Web and Software Development Degree Leads Alum to the Red Carpet
Alex Woodward followed an unlikely path that led him from Lake Country to the red carpet.
Woodward grew up in Hartland, Wis., with a penchant for video games and a deep curiosity about the way people think. “I have always enjoyed solving problems, and I played a lot of video games growing up,” says Woodward. “My dad works in IT sales, so we always had new technology in the house.” Although he has always felt more intrigued by people than technology, “it seems like the line between technology and people gets more blurry every day.”
Woodward followed his interest in people through a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from UW-Milwaukee but had difficulty finding a job in the field after graduation. He explored a variety of seasonal jobs before landing one in cell phone sales in Pewaukee in 2013. Noticing how cell phones had become so prevalent, he says, “I saw the demand for people with programming skills only getting higher.”
Torn between returning to UW-Milwaukee for a master’s degree in Philosophy and pursuing his interest in programming, Woodward decided to enroll in the Web and Software Development program at WCTC. “I loved all of my instructors at WCTC,” says Woodward. His most valuable time spent was in three Java courses that dove deep into coding design and architecture principles. “The challenge of those classes and my success in them helped build my confidence.”
After completing his degree at WCTC in 2015, Woodward eventually moved to the Los Angeles area. He started out as a software engineering contractor for a production music company. There, he was able to help set up the music for the 2019 season of “American Idol” at their studios in Burbank, Calif. Shortly after, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reached out to him for another exciting contract position—the same Academy that puts on the annual Academy Awards show, The Oscars.
His first big project at the Academy was integrating an application called CodeReadr, a front-end ticket scanning software, into their existing technical infrastructure. He first learned the application programming interface (API) for CodeReadr, then wrote an API for the Academy’s membership database that could receive calls from CodeReadr to update a plethora of information based on a single scan.
Today, Woodward is hard at work at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study building new website features requested by Academy members and updating older code to make the best use of Microsoft’s cloud services. “Then there are changes to existing applications for next year’s Oscars,” he says. “There is a lot of work to do.”
“I am part of a small team, and we learn from each other. I get to wear a lot of different hats, from developer to project manager, so I get to use and develop a variety of skills,” says Woodward. “It feels very rare that you get to work at a place where everyone gets along and actually gets a lot done.” He also enjoys attending free member screenings of newly released films and all of the other perks that come along with the title. “Going to the show is, of course, the best part about working for the Academy.”
Woodward is currently working on a contract basis with the Academy, and he’s striving for more. “Hopefully they will hire me to keep this ball rolling!”