Meet Kaoru: the Stalwart of Software
By Sift /
21 Apr 2017
This post is part of a weekly series in which we get to know Sifties.
Kaoru Kohashigawa is a Software Engineer who has been with Sift Science for a year. If he could go back in time, he would be a Hawaiian in 1776, when Captain Cook arrived and began the transition from the Hawaiian way of life to Western civilization. He’s very interested in Hawaiians’ family-oriented culture, without a concept of the ownership of land, and how they handled this huge change.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I wanted to be a pyrotechnician. When I was growing up in Hawaii it was legal to play with fireworks, and I got really into setting up a domino effect. I would take them apart and put them back together to see what would happen.
When I was younger, nothing went wrong with the fireworks, but there was a little accident when I was older. One time, my friend had aerial fireworks that we were setting off. When I set it off and ran away, I accidentally kicked the stand which then pointed towards the house – and me. It shot towards us and exploded in the garage. Luckily, everyone was okay.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
My name is pretty much the real-life version of a song by Johnny Cash: “A Boy Named Sue.” The lyrics tell the story of a male singer named Sue, who had a hard life because of his name. Sue’s dad named him before running out. Years later, Sue finds his dad, beats him up, and almost kills him because he was so upset about his name. His dad explains that he named him Sue because the world is a tough place, and he wanted to give him a name to strengthen him. Based on the answer, Sue forgives his dad.
Up until the whole beating up point, that’s true for my life. My dad gave me a girl’s name, which means “sweet fragrance.” And then he left us.
What’s one thing you couldn’t live without?
Water. I drink at least eight cups a day, if not more. Back when AOL Instant Messenger was popular you had to connect to the modem, which took forever. That’s when I got into the habit of drinking water to pass the time.
My AOL Instant Messenger screen name was fobsponjah8O8 — “fob” is fresh off the boat, “sponjah” is related to body boarding, and 808 is the area code of Hawaii.
You majored in political science in college — what drew you to that?
Around the time that I graduated high school, my friend was really interested in conspiracy theories surrounding Tupac – which made me realize how politics affects everything. I was interested in politics, but I also wanted to get out of college rather than pursue a political career.
Right after college I started a photography business with my friend, which we did together for five years. I met my wife, moved to Texas, and took my company with me. While working on my photography website and brand, I got really interested in setting up my website. I had to learn to read HTML and CSS and I was learning ActionScript. I was at SXSW and saw a sticker for Dev Bootcamp and I decided to try it. By December of that year I was done, entered the job market as an engineer, and got a job immediately.
What skill would you love to learn?
Cryptography and security. I think it’s really cool to be able to encrypt a message and send it over wire publicly. I saw the movie Imitation Game about Alan Turing, who decrypted the Germans’ messages between each other using an algorithm and a machine that he invented. That whole world seems like it’s a superpower.