About Me

Intro Link to heading

Hey there, I’m Lowell. Nice to meet you.

If you’re looking for my résumé, please refer to the Résumé page. This section is more of a short autobiography, so if you are a recruiter, it will largely act as supplemental material to the résumé, which I feel is a much more concise & efficient description of both my relevant educational and professional experience.

Bio Link to heading

Born and raised in Washington state, I’m currently attending Western Washington University for my Bachelor’s of Science in Cybersecurity. My main interests are programming, networking, music, and cooking. I’m also interested in a bunch of more niche topics, such as civics, geography, urban development, personal finance, computer hardware, and twisty puzzles (Rubik’s cubes).

My educational years Link to heading

With the exception of a two-year stint at Ebenezer Christian School, I attended Meridian School District from kindergarten through 12th grade. I was known in elementary and middle school as a kid who, although always scoring quite well on quizzes/tests, was a bit of a nuisance, and frequently found myself sitting on a bench outside the school office after playing class clown. Soon after I started 4th grade, my teacher suggested to my parents that I be moved to 5th grade, to which they agreed. I remember struggling a bit in 5th grade because there were some important math concepts taught in 4th grade (decimals, long division, fractions etc.) that I had never stuck around to learn, but my granddad helped me through my homework and I caught on with time to spare. Though I had a good time in 5th grade, my parents were concerned that I was not yet ready for public middle school due to my age, so they sent me to a considerably smaller private school for sixth and seventh grade. I returned to 8th grade a bit more well-adjusted, and though I was reprimanded a few times for causing disruptions in class, I didn’t have any major problems going forward.

In high school, I was an avid band geek, playing tuba and trombone in symphonic, marching, and jazz band, eventually being selected as low brass section leader. I joined choir in my senior year, and have since taken voice lessons for personal enrichment. Almost all of my extracurricular activities in high school were musical in nature. I believe that a great deal of my personal growth in maturity and discipline was because of the outstanding instruction of my high school band director, Mr. Degrace, to whom I will be forever grateful. I also greatly enjoyed my social studies classes with Mr. Lawrence, who was an absolutely phenomenal teacher. I spent a lot of my free time learning about civics & government, and eventually found myself in the role of the Senate minority leader during the “Class Congress” activities, which I felt was quite entertaining. My “class clown” tendencies - that is to say, my ability to speak up even when most wouldn’t - proved to be more of a blessing than a hindrance in the aforementioned activities; in other classes, I was able to channel them into dramatic read-alouds of books, which my peers and teachers both enjoyed.

I started college immediately after I graduated, and from the get-go I was much more engaged with the coursework, which was certainly reflected in my grades. Though I was initially concerned about my ability to complete work which was entirely self-directed (as my classes were online-only during the pandemic), I actually found myself more than able to not only complete the work, but to do it properly. I also developed a much greater appreciation of math, whereas in grade school I had avoided the subject at all costs.

Attending college, I fell into a lot more leadership roles, both formal and informal. At my dorm, I became a Resident Advisor. In my classes, I was the one who would always create class group chats and organize study groups. Later on, I became a Teaching Assistant. Whether inside or outside of the TA job, I ended up doing lots of tutoring work, helping my classmates get through their assignments, especially those related to programming and penetration testing. This pattern held true in my extracurricular projects as well; I led teams working on my own software projects, and became a maintainer for others’ libraries. You can read more about these projects on the Projects page.

Now in my senior year at WWU, I continue to strive for excellence in both my academics, work, and extracurricular projects. I haven’t received anything under an A- in any of my university classes so far. My previous penchant for procrastination has metamorphized into a constant drive to work on anything that catches my interest. As I write this, I’m working four jobs simultaneously, and though it is absolutely difficult at times, I never find myself running out of things to do. Boredom is a word which rarely crosses my mind.

My experience with programming Link to heading

I had attempted to learn JavaScript when I was around 10, but didn’t get too far after a failed attempt at creating a game from scratch, an endeavor which I only years later realized was somewhat of a fool’s errand. I would be reintroduced to programming in my first year at Whatcom Community College; my first two quarters included two Introduction to Programming classes, in which I learned the fundamentals of object-oriented and procedural programming using Java. I quickly became enamored with programming, which resulted in me taking an extra Data Structures class and even considering switching from Cybersecurity to a Computer Science major. I ultimately decided against switching majors, mostly as a practical matter, but this did little to separate me from my keyboard & IDE.

At the time that I started attending Western Washington University, I had only ever used Java, both for coursework and for personal projects. However, the first class I took, a Computer Architecture class, required me to learn C, which I picked up rather quickly with help from the essential K&R. Once I had learned C, I came to realize that picking up new languages was much easier than I had initially assumed, especially now that I could truthfully say that I knew how the computer actually worked.

This led me to try my hand at another language, C#, which quickly became one of my favorites, and also happened to be the first language in which I was introduced to TDD with NUnit. Bash (Sh) was next on the list, and though its syntax is certainly among the worst creations of mankind, I cannot deny that it at least provided a bit of convenience for quickly throwing together installers and the like. I learned PowerShell in a Computer Security class, and it struck me as something of an unholy amalgamation of Bash and C#, though I did at least find it nicer to write in than Bash had been. I ended up using Python frequently in assignments, and I found it extremely easy to write in, but that, at the same time, it was damn near impossible to read other peoples’ Python code if they had not used proper style conventions. All I will say is that types are a gift from God.

After a brief foray into HTML & CSS (of which my main takeaway was that, in CSS, everything that seems like it would be hard is easy, and everything that seems like it would be easy is impossible), I moved onto what became easily my favorite language of all, Rust. I don’t mean to be too much of an oxidized evangelist, as I feel that there are already plenty, but I definitely cannot go without mentioning the features I found to be indispensable. Memory safety is certainly nice, but the borrow checker was not what stood out to me the most. What I loved were the excellent compiler errors, linter warnings, and overall extremely robust build tools that came bundled with the language. Rust and its crate ecosystem taught me the importance of both reading and writing documentation. Using other languages after having used Rust frequently gave me a feeling not quite like taking off the training wheels, but more akin to taking a normal bicycle and removing the front wheel.

In addition to dragging me further down the software development rabbithole, Rust was also the first language where I started truly testing my mettle in collaborative development. I had used Git before, but I started my Rust journey with little knowledge beyond a vague understanding of how to make a commit. Eventually, once I started working on collaborative projects, such as my own Rush shell project, and the Ratatui library, I taught myself the ins and outs of Git/GitHub, finally becoming confident in my VCS abilities once I realized that I almost never had to look up commands anymore. Git, though somewhat unintuitive, is not an incredibly complex or difficult system, but the importance of this aforementioned realization was that I now knew I could learn anything I set my mind to.

Revisiting Java to write a Minecraft plugin, I was surprised to find that I went from no knowledge of game modding, Java build tools, or the Spigot API whatsoever, to having a release-ready & published plugin in less than three days.

Now, building this website, I’m launching myself once again into the unknown - this time in the field of web development. I’m using Go for the first time, specifically the Hugo site framework, which has proven quite the excellent tool so far.

My experience with security & networking Link to heading

My networking education began with a three-course series on Cisco networking, where I learned not only the commands and configuration options for Cisco devices, but also the fundamentals of how networks functioned, such as the OSI & TCP/IP stack, categories of networking devices, IP addresses & subnets, gateways, DNS, DHCP, VLANs, and so on and so forth. Despite the fact that I had already learned the majority of the information I would need to obtain a CCNA, I chose not to pursue it due to the cost of the exam - a decision which I regret to this day.

While working at Best Buy, I had access to steep discounts on many tech products, which faciliated me building up a large collection of computers, cables, and other networking gear. Once I got my first (non-gaming) laptop, my desktop became almost an afterthought. Though I used Windows on my laptop, I frequently needed to use Linux for schoolwork, which pushed me to use WSL. I quickly adapted to Linux, and though I still preferred to use Windows due to its broader software support, I decided to repurpose my desktop into a powerful remote dev machine. I set up Proxmox on my second SSD, dual-booting Windows 10 in case I ever needed to use the desktop for normal work.

This came with a predicament - because I was on the dorm network, I was unable to port forward, meaning that I could not connect to my coding server from outside of my LAN. To get around this, I started running Tailscale in another VM; this allowed me to connect to a VPN and access my LAN without the need to expose my network through an open port.

Initially, I had a bit of a rough time connecting my LAN to the internet, because the dorm does not have any ports for wired connections, so when I got a new laptop, I had my old one running Windows network sharing so it could act as an intermediary between my LAN router and the dorm network (a glorified WiFi to ethernet bridge). I later replaced this with my ancient Raspberry Pi 2, only to realize that it wasn’t up to the task of serving 30Mbps speeds, and replacing it with a wildly-overpowered Intel NUC that an acquaintance gave to me free of charge.

In the meantime, I set up PiHole for its local DNS capabilities, with the added bonus of network-level adblocking. This way, I was able to save A-records to my homelab devices without needing to pay a registrar for the domains. I eventually used another NUC to replace the VM running PiHole, as I got tired of having to reconfigure DNS every time I booted my server into Windows. In keeping with the established trend, I got this NUC for free, but had to do some repairs to get it working.

Another benefit of my Proxmox server was the ability to spin up penetration testing VMs. I worked on HackTheBox, to little avail at first, but I was able to get up to speed with help from some folks I met in a group chat about mobile phone repair.

I built a storage server from some parts I picked up on sale for Black Friday, and got to work configuring TrueNAS/ZFS. The NAS was set up as general-purpose storage and a Plex server, and my network was configured to utilize the NAS for automated backups. Additionally, I set up the NAS to safely shut down in the event of a power outage, using NUT to receive signals from the UPS it was plugged into.

When I got my MacBook, I had been a lifelong Windows user, but I swiftly acclimated to MacOS due to its relative similarity to Linux. Now that I’m comfortable in all three major platforms, I find it much easier to pick the right tool for the job, at least as far as operating systems are concerned. As a bonus, I was finally able to help my nana with the viruses that had infected her old Mac Mini.

My first few quarters at WWU introduced a couple of penetration testing labs, which I struggled with at the time. After having spent the time to set up my homelab over Winter break, however, I was more than able to not only do the labs, but to assist my classmates with them. I was able to find the most information in the class on a SQL injection lab, and was one of the first to finish my buffer overflow lab. During a lab where we exploited a PHP script on a website, I was able to write an efficient injection exploit that somehow worked on the first try. I then used the same method to obtain a reverse shell. Both of these exploits were beyond the requirements of the assignment, which hinted at an exploit which used a file upload to run a script.

I got to do some consulting work on the side, starting a small IT support business called Haswell Tech, where I advised customers on home networking, including work such as writing a report about selecting hardware for media servers. I also built and repaired quite a few computers.

Awards Link to heading

This is the part where I take off my humble hat and toot my own horn a bit, so skip it if you prefer not to read shameless self-promotion. I’m doing a little write-up about most of these, but there is a shortlist at the bottom.

Academic awards Link to heading

Though my academic performance in high school was rarely exceptional, I received many awards from both the music and social studies departments. Among these were three Top Student department awards, of which two are awarded by the department yearly, Best Instrumentalist (jazz band), a Varsity letter for marching band, and the John Philip Sousa Award, which is the highest level of recognition given by high school band directors.

I also received recognition in extracurricular musical activities throughout high school, including being selected for SJMEA (regional) Honor Band three years in a row and WMEA (state) Honor Band in my senior year. Participating in the SJMEA Solo/Ensemble competiton, I received a Superior (highest rating) for my piano performance of Claude Debussy’s Cakewalk. I participated in my school’s talent show for a collective five or six years, winning some sort of award each time, though I fail to recall most of the individual award titles, as they changed every year.

My postsecondary academic efforts proved to be significantly more successful, and I was placed on the Dean’s List the entirety of my second year at Whatcom Community College and my entire time so far at Western Washington University. I graduated with honors from Whatcom, and am on track to do the same at Western.

I gave a presentation on my Rush shell personal project to the WWU Cybersecurity Club, which the audience voted as the best presentation of the night. Ironically, I was unaware when I gave the presentation that I was entering into a competition.

Work awards Link to heading

In my sales position at Best Buy, I was consistently in the monthly top three leaderboard positions for all metrics (customer satisfaction surveys, tech support plan sales, and store rewards card applications). I was #1 on the leaderboard three times, once for rewards card applications and twice for customer satisfaction surveys.

List of awards Link to heading

Here is the shortlist, as promised:

  • Top Student, MHS Music Dept. (2019, 2020)
  • Top Student, MHS Social Studies Dept. (2020)
  • Most Valuable Brass, MHS Jazz Band (2019)
  • Best Instrumentalist, MHS Jazz Band (2020)
  • Varsity Letter, MHS Marching Band (2020)
  • John Philip Sousa Award, MHS Music Dept. (2020)
  • Selected, SJMEA Honor Band (2017, 2018, 2019)
  • Selected, WMEA Honor Band (2020)
  • Superior, SJMEA Piano Solo (2017)
  • Various awards, Meridian Talent Show (c. 2013-2019)
  • Dean’s List, WCC (Fall, Winter, Spring 2021)
  • Dean’s List, WWU (Fall, Winter, Spring 2022)
  • Graduated with Honors, WCC (2022)
  • Best Presentation, WWU Cybersecurity Club (2023)
  • Top Rewards Card Applications, Best Buy (2021)
  • Top NPS Customer Survey Ratings, Best Buy (2021, 2022)

Favorite Things Link to heading

No autobiographical account is complete without a favorite media mention or three. Here are a few of my favorite things:

Favorite movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel, What We Do in the Shadows
Favorite shows: The Boys, Breaking Bad, Review
Favorite books: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (series)
Favorite games: Terraria, Factorio, Minecraft
Favorite languages: Rust, C#