Hello there!

I’m Grant Backes, an educator who loves science and tech and is passionately studying web development. At university and grad school, I studied physics, engineering, and numerical simulation, so I’m kind of a nerd. I’m savvy with Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, and AngularJS, though I’m expanding my skill set every day I’ve worked on various projects, like BlocJams, Not Wikipedia, and Not Reddit and I have over 11 projects on GitHub.

As an educator, it is my professional responsibility to help my students learn effectively. I firmly believe that long and short term goals are indispensable to learning and that tracking your progress is crucial to achieving them. Accordingly, my study is driven by Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Time-framed or SMART goals (yes, I’m a mnemonics fan). You can view all of my projects for the next 6 months here as well as my study log and GitHub commit history.

I want to write code for you. I’m looking for freelance, part-time, or full-time work. I live in Tokyo, but remote work is also great. While my expertise is in Rails and JavaScript, learning new languages or skills is not a problem. If a particular skill is needed, I guarantee you I can learn it quickly either at work or in my own free time. Please shoot me a message or contact me through any of the media I’ve listed on the home page. If you fancy resumes, here’s one for you.

Where I’m from

I discovered my passion for writing code too late in life – or at least that’s what I thought when I was younger. As a senior physics major, I was chosen to be a member of an international research program, where I worked in China for six weeks writing code. Though it sounds cliché, I honestly fell in love with programming after my first “do loop.” When I returned from China, I continued my research, writing more sophisticated algorithms and picking up various skills such as using the command line. Although I have a strong passion for physics, after graduation I regretted not studying computer programming. However, being young and naïve, I told myself that it was too late. With the cost of a college degree, how could I rationalize going back to get another bachelor’s degree? I ignored my feelings and decided I should do something with my physics degree.

I decided to enroll in the graduate mechanical engineering program at the University of Minnesota. In graduate school there are few required courses, so naturally I found myself choosing courses which allowed me to write more code. After doing well in one such course, I was offered a paid research position, writing algorithms and running them through a super computer. I also did a considerable amount of work with simulation driven product development. Though I studied mechanical engineering, my 61-page thesis was based on computer simulations, hardly resembling what one might consider traditional mechanical engineering. Ultimately, what I enjoyed most was writing code and was once again left with that same sense of regret after graduating.

What I’m doing and where I’m going

I’m currently employed as a teacher at the prestigious Kokugakuin Kugayama, a junior and senior high school in Tokyo, Japan. I’m blessed to be residing in Japan, where I’ve wanted to live ever since first meeting my Japanese friends a decade ago. I absolutely love teaching and have an amazing job with fantastic perks. My passion for learning and study naturally led me into education. Helping others discover knowledge is one of the most fulfilling things a person can experience in life. Overall, I’m quite fulfilled.

After reading this, one might question why I want to start a career in web development. Ever since my time in China doing research in numerical computation in 2010, I’ve become increasingly absorbed in writing code and, in recent years, web development. I find nothing more fulfilling than writing some code, having my computer get angry and flash error messages, spending hours debugging and reading through Stack Overflow posts and documentation, and then finally getting it to work. I want a job that lets me do this every day; I want to be a developer.

But why Japan?

I never was the kind of person who dreamt of living in Japan from a young age because I liked watching anime and manga. I never idealized the culture, the food, the history, or any other similar aspect. Don’t get me wrong - l enjoy and respect these things, but that is not what drew me here. As a freshman in college, I found myself wanting to branch out and somehow I ended up at Asia Club one afternoon. I quickly was welcomed by a few Japanese students there, who quickly became my friends. Over the following years, we became closer, eventually becoming roommates. I met many foreign exchange students from Japan, and by the time I was a senior in college, I was hanging out with Japanese people on a daily basis. What drew me to Japan was the bonds I’ve made with my friends. After so many years and unforgettable experiences with my Japanese friends, I wanted to see where they came from. While I could have just taken a trip to Japan, I don’t think there is any possible way to adequately come to understand another culture in a mere week or two. I knew I had to live in Japan for a longer period of time. Considering I love teaching and Japan, moving to Japan to become a teacher seemed like a natural decision.