Peter Nichols demonstrates how to use the Skip Checkout app. (Claire Anderson)
Micah Wilson grew nervous as the judges announced third and second place winners at the BYU Mobile App Competition. He thought they had forgotten about him and the journal app he created. His worry turned to surprise and joy as they awarded him first place.
The 22-year-old BYU computer science junior didn’t have high expectations entering the competition, because he felt there were many apps that were better than his. However, because of his success at the competition, he received a job as an iOS engineer for Skip Checkout. This app allows customers to purchase items on their phones and avoid long checkout lines.
BYU strategy graduate and team production manager of Skip Checkout Ken Katschke was in charge of hiring a developer.
Katschke was looking for an iOS engineer for Skip Checkout when he stumbled upon Micah’s LinkedIn account. He saw Micah was an iOS engineer for the Missionary Training Center. Katschke contacted Micah and was instantly impressed by him.
“It was pretty obvious after the first time I talked to him that he wasn’t just a kid,” Katschke said. “He knew what he was doing.”
Micah made his first app when he was a sophomore in high school. His app was called Letters to Self, which allowed users to write letters to read at a future date. He has made several apps since then.
Micah said his father, Steven Wilson, encouraged him to start programming in high school. Micah said his father worked as a software developer for Macintosh for as long as Micah can remember. Steven wanted one of his children to try programming, according to Micah.
“None of my older brothers had been interested in (programming), so I think he was kind of like, ‘You’re one of my last hopes,'” Micah said.
Steven said Micah was frustrated at first with his first programming class in high school.
“He didn’t want to take the time to learn it,” Steven said. “He just wanted to do it.”
Steven said he is proud of how far his son has come and the opportunities he has now. He continues to encourage him to keep learning all the different aspects of programming.
BYU nursing junior Sydney Wilson, Micah’s wife, said her husband works hard to improve his skills in app development.
“If he’s just sitting on the couch, he’ll be thinking about programming,” Sydney said. “He really spends a lot of time trying to improve his skills and figure out problems.”
Katschke has noticed Micah’s dedication to improving. He said Micah excels in overcoming problems and coming up with creative ideas to make the Skip Checkout app better.
“What I love about Micah and what I admire about him is he will just run as fast as he can at something, not knowing that there might be a hurdle there,” Katschke said. “He just keeps going and he does it.”
Skip Checkout’s head of operations Peter Nichols said Micah’s influence has been huge, and his hard work has helped others on the team work harder.
“It motivates everyone to do their best, when someone who is relatively new in this field is able to contribute at such a high level,” Nichols said.
The Skip Checkout team often had problems they believed would set them back a couple of weeks, and Katschke said Micah has been able to solve those problems a lot faster than anticipated.
BYU neuroscience senior Austin Kennedy, a good friend of Micah’s, said his success with programming has come as no surprise.
“That’s his whole life. I honestly didn’t expect him to stay in school this long,” Kennedy said. “I thought he’d just drop out and focus on programming.”
Micah takes his classes at night in Salt Lake City in order to work full time for Skip Checkout. He said BYU doesn’t generally offer night classes in computer science.
Micah plans on continuing his work with Skip Checkout by building out the Android app. He is already mostly done with it, even though he hasn’t done any work developing Android apps before.
“(It has) been an adventure,” Micah said. It’s very different than iOS development.”
Micah and the Skip team look forward to opening the app to the public at Macey’s in Provo and Pleasant Grove.