher, and in the JavaScript class, he said, “Hey, here’s this cool thing called Ruby.” And I said, “I like that thing. I’m going to do my final on it.” He said, “I’m going to fail you, because it’s a Javascript class.” And I did it anyway, and he gave me a D-, I think, just because he felt bad. But it worked.

You still graduated.

I did, and then he took me on as an apprentice after that.

That worked out pretty well. Way to be insubordinate! You're kind of the Dirty Harry of programmers.

Yep. That’s me.

I hear you grew up on a farm.

I did. Yep. A lot of seed corn and soybeans. I worked in the fields every summer.

Slopped pigs?

I slopped pigs with friends because that was what we did for fun.


It's like the cow-tipping lies, except it's actually true.

Right. But I actually didn’t see a line of code until two years into college. I still feel pretty new to this thing, but it’s fun.

Cool. I concur.
I think sixty percent of Fretless is now on the same soccer team. Is that right?


And I am among the other forty percent. I'm the sedentary twenty percent. I just stay in my basement all the time. The other twenty percent is fairly active but doesn't play soccer.

We scored a goal this season.



That was pretty cool. The development community is not exactly an athletic pool to draw from, but we’re pretty good this year.

When I hang around with the programmers in Indiana, I always feel like I'm still sitting among the jocks who just happened to go into programming.

Yeah. There’s some weird programmers.

I assume you're fairly fit. You look fit.

Yeah. I’m ok.

Miles is fit-ish.

Everybody’s fit-ish.

And Mike's an athlete. Mike's a soccer player.


But sixty percent of Fretless also plays table top role-playing games. This time you're among the other forty percent.

I played one.

Oh you did?

I did one. Yeah.

Was I there?

You weren’t.

Then it doesn't count.


Well I guess sixty percent was probably still there. Were Dave and Miles both there?

No, it was forty percent.

Oh, OK. That's a side thing. That'd be like if I joined some other soccer league. So when are you going to get with the program?

I’ll do the next one. It seems fun.

Although this is only the second of these interviews, I'm declaring this next question a standard question now: What's your favorite piece of science fiction in any medium? Book, movie, radio, drama, television.


OK, just one that you like. It doesn't have to be your favorite. I'm not going to hold you to the favorite part.

It’s still a hard thing to say.

What is a thing that you have liked? I'm not going to judge whether it's hard sci-fi or anything. Mike might, but he's not here.

Pretty much all of the things that I consume are some form of science fiction.

Then pick one that you like.

All right.

No one's going to judge.

Yeah, for real. I can’t name one. What was that sci-fi show that we were all into? I can’t remember now. [Editor’s note: The Expanse]

Yeah, I didn't watch it. I want to sometime. [I finally did. It's good!]

Yeah. That one. I like that one.


Fair enough.
Is there anything else you feel the world ought to know about Alex Overbeck?

Nope. Not really.

Ok. Well, it's been nice getting to know you a tiny bit better. Welcome aboard, and thanks for suffering through it.

Yep. Thanks.