There is a percolating industry of small technology firms in Colorado Springs, and Ben Merryman is right there in the thick of them. Merryman, 27, works as a design engineer for KS Technologies, a local company specializing in the integration of hardware and software for Bluetooth applications. Originally from North Carolina, he is married with two daughters and optimistically looks toward a future with his family and the rapidly growing company he has been with for four years. Merryman spoke to the Business Journal this week about what KST does, what he does for KST and what he loves about his industry in the Pikes Peak region.
Can you start off by telling me a bit about yourself?
I went to UCCS and I have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. I started my career in the test and measurement field working for Agilent Technologies in their logic analyzer department. … I’ve known [KST owner] Bob Kressin via the university. We joke that I was one of his guinea pigs for some of the new classes he was teaching when I was there. He actually worked at Agilent [and Hewlett-Packard] too, where he had spent the majority of his career. We always kept in contact and now I work for KS Technologies as a design engineer. … I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve been in — I love it here and have been here for close to four years now. It’s interesting because I’ve seen the company evolve from three people to eight now (going on nine or 10). It has been a fun trip.
How long have you been in Colorado? How did you get to the Springs?
I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. … My father has lived [off and on] in Colorado for close to 30 years now. He’s from Pittsburgh. Mom’s from New York. Most of my family’s in the East … so it was one of his things to want to move our family out here. I’ve been here for about 14 years now.
What got you interested in tech and engineering?
I’ve always been interested in computers, and I’ve always been one of those guys who likes to take stuff apart. … My dad is a mechanical engineer, and my brother-in-law is in cell phone signal analysis, and I think those guys were pretty big influences — they always got me thinking about things in different ways. I always wanted to take things apart to see how they worked, then in high school I got into computer networking. Even before then I built my own computers … so computer networking and engineering have always fascinated me.
What do you do for the company? How does a typical day look for you?
KST is cool because working for a small business means I’m never stagnant. I’m never locked into a really long, recurring project. … On a day-to-day basis, I’m normally doing raw development for a particular client. So I’ll write code for that client. Some of the companies are more in maintenance mode, so I’ll work on things like bug cleanup for certain big-name clients that we have. I also help bring the new guys up to speed and work with product road map, which entails where we want to take things from our product side. … So, day to day, I’m mostly writing code or doing code reviews or trying to help pioneer the business, which is really split between engineering services and developing our own products. It’s a great place to be!
How would you characterize this business environment for young people?
I think it’s awesome, and it’s really interesting. There are a lot of really good Fortune 500 companies that work here. It’s also cool because I still keep in contact with a lot of the guys that I went to college with. … A lot of them have gone the defense [contractor] route, and I think the opportunity for that is really good here. I love it here. There are a lot of really good companies and a lot of great senior engineers here who have helped me out a lot throughout my career.
What are your professional goals? What do you see in your future?
I’d like to think I’ve been an entrepreneur since the very start, and I’ve always flirted with the idea of running my own business. KST is really a great fit for me and where I want to take my professional goals. Seeing the transition from when I first started here to where we’re at now and where we’re forecasted to go, it kind of fits right into what I want to do. So being a core foundational block to a small business, whether it’s me at the helm or someone else, is right where I want to be.
What do you do in your spare time?
I have two awesome daughters and a wife, so I spend a lot of time with them. I love to snowboard, I love to fish, I love to hunt, which are all three great things to do in Colorado. It’s great, when time permits.