Stuart Pearman entered the world of web development while he was getting his undergraduate degree in media and information at Michigan State University. He started developing as a way to make his own tools and enhance his designs, but before long, he found that he loved web development for its own sake. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Stuart spent several years freelancing as a designer and developer before joining the LaFleur team as a full-time web developer in 2018.
At LaFleur, Stuart loves applying creativity to solve complex problems and collaborating with team members from diverse backgrounds. We sat down with Stuart to get the story on his journey to becoming a full-time developer, his life as a serial hobbyist, and the rickety van he bought that continues to haunt him.
LaFleur: So how would you characterize your role at LaFleur? Are you more of a designer or developer? I know you do a bit of both.
Stuart Pearman: I would say I’m more of a developer for sure. I’m doing a lot of automation right now, setting up workflows and emails and stuff like that. I do a little design, but that’s just sort of as part of the job I’d say.
LF: And what’s your background? Did you go to school for web development?
SP: Yeah. I went to school with kind of a general media degree, so it was sort of dipping my toe in a lot of different things. I did some design classes, took some coding classes, and studied web development stuff as well as all sorts of other stuff. I took a journalism class, entrepreneurship — all sorts of crazy things.
LF: So were you still going through a journey of figuring out what you wanted to do at that time?
SP: Yeah, I would say so. I wanted to take as many fun classes as I could and find something that clicked with me. There were a lot of things I enjoyed in school. So if I had wanted to go the design route, I would have been fine with that. If I had done more game development, I would have been fine with that too, but I ended up going with web development because it was easy to get something working quickly and I enjoyed the balance of technical and creative.
LF: Have you always been into that sort of balance between the technical and creative sides?
SP: Yeah, I’d say so. For sure. I’ve always liked drawing and creative stuff, but I also always liked math. I was big into chess as a kid. I would go into Barnes & Noble and play old guys in chess as a kid. So I’ve always kind of liked both sides of things.
LF: How did you end up getting connected with LaFleur
SP: I’ve known [LaFleur Front-End Developer and Designer] Nick [Wright] for a long time. I knew he worked for LaFleur for a while before I started to really know what it was he was doing. I knew he was doing web development and design, but I knew nothing about LaFleur. I was freelancing when he got the job, and I was pretty happy with where I was at, but eventually, I started looking for other opportunities. Around the time when Nick got sent to Epicurrence, I started to think LaFleur might be kind of a cool place. Eventually, while I was in the job hunt, Chip and Falon got ahold of me. They brought me in for an interview, and within a few days we were moving forward.
LF: That’s pretty fast. What was your impression of LaFleur at that time?
SP: I’d interviewed a few places already. When they brought me in, I was in the late stages of an interview process with another company. What I really liked about LaFleur was that it seemed like a friendly atmosphere. Everyone laughed a ton during my interview, and when I was walking through, there was just this great vibe where everyone was joking and having a nice time. So that’s one thing that drew me. And during the interview process, Chip talked about culture for the entire time and we barely talked about technical stuff; that stuff is important, but just the fact that he was really thinking about what makes a place a good place to work is what finally made me choose LaFleur over anywhere else.
LF: So, I know you and Nick go back a long way, and Nick is a pretty big gamer. Are you as well?
SP: I definitely play a lot of games, but I’m not as big a gamer as Nick. I do really like them, but I never seem to have as much time to play all the games I want to play. So that’s always a bummer. I always want to play more games, but I can never seem to prioritize them.
LF: I feel like it’s becoming tougher even if you’re a bona fide gamer to play all the games you want. The games are getting so involved and expansive. I’ve heard a few people I know talk about that new Red Dead Redemption game and almost sort of in the same breath praising and lamenting the amount of stuff you can do in the game. It’s like, “If I want to finish this game I paid for and do most of the stuff in the game, it’s going to take me 100 hours of my life.”
SP: Right yeah. It’s kind of tough because I’ve poured a ton of hours into Zelda and there’s still so much more I can do in the game. And meanwhile, there are other games popping up that are fun to play like Smash Bros. and Kingdom Hearts. I want to play them all, but there’s never enough time.
LF: I feel like that’s true of media in general these days. There are so many games, so many shows, so many movies.
SP: It really is just kind of exploding. You have to make some tough cuts.
LF: So what else do you like to do with that precious free time?
SP: I kind of get into these zones where I’ll explore different hobbies and get really into them for a bit. Right now, I’m doing a lot of music and guitar and teaching my girlfriend to play guitar and piano and stuff. That’s been kind of my main thing at the moment. For a bit, I was really getting into plants and trying to figure out how to take care of those and that was my thing. At different times, I’ve been really into woodworking or volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to try and figure that stuff out. But I’d say for the most part, at any given time I’ll have something I really get into for a while, and it takes up most of my time.
LF: I kind of operate the same way. Do you ever feel sort of jealous of people who can focus on one thing and how good they can get at that thing?
SP: Kind of. Honestly, I wish I could do a bunch of things with a ton of proficiency, but I know that’s not really how it works. I’ve kind of made my peace with the fact that I’ll do something for a while and drop off, and the next time I pick it up, it’s a little easier. So yeah, I think I’ve accepted that my hobbies and interests bounce around. There are always things where I’m like, “I want to get back into this thing,” and eventually I usually will, but my interest just isn’t there at the time, so I just go with it.
LF: How long have you been playing music?
SP: I started with the cello and started playing that when I was like a little kid, like three or four years old. I was forced into it by my mom, because no little kid obviously figures out what cello is and… well maybe, but not me. So I didn’t like it for a lot of my childhood. Once I stopped taking cello lessons, I got really into guitar and other stringed instruments like banjo or ukulele or whatever I could get my hands on. Guitar’s kind of been my main one since I was 13 or so. I can’t play piano very well, but I know the theory well enough to teach my girlfriend the theory, and it’s really easy to teach on piano.
LF: Who are some guitarists that really inspired you or continue you to inspire you to play?
SP: When I was younger I really liked Jimi Hendrix, Jack White, and the Black Keys, stuff like that. Now I kind of feel like, and this goes back to the whole media thing where there’s just so much, but these days my tastes bounce around all the time. It seems like I never stay on one artist for too long. But lately, I’ve been really into jazz guitar and more hip-hop and that kind of thing. One artist I’ve been kind of into is Steve Lacy, who’s part of the whole Odd Future collective. He’s in the band The Internet as well. And then there’s a group called Bad Bad Not Good, and I’m really into them. They have a lot of sort of jazzy stuff that’s kind of unique and interesting.
LF: The great thing about jazz guitar is that if you learn, like, one jazz chord and put it into a rock or pop song, you blow people’s minds.
SP: Ha! That’s true. I don’t really play jazz guitar, but it’s something I definitely want to get into, because it’s probably my favorite type of thing to listen to these days.
LF: So, I’m sure these things can be hard to predict, but is there anything bubbling up in your interests that’s getting on your radar for your next obsession?
SP: Well, summertime is coming, and any time the seasons change, I always want to get into gardening and farming and stuff. I’ve had this stinking van for a long time that I’ve always wanted to renovate, and it’s just kind of been this thing I’ve been putting off. So hopefully getting more into that.
LF: What’s your vision for the van? Like a Mystery Machine sort of thing? Solving crimes and all that?
SP: Really, I just want it to be clean on the inside and not breaking down all the time, but also comfortable so that if I go on a longer trip, it’s a nice place to stay. But no, no particular aesthetic picked out. I was thinking sort of beachy, but I haven’t really landed on anything yet.
LF: Well, you’re going to get it done this summer. We believe in you.
SP: Awesome. Thank you.