Brandon Tory is a Silicon Valley coder by day and Los Angeles rap artist by night.
Gifted in two diverging career paths, it took Tory time to figure out how to combine his dueling ambitions. To get there he relied on the survival skills he learned as a homeless child: Making tough decisions, reinventing himself and always having a backup plan.
Tory, now a senior engineer at Google, dreamed of being a hacker since he was 14 – except it almost didn’t happen.
As a kid, he was tech-obsessed, building his own computer using found parts from his neighborhood. Even as he shuffled around, moving in with relatives or living in motels and even a shelter, coding remained a constant in his young life. But his family’s impermanent housing eventually led to academic apathy. Homework didn’t get done and he’d often use his homelessness as an excuse.
“My favorite line was: ‘How am I going to do homework when I'm homeless right now?’” Tory said in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance.
Despite obstacles and adversity, Tory eventually graduated from college and moved to Atlanta to pursue his other passion: music.
Finding Plan A
His three years in Atlanta were productive. “[I was] learning and around some great songwriters and great producers,” he said.
With his “duffel-bag mentality,” an attitude and byproduct of his time childhood homelessness, Tory picked up and moved again. This time he headed for Los Angeles.
Almost immediately after the move, Tory won a major songwriting competition. As reward, he got to go to Miami to work with recording artist and rapper Timbaland. Yet the boon was more of a moment of reckoning: He realized music wasn’t going to pay the bills. Without a hit record to provide a steady stream of income, Tory went broke in Los Angeles.
Finding Plan B
Determined to make his way in life, Tory relocated one more time. This time, he headed north for Silicon Valley and accepted a job as a senior software architect. Desperate to save face, he didn’t want people to think he sold out for tech.
“I kind of just traveled back and forth for a time period between Silicon Valley and LA, living this double life,” he said.
He began to document his life, but didn’t have a clear idea of what to do with the footage.
“Maybe at the end, I can put together some kind of documentary, some kind of piece, and tell people: ‘This image that you have of what it means to be an engineer in Silicon Valley versus what it means to be a hip hop artist might not be what you think.’” he recalled.
Blending Plans A and B
By merging his life in tech and in music, Tory’s life path demonstrates that “this divide between science and culture or between math and art doesn't need to be there,” he said. He hopes that message of blurring the lines between seemingly disparate studies resonates with “kids and future generations,” so they don’t have to choose one love over another.
“The future of Brandon in [artificial intelligence] and the future of Brandon in music – I'm hoping is one and the same,” he said.
Stephanie is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.