Johnson challenges academic status quo, programs his own path to success

Senior Duncan Johnson.

It’s 8:30 a.m., and while most high school seniors fill the hallways and head to their first class, senior Duncan Johnson prepares for a day of coding.

Last year, Johnson began working for software company LittleSeed.io, located in Powell, Ohio.

Johnson said he reached out to the company in 2019 because he was interested in virtual reality game development.

The following year, Johnson started to work for the company on a part-time basis, and last year he was hired to work full-time.

Johnson initially developed a passion for programming in eighth grade and taught himself how to code through online courses. He has since created his own video games.

“I made a really bad space-themed version of ‘Oregon Trail’ with a couple of my friends, which I published online,” he said. “It has about 6,000 free downloads, but the game is horrible, though it was a great resume point which helped launch my path as a software developer.”

Johnson explained that LittleSeed.io is a medical technology company that makes games and apps for hospital patients. He added that the game he is working on helps children with muscular dystrophy.

“The game is called Active Workspace Volume,” he explained. “Players reach and lean their arms to shoot aliens and pilot a spaceship in order for doctors to gain data about their neuromuscular disease.”

Johnson said he began as one of the company’s game testers in the fall of 2020. He was a tester for them on a part-time basis, where he checked for potential bugs.

Johnson has been working full-time for the software company since December 2021 and plans to work for them through the end of May. He added that he works 30 hours a week and does most of his work from home.

“It’s nice because I get to set my own hours, only have to go into the office once every two weeks and I get paid,” he said.

Throughout his time working for LittleSeed.io, Johnson said he has attended several conference meetings with doctors from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and finds the challenges he has faced to be difficult yet interesting.

“Programming has a lot of elements of math and puzzle solving, which I enjoy,” he said. “It is the closest I get to feeling like a wizard because some stuff is really complex and when it works it feels like magic.”

Johnson completed all of his high school graduation credit requirements last year but decided to wait and graduate with the rest of the senior class.

He will be attending Tufts University this fall and plans on studying computer science. He added that working for the company has been an exciting way to spend his last semester as a high school student.

“It has been cool to learn from other programmers who have 15 years of experience in the computer science industry,” he said.

Although this opportunity has been a great experience, Johnson said being a newcomer in the corporate world has been hard.

“Since I’m not as experienced as other programmers, I feel like there have been times where my voice hasn’t been heard,” he said. “I think as I get more experienced with programming, this can change.”

If students are interested in following the same path as Johnson, he suggests that they plan accordingly.

“For anybody that wants to do something like this, I recommend that they plan out their high school career as soon as possible,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of ways that you can have a flexible senior year.”