Josh Erdman & R2D2 By April Cole Worley

One of These Things…

Josh was a technology-loving child of technophobes. Remember that song in Sesame Street “One of these things is not like the others”? Well, that about sums up Josh’s childhood. And it is not easy being the “one thing” unlike the others; particularly if you live on five acres miles away from the city and the only other child you are not related to lives at the end of a long dusty bike ride.

“My parents had no idea how to fuel my outlet – my love of technology and science,” Josh says. No real fault of their own, his parents just didn’t live in that world. Josh’s father was a Probation Officer and his mother had been raised on a 2,000-acre cattle ranch in Colorado; neither of which require the type of learning Josh so passionately was seeking.

It was not that Josh’s interests went totally unnoticed, however, at various times his parents tried to give him something to fuel his fire, though more often than not their gifts were either misguided or just downright disappointing. “I got a small electronics kit at some point, but I wasn’t allowed to have a chemistry set because my parents were afraid I’d blow the house up.” Josh says with a laugh.

Another time his parents bought him an already outdated and bottom-of-the-line computer in response to the enthusiasm he brought home after hanging out at a computer part store where he obsessively fired questions at the captive techs who worked there until he was satiated. “I routinely broke that computer trying to make it run better,” Josh admits, “and I would stay up until 2 am trying to fix it again before my parents got up.” Because technology was so foreign to his parents, the idea of anything electronic breaking was akin to a “technology apocalypse”.

But Josh was just getting started.

Fire Ignited

He would help his dad replace the spark plugs and change the oil on the family car, but he never wanted to stop there. Josh was always compelled to take apart and rebuilt the entire engine. “I was so naïve about the world that I didn’t even know if you could rebuild a car’s engine, but I still wanted to do it.” He says with boyish enthusiasm.

Soon Josh flew the coop and was free to dig as deep into his passions as his waking hours would allow. He studied Mechanical Engineering but he quickly grew bored of writing papers and wanted to build something so he switched over to Computer Science and during his junior year at Cal Poly he applied and was accepted as a 20-year-old intern in the IT department at Anheuser-Busch.

“I was a joke, being a socially awkward 20-year old at a beer plant,” he laughs, “but it was a good joke because it wasn’t long before Senior Management noticed that unlike their other techs, I could actually fix hardware, and they started asking me to work on their computers.”

These interactions with upper management were a confidence builder for Josh. It taught him how to be comfortable around strong leaders, and perhaps planted the seed for when it came time to develop his own leadership style as a man, a father, a mentor; and as Senior Consultant here at TekTegrity as well as President of Softec – Central Coast’s Technology Alliance that invests heavily in supporting the interests of young budding techies and scientists with their youth robotics programs.

It is no wonder Josh found himself leading an organization such as Softec. Over the years, he has successfully put his experiences (and frustrations with lack of experiences) with technology to good use by building an inspiring leadership style bolstered by education and outreach.

Paying it Forward

“A strong part of education is not just memorizing facts, but in that WOW! moment and that’s why I want to show kids how awesome science is!” Josh says with the emotion of a man that really could have used the guidance and support that he now offers local students throughout the county through Softec and other efforts (one of which included a lesson on air pressure and trajectory as demonstrated by a marshmallow gun).

“I teach kids that science works!” he says. “I loved science and technology so much, but when I was a kid it didn’t work for me and that was so frustrating.” So now Josh invests in reaching out to kids just like himself, who have a burning desire to learn how science and technology work but may not have access to the answers. “For example, Softec hosts these great learning events and they are promoted really well,” he says, “so kids that love science and tech can be sitting in their living rooms and see an ad for a Softec event on TV and say, ‘Hey dad, let’s go there!’”