By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Seventeen-year-old Samir Menon, a senior at Niskayuna High School, is months away from becoming a published author.
He started his book, an instructional text about a programming platform called node.js, without even realizing it.
Menon spent this past summer in an apartment in Boston, trying new things like woodworking during the day and taking classes in cryptography at MIT during the evenings.
“Cryptography is keeping secrets on a computer,” he said helpfully. These sorts of no-nonsense explanations are what make him the go-to guy for his friends when they have technology questions.
While he was away, Menon got an email from a friend back at home in Niskayuna. The friend was looking for some resources to help him understand the node.js platform.
Always happy to help, Menon dug around for the information, but didn’t find anything he liked. He wrote his own explanation, instead. That email became the first chapter of the book he didn’t yet know he was going to write.
Even before his adventures at MIT, Menon was already ahead of the curve in the technological arena. In fact, his experience with node.js started much earlier.
A few years ago, he joined a competition called Startup Weekend, a contest during which each team tries to start a business in just 48 hours. Menon joined out of curiosity and quickly realized he was the only high schooler, and younger than most participants by about two decades.
“I was actually going to leave the first night,” he said. “It took a lot of courage to go there.”
He stuck it out and completed the weekend. His startup didn’t fare too well, but Menon made an important connection there: one of the partners at Troy Web Consulting. Not long after the event, he was hired at the technology firm.
Since then, Menon has built websites for numerous clients. He saved up enough money to pay for his own summer classes at MIT last summer. On top of all that, his job made him an expert in node.js.
Menon said even someone as young as he is can be an expert when it comes to the platform, because it’s been around for only about four years. He’s been using node.js, which is designed to help programmers create complex, multifunctional websites, almost since it was introduced.
“Nobody can say they have 20 years’ experience,” he said.
To be fair, he’s got as much technological experience as any 17-year-old could hope for. He started creating video games using a drag-and-drop design tool called “Game Maker” when he was very young. He said his parents always encouraged him to keep exploring technology, even though they don’t completely understand it themselves.
Due out in April
Menon’s expansive interests led him to the publishing company he now contracts with, No Starch Press. Their slogan boasts that they produce “the finest in geek entertainment,” and that certainly describes the book that connected Menon to the company.
In the back of the book, there was a page that invited new authors to pitch book ideas. Menon realized he had one.
He pitched the company. He sent samples. Before long, in August, he signed a contract.
The book is set for release in April, and Menon is hard at work on it now.
He likes to write in the afternoon, after lunch and some time socializing with his parents and his 11-year-old brother, Rohan.
Of course, that’s when he’s not participating in Model United Nations or working on homework. Menon said he loves to learn, especially about history, philosophy, and other subjects that have little to do with computers.
When it comes to college, Menon is interested in schools in California, especially, like UCLA, Stanford and UC Berkeley. He also likes MIT. But even after completing several interviews, Menon is laid-back about the process.
“I’m not terribly concerned about it,” he said. “What happens will happen.”
Despite so much on the horizon, Menon said he’s most excited for the present. He’s dedicating his energy to making the most of his senior year, socially and academically.
“I’m excited for life,” he said.