Meet A Minnesota CTO: Steve Davis, Four51



SteveThank you Andcor Companies or underwriting the Meet a Minnesota CTO series.

Steve Davis is the CTO of Four51 — an eCommerce PaaS company nestled in the Warehouse District.

How long have you been working in technology for and what is your technical background?

I began working with technology while in the Navy during the early 90s. I suppose that means it’s been around 20 years. I’ve worked with network systems as well as software development. I migrated to software development because the challenges there were far more interesting. A majority of that time has been working on Four51’s Enterprise SaaS software.

What are you focused on right now?

Primarily our OrderCloud product, which is a “Platform as a Service”. OrderCloud has been a great SaaS product for many years and the natural evolution in today’s technical environment is to expose the business logic through a RESTful API. Emanating from the platform are the front end technologies that utilize the decoupled data models. My team and myself are heavily invested in Google’s AngularJs framework and the Node.js platform. We utilize these tools to create complicated B2B solutions for clients.

What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?

We’ve always been a core .Net framework development company, but with the platform strategy we’ve been able to introduce new technologies like the Node.js platform and AngularJs.

How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?

We are a bit unique in that our technology is a driver of the business objectives. That being said we spend a lot of time explaining the vision of our platform to various departments throughout our organization. We consult with the business leaders to ensure their product vision aligns to the technology vision and future of our company.

What is the size of your department and how is it organized/managed?

Our technology team is comprised of 16 people. We have a couple brilliant platform architects that create and manage the technology platform all other team members work within. Beyond that we try to maintain a flat organizational structure that fosters collaboration and self governance where each member holds one another accountable to following best practices laid out by the architects.

How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions in an increasingly competitive market?

Most team members were recruited through personal connections. We have placed an emphasis on diversity and currently have a strong number of female employees on our tech team. Our retention policy primarily revolves around providing a quality work/life balance while challenging team members to grow career skills. Everyone is challenged to identify needs that a small, but growing, company encounters over time and to take ownership of fulfilling those needs. Constant evaluation of career skills development is a priority and new opportunities for growth are made available to those that wish to find new challenges.

How do you personally keep up with the ever changing technology landscape?

Like most I have my favorite bloggers and technology leaders that I follow and read anything they publish. Our team is also a subscriber and big fan of Pluralsight. We also have a regular training session where team members perform training for the group. Nothing promotes learning better than preparing to teach.

What excites you about where technology is heading?

There is a lot to be excited about. Microsoft’s efforts at open sourcing their tools is an encouraging turn of events. The advancements in the JavaScript revisions is always fun to see. But most of all the platforms that enable developers to build software fast. Whether it’s API’s or IaaS services, the tools to offload the common complexities of building great software is the exciting future of technology.

What concerns you about where technology is heading?

Information security is an ongoing concern for many in the technology, and rightly so. How our industry responds and continues to aggressively solve potential vulnerabilities is vital to continued evolution of services through technology.

What are you into outside of technology?

I recently took up BBQ as a hobby. I’m fully enjoying the process of smoking various meats to perfection, and bringing in the excess for the company staff to enjoy. I also like to play various sports. I golf as much as I can and play in a softball league. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed the“Golden Age of Television” when it’s time to just relax on the couch and replenish the energy stock.

What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry?

Minnesota’s tech industry has many reasons to be proud. Large corporations have innovative technology divisions, and there are numerous resources for a healthy startup culture. Places like COCO and the vibrant MeetUp groups in the Twin Cities demonstrate the strong culture that has evolved over the years.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I was told there would be no math.


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