Immersed with Scott Jones

ScottOne can only imagine how proud Scott Jones’ parents were to find out that their son was hired on as a research scientist at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, only to discover that after spending 6 years at IU he had not yet earned a degree. A mere technicality of one Economics course and a language requirement was needed for Jones to move to Boston.

The Econ credit was completed via correspondence. What is interesting is the manner in which Jones studied for his Spanish language fulfillment exam – by locking himself in his grandmother’s attic for 10 days. Oddly, while immersing himself in his Spanish textbooks, Jones listened to German music.

During his time at IU, Jones applied to study abroad in Hamburg, Germany. However, Jones was not accepted into the program because he had not done well enough in class. Ironically, while attending MIT, he lived with a family from Hong Kong. There were 4 generations under one roof speaking Cantonese, which is more challenging to learn than Mandarin. Jones became mildly fluent in Cantonese conversation through this immersive experience.

The earliest memory Jones has of his extended focused attention was the time when he completely dismantled his mother’s (she was a journalist) electric typewriter and re-assembled it, which took all night.

This pattern of immersion would continue. During the creation of Boston Technology, a voicemail company he co-founded, the hard-working crew barely left their offices. They slept under their desks, ordered in carry-out, and completely immersed themselves into their voice mail services project. While this did result in a nice liquidity event for Jones,  and his partner and their investors, the process was not without moments of panic, sometimes expressed by partner, Greg Carr. What concerned Carr was Jones’ constant stream of entrepreneurial ideas. While perhaps valid ideas, most did not pertain to their project at hand, and were distractions for Jones.

Jones needed to cathartically release all other percolating ventures out of his head. He filled journals with these ideas so he could completely focus on their immediate situation. By writing down his extemporaneous thoughts, Jones was able to declutter his brain and focus.

Jones knew that in order to achieve what they set out to do, he had to get rid of all un-related distractions. They virtually did not leave the building for 2 years. His immersion paradigm would prove successful.

After the Boston Technology liquidity event, Jones explored those notebooks of ideas. He has been able to “play” in a spectrum of playgrounds. A few results of this are: Grace Note, ChaCha, Precise Path Robotics, Galaxia Lighting, Escient, Gazelle TechVentures, and now Eleven Fifty Academy.

With the proven success of Jones’ immersive style, this quintessential entrepreneur, with an innate understanding of technology, has repeated this pattern of immersion in everything he does. His process is not without moments of doubt or fear creeping in.

It was a fear of failure that delayed him diving into programming while at IU, but once he immersed himself into coding, he spent most of his time with computers in the basement of the HYPR building.

As challenges arise during Jones’ creative process, Jones focuses on the question, such as, “How can I solve this?” before he would sleep, then awake with an answer. If this doesn’t work, he goes outside to walk and contemplate the solution. During the Boston Technology days, Jones hiked around the famous Walden Pond in Concord, contemplating a snag that had arisen and a solution would inevitably surface.

Another coping mechanism that Jones employs is to look at all possible outcomes. “I mentally fast forward to what’s going to happen,” shares Jones, “I look for what can be done to prevent  as many of the failed scenarios as possible and move forward.” He has trained himself to take risks.

Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research.” Einstein was on to something, for many discoveries of new innovations are facilitated by creativity and experimentation. Sometimes even mistakes or unintended results have been some of the greatest discoveries of science or technology.

Back in 2005, Indy Robotics LLC funded a team of 120 researchers to create a unmanned vehicle in a competition sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Of the researchers, about 20 of them spent one month camped out in the Mohave Desert doing nothing but working on their 6,000 pound, autonomous robot vehicle. Those 20 made more progress during that month in the desert than the full team of about a hundred managed during the prior 18 months leading up to the race. The twenty robotics experts and engineers were finally immersed in their project. There was no other choice. They were in the middle of the Mohave Desert with the closest hotel forty-five minutes away.

Eleven Fifty Academy puts immersion into practice. For 12-14 hours a day, for 7 days, students are writing code. Food is catered in, the distractions are minimized—the , leaving the only thing to do is to focus on programming. This The coding classes are often  school is headquartered offered in Scott Jones’ home.

A proven forward-thinker, Jones believes it is essential to have the skill of programming. Coding is the new “Spanish”. It is the language of the future, and that future is now.

While Jones may have a dozen or more major projects going on all at once, Jones has proved time and again that, while immersion isn’t the only way to learn, it is perhaps the best method.

For more information on coding classes, please visit: www.elevenfifty.com.

This article originally appeared in Townepost Network, March 2015

Kara Kavensky

Kara Kavensky