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Adam Phillabaum


College of Engineering
PayScale.com, Seattle, WA.
Program Manager


  • Biography

    PayScale Web site: 
    http://www.payscale.com/


    Professional Profile:

     Adam was born and raised in Spokane, WA.  When he was about 10, his family's purchase of an IBM compatible computer got him hooked. "I had a subscription to a magazine called 3-2-1 Contact which had a user-submitted BASIC program each month that I could key in and play around with.  Along with the computer, they bought Chuck Yeager's Flight Simulator, which I spent a significant amount of time playing."


    Adam began his college career at the University of Washington. "I knew I wanted to do computer science, so I transferred to a school with a solid engineering approach. With scholarships, the University of Idaho was less expensive, even though I was a Washington resident." In 2004 Adam graduated from the University of Idaho with a B.S. degree in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. 


    While attending the University of Idaho Adam found time to race with the Vandal Ski Team and served a term as the vice president of the Ski Club. As the popularity of the Linux operating system grew, Adam organized a group of fellow students into what has become the Linux Users' Group at the University of Idaho (LUGUI) for which he served a term as president.


    "You won't get lost in the crowd. Faculty are very willing to help."


    In reflecting upon his time at the University of Idaho Adam remarked, "The instructors in the Computer Science department were all extremely helpful.  I was trying to think of the professors that would sit down and help me work through my problems… and it struck me that I couldn’t think of a professor that wouldn’t drop what they were doing to help me figure out the issue."


    "In the Computer Science Department the type of equipment that we had access to was quite unusual. There were HP-UX multi-way servers, Solaris workstations, Microsoft Windows labs, a Beowulf cluster, and a computer security defense lab. We had all sorts of interesting stuff to play with. The variety of knowledge we gained in the Computer Science program was also quite amazing. We could build compilers, write applications to run in parallel on a cluster, design CPUs, evolve solutions to complex problems, and know how to use several programming languages."


    After graduation Adam joined the Boeing Company as a Database Administrator. "The work I did was mostly to support applications that were currently running, and just needed basic upkeep. Boeing has a software system to do everything. I worked on applications as varied as collecting and analyzing data from a wind tunnel, to an application that tracks usage and permissions of non-Boeing companies using Boeing software licenses."


    Adam's work at PayScale.com presents an interesting insight into the vast potential for innovative internet solutions. "There are really two sides to PayScale. We have a consumer product and a business-to-business (B2B) product. The consumer site is what you see when you link to PayScale.com. We really focus on providing tools that will help our users develop their life and career. We start with information about their current job, from which we produce charts and provide information to help them negotiate their salary. We do this for free. After that, we provide them with tools to help make career decisions. GigZig helps a user find the next career step by seeing the job paths other people have taken. The Cost of Living Calculator helps show unique information about potential destination cities.  We compare this with their current location incorporating our detailed salary information. These were actually two of the first projects I worked on. For the B2B product we aggregate that data and sell reports to businesses about how they should pay their employees."


    "A good foundation in CS fundamentals enables you to solve all kinds of challenging problems."


    "Computer Science is an interesting degree to get, because there’s a good chance you'll get a job that needs you to program in a language you didn't learn in school.  When you learn fundamental programming concepts properly, you can transfer that knowledge to quickly learn another language. In my case, I don’t program very much anymore, but one of the most important things I learned in Computer Science was objective problem solving."


    There's probably no typical day at the office, but a day might find Adam involved in some of these activities:

    • Writing specifications to define how a program should work. The specification is an interesting document.  It needs to go into significant detail about how an application will work but must leave out implementation details.
    • Making sure development projects are on schedule, and helping determine what features should be added or removed.
    • Working with partners to help them implement the tools PayScale provides.
    • Writing small internal tools to automate administrative tasks.
    • Doing custom data queries to help provide insight into how customers work and what PayScale might want to do in the future.
    • Running interference to make sure developers spend more time writing code and less time dealing with marketing and business people.

    When asked about the skills he depends on the most, Adam identified:

    • Being organized. As a program manager you can never let anything "fall through the cracks."
    • Time Management. I don't have enough time in the day to get everything done. Having an enumerated list of all tasks I need to complete, that can be prioritized and "marked off," lets me get as much done in day as possible.
    • Communication. Never be afraid to tell someone "bad news." It's hard, but extremely important. The earlier they know, the more time we have to figure out a solution together.

    As a final thought Adam remarks, "The most important lesson I learned at the University of Idaho was that we (as people) can pretty much do anything we want to.  If you honestly sit down and try to think your goal through, you can figure out the problems. Once you have a list of problems, attaining your goal is just hurdling over those problems."


    March 2008

    The views expressed on this page are those of the individual being profiled and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Idaho or the employer. References to specific companies or organizations does not constitute endorsement of their products or services by the University of Idaho.


    Copyright © 2008 University of Idaho Board of Regents

A good foundation in CS fundamentals enables you to solve all kinds of challenging problems.