Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Remote control

Samuel Kottler ’15 Sophomore thrives as telecommuting software engineer 

Samuel Kottler ’15 fondly remembers his childhood days of sitting in his living room and carefully dissecting the television remote and piecing it back together—just for fun. Armed with the same passion for figuring out how things work, today he can be found working for one of America’s leading software companies.

Kottler is a software engineer for Red Hat, where he uses his knowledge of systems design to write automation software. The company is known as an international leader in open source software, a format that allows software to be freely and universally distributed over the Internet.

The sophomore’s interest in computer science began when he built a website for his father’s company when he was 12 years old. He learned Drupal, an open source content management system, and, as a ninth-grade student, he started a Drupal consulting company to help businesses manage their web content. Kottler’s paying clientele quickly grew from several small local businesses to about a dozen customers, including Chamber Music of America.

After nearly three years of management, Kottler ended his business and ventured into the corporate world of open source software design. In 2011, he earned a job as a software engineer for Acquia, a Boston-based company, and then moved to financial services company Venmo as a systems engineer in February 2012. Kottler accepted an engineering position at Red Hat in June 2012.

What makes him slightly unusual as a Red Hat employee is that he completes his work at home as a full-time student—starting at first in his bedroom at home in Fairfield, Conn., and now in his dorm room at Wheaton.

Sometimes, he works in the early morning in his room at Lindens House. At other times, he can be found in the Balfour-Hood Café, writing his complex code on his small Lenovo ThinkPad laptop. “Anywhere that has a fast Internet connection,” Kottler said. In contrast, his work could not be more global in scope. He is part of a tight-knit five-person team of international engineers based primarily in the United Kingdom and Israel.

While Kottler is proud of his accomplishments as a software engineer, he tends to keep his business life and academic life separate. A political science and computer science double major, his work inside the classroom has caught the eye of his professors, including his advisor, Professor of Computer Science Mark LeBlanc.

“Sam is a classic Wheaton student, given his talents in such broad areas,” LeBlanc said. “He is a superb system administrator who amazes even his professors.”

After graduation, Kottler wants to combine his love for computer science with political science. “I’m really interested in political advertising and how campaigns promote their candidate,” he said. Kottler worked on data processing and various software applications with Technology for Obama during the 2012 presidential campaign, an avenue he wants to further pursue after his time at Wheaton.

Judging by the recommendations that continue to fly in on Kottler’s LinkedIn page, his future is as bright as his present.

“Sam is one of my favorite people,” wrote Venmo founder Andrew Kortina in one of those recommendations. “It’s clear that he loves to build things (at work and outside of it), and as a result he spends lots of time doing so and learns very quickly.”

Photo by Keith Nordstrom