This last weekend, a friend and co-worker of mine passed away. In reflection on the time that I knew him, Soren Peterson had a profound impact on me, especially in regards to my work life. I didn’t get the chance to become close to him in his personal life which I now deeply regret, yet he and I had a work relationship that I truly cherish.
Soren started at Best Buy early this year. I remember interviewing him with Sean, my manager at the time. After the interview, I explained to Sean that Soren was exactly what Best Buy needed (and still needs). Soren later explained to me that he was “shitting bricks” the entire time, which he pulled off amazingly without us knowing.
He was freaking good at pulling things off, speaking to his skills as a programmer. Soren was ahead of a lot of people in many respects. He had the makings of someone who would build software that the world would depend on, and I was looking forward to working with him on the handful of projects we discussed.
Fairly often, I’ll be reading Hacker News and come across articles with titles similar to this one’s. Usually they’re about a computer scientist who passed, and people speak to his achievements and contributions to computing. Soren didn’t turn an infamous
O(n²) algorithm into
O(n*log(n)). He didn’t build a web framework that millions of people use. While those aren’t his accomplishments, Soren was ready and completely able to do those things. I witnessed him take projects critical to the organization and over-deliver. Those were the projects where you could tell that he thrived and felt empowered to build software.
Soren had this knack for being able to keep every detail in his head while still doing big-picture thinking. He didn’t find joy in building things that wouldn’t have far-reaching impact. As an engineer, Soren was volatile and dangerous (which I mean as sincere compliments). He challenged decisions for the sake of discovery, even if he had already made up his mind that he agreed with your side.
His ability to always ask why, and still be impartial to the answer… this is what I will always remember about Soren, and something that we should all work toward.
RIP Soren Peterson.