From Elsah to Twitter

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Among the many enthusiastic alumni following Principia’s solar car during this summer’s American Solar Challenge, no one could have been more pleased to see tweets from Ra 9 than James Koval (C’11)—a former solar car team member and computer science major who is now a software engineer at Twitter.

Among his projects at Twitter, James works on open source software, where source code is made widely available and software is developed in a public, collaborative manner, often with individuals from all over the world. Recently, he’s worked on mobile phone and web user components that enable Tweets to translate instantly. “When an individual in Japan tweets, it is instantly translated into the languages of those following that person,” James explains. “My first open source project was actually when I was a Principia student. I developed an online card game in a similar way, using crowd sourcing. I use these concepts now, just on a much larger scale.”

James sees many other less obvious, but no less important, ties between his time at Principia and his work at Twitter. During his nine-step interview with Twitter, for example, James leaned heavily on the technical knowledge he’d gained at the College. “My computer science classes were very demanding and gave me a strong foundation in programming,” he says. “The professors are very knowledgeable about industry standards and helped me know what to expect. Also, classroom assignments were often highly collaborative, which mirrors Twitter’s work environment.”

The non-technical aspects of his liberal arts education helped James land the job as well. “I was able to tell about the Peru Abroad and convey a cultural understanding that helped me stand out,” he explains. “The job required a second language, so I told about my research project in Cuzco, where I interviewed a government official in Spanish.”

“Principia offers a broad education and helps students be positive global thinkers,” he continues. “And the connections you make are strong, lifelong, and invaluable as you blaze your path in the world.”

James is available to recent graduates who want to learn more about the computer industry. His Twitter handle is