When and how did you originally become interested in technology?
I think my thirst for knowledge, like most “Nerds”, started really early. I grew up playing NES and computer games like Word Munchers. From there, things like RC cars, old radios, computers, VCRs, etc were in the path of my screwdriver. Often times, never ending back in a working condition, I started to wonder more about what was going on on the inside, rather than what it’s function was on the outside.
At what age did you write your first computer program? What did it do?
I think my first computer program was in 3rd or 4th grade. I can’t remember the exact year, but I wrote a small script to draw a car on the screen. Probably Logo or Basic. I remember the car exactly, it was a white “late model” dirt track race car. Cars and technology, that was my childhood.
What do you do now? What languages are you proficient in?
Now I run around pretending to be a freelance engineer, focused on the backend. I like doing devops style work as well as writing API services and clients. I *love* optimizing code and squeezing more requests per second out of anything. I write lots of code in Ruby, Erlang, C#, and have been writing more and more Go recently.
How have you increased your skillset over the years, formally or otherwise?
Initially, it was books and community events that kept me on the edge of technology. I had more free time than I knew what to do with, so I spent it on the things I thought would provide me the most value. It turned out to be more valuable than I could have ever imagined. Recently, I’ve replaced books with online formats, but the community events are still where it’s at. They only *really* become valuable after you push yourself to be involved with them at a higher level, through speaking and organizing (you know, things us “Nerds” aren’t so good at).
Which do you prefer in programming, the struggle or the achievement?
I love elegantly solving a hard problem, so for me, I prefer to have both a struggle and an achievement!
What people, groups, projects, or resources were most influential in your development as programmer?
I’d say my college professors and my first team working as a consultant. I went to the University of Northern Iowa, not exactly known for their computer science department, but I found that there was a unique collection of world class professors right at my fingertips. Language designers, core committers, and sub-Naval class engineers were some of my educators. Entering the workforce, I got plopped into a *large* project, with only a handful of the company’s most senior developers, me being the only “greenie.” This forced me to step up to their level and push me to be better.
What do you enjoy about it? Is there anything you dislike?
I really enjoy the breadth of where technology is going. With a few minutes of downtime, you can learn how to write code for a microprocessor, synchronize an army of Roombas with a WiiMote, or beautiful quines.
If you were to be doing anything else, what would that be?
I’ve struggled to answer this question for many years. The “short” list would include: Archaeologist, Geologist, Theoretical Physicist, Race Car Driver, Test Pilot, Executive Chef, an Educator, or Tree House Builder.
What does agile software development mean to you?
Flexibility. Developers *love* getting sucked into bike shedding, which for me, encourages determining laundry lists of standards and isn’t really “agile.” Staying flexible for the team and product owner is truly a large piece of being agile.
Where do you spend most of your time online?
I’ve been known to lurk on Reddit and Hacker News. But I also really enjoy searching for vintage cars and motorcycles on Craigslist and reading Questionable Content (a web comic).
What concerns you most about where technology is headed?
I surely hope that the Singularity doesn’t happen until I’m long gone. Something about transcending our biological existence is not really what I want to happen. If anything, I hope nature can find ways to keep up and hold technologies that are invasive (in a biological sense). There have been many good advancements, but something feels “un-natural” about leaving biology in the dust.
What excites you most about where technology is headed?
I think the “Internet of Things” movement is absolutely fascinating. Mixed with our ever increasing capability to store and process larger and larger amounts of data, this will be the spark to understanding more about our environment and our own existence.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I love meeting new people and talking about hacking and technology. Pair that with a good coffee or food truck dish and you’ve got my full attention. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll respond!