It’s a rare breed of person who’s not afraid to move (which is really just another word for change). Because when these people move, they do so in every sense of the word: dropping everything, trying a new angle and maybe even ending up back where it all started. You should care about this personality type because it’s what makes the best developers. And one of ours is Co-Team Lead Bryan Reckamp.
You can’t spell Reckamp without camp. You can’t talk about Bryan’s formative years without it, either. With a brother two years to either side of him, the boys and parents Ray and Judy set off in a blue station wagon with wood paneling—one of those 70s road boats—and experienced everything the US had to offer outside their homebase of University City, MO. Because of it, he’s been to every state save for Hawaii, and strangely enough, South Dakota and Idaho.
Bryan was quick to see what he could make of his surroundings. Around the age of 3, his father remembers him finding a compression spring and making a rudimentary pinball machine. WHAT? I know. Sons of engineers, I tell ya. But his mother’s more romantic side was equally present. Bryan got a clown painting shown in a local St. Louis museum as a young child, and he remembers being enamored with his typesetter Grandfather.
Bryan’s first concert was Dionne Warwick and Friends. The opening act was a comedian. His brain library had not yet encountered curse words, so he remembers the comedian’s jokes being interspersed with big, soundless blanks.
The travel bug isn’t something that can really be cured. But it can be tempered with art: a space for discovery all its own. As a kid, Bryan started his career of creation with restaurant logos. “I know they involved martini glasses, ’cause my child brain thought those were classy.” Then in 5th grade, BMX became all-consuming. While wearing out a VHS of the movie Rad, he and his friends turned to drawing their biking company logos on Trapper Keepers. Hey, you never know when they’d get sponsored, and they’d be damned if a lack of brand identity held up their gangly teenage dreams.
After the passing of his mother in 7th grade, Bryan dove headfirst into fine art, microwave burritos and Crystal Light. A few years later in high school, a certain Mrs. Kennedy let a few freshman clear out a storage room and make a little art studio. “We were little adolescent Van Gogh and Gauguins. Especially me and my friend Juan, who had totally different styles. He would tell me to get loose, and I’d tell him to tighten up.”
To this day, you’ll find a station wagon as the subject of much of Bryan’s art.
Bryan saw exactly one college with his father and stepmother. After a 24-hour road trip, he didn’t need any more “visits.” So off to Winthrop, a small state school in South Carolina he went. He brought a 1970s Honda Hobbit that he’d restored with his friend, Tim. Bryan claims it was stolen by State Fair Carnies. When pressed for a reason, he will tell you that the police didn’t care, but he noticed it went missing the day the fair rolled out. And he really misses how his 6 feet, 4 inches looked like a bear on a tiny bike.
Ready for a school with more visibility, Bryan transferred to Rhode Island School of Design. But RISD’s structure forced him to pick a major. All of the watered-down classes that fit into a focus annoyed him. No matter, because Bryan moved on to the Art Institute of Chicago where he could take any class he wanted. And from there, he graduated.
One college summer, Bryan was again on the move: as a gondolier-in-training in Forest Park. While he thought he looked quite spiffy in stripes, a refusal to sing cost him what could have been the gig of a lifetime. Also, he was never actually paid.
Still in Chicago, Bryan got his first design job at a children’s pajama company, putting the ilk of Bob the Builder on little cotton tops and bottoms. This is also where he cut his teeth on web stuff including HTML and Cascading CSS.
Then 9/11 happened and it set off a chain of events that included a break up, moving into his grandparent’s house and driving their old 1984 Chrysler New Yorker, getting a design gig at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, travelling around Europe after his ridiculously in-love grandparents died within days of each other, coming back to STL to work at The Melting Pot, moving to Yosemite and checking out LA to finally land at a San Francisco photo gallery in 2004 with his high school art friend, Juan. There was another move to and from STL with Juan, helping him open an art gallery called Boots. Then comes my personal favorite…
Bryan heard that 42 Below, a vodka brand, was paying 42 people to bike across the country. He was selected to participate and rode from NYC to LA. Upon arriving in LA, in true Bryan fashion, he decided to keep going and eventually rode to the southern tip of Mexico. The jump from San Diego to Tijuana was the closest geo-proximity world change he’d encountered. “Everyone was so nice. We were sleeping in people’s barns and on hidden beaches. We’d put canned tuna on tostadas and call it ceviche. I also learned not to get the tacos that cost less than 25 cents.”
See, Bryan didn’t want to just ride to Mexico; he wanted to ride through Mexico and onto everywhere else but the United States. He thought this trip could put his restlessness to rest once and for all—that “it would be like when you want to quit smoking so you smoke a carton and it’s over.” But! A case of typhoid and empty wallet syndrome put the kibosh on that. Back to STL he went. This time, for good.
It’s 2010 and Bryan is truly back in town. He falls in love with his now wife, Abby. He solidifies his name as a developer: a nice combo of creativity plus objective engineering. Today, he is Co-Team Lead at Paradowski, although he will tell you it’s just because he and Luther are the oldest. I think it’s because he’s the tallest.
When putting together this bio, Bryan was surprised to find so many fossils from his past. “I moved so many times, I didn’t think I had anything left.” But no matter what he was riding, this transient man has always been anchored by the station wagon. A classic, iconic car that screams an almost ironic normalcy. And returning to a black 1990 Volvo 240 wagon, he’d arrived at a destination of consistent happiness.