How long have you been working technology for and what is your technical background?
I’ve been working in product development for the past 25 years with a focus on front end user experience and backend database performance and scalability.
After college I had the option of playing it safe and working at a fortune 100 company but instead rolled the dice with a startup company founded by a few IBM execs that eventually went public. Building upon that positive startup experience, I co-founded a SaaS analytical applications company and eventually landed at InboxDollars where I’ve been since 2008.
What are you focused on right now?
My time is split between a number of things. Lately I have found myself spending a lot of time navigating the ever changing EU compliance landscape as it relates to the removal of the Safe Harbor option. I also spend a significant amount of time working with my product team in maintaining our product roadmap all while keeping a close eye on performance optimization, fraud and cyber-attack prevention.
What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?
At our core is a standard LAMP stack but over the past few years, in order to keep up with the significant growth of our product, we have expanded into many non-RDBMS technologies such as Redis, Beanstalk, RabbitMQ, Elasticsearch. We host our application across three different data centers, OneNeck, Level3 and Rackspace.
How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?
Given our strong focus as a metrics driven organization, data plays a critical role in almost every decision we make and we communicate daily with the other functional teams to ensure what we are developing fits the needs of our organization, our customers and our members.
What is the size of your department and how is it organized/managed?
The R&D team is made up of about 20 individuals representing the Product, Systems and Engineering teams.
How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions in an increasingly competitive market?
Lets face it, every company in the Twin Cities market is trying to recruit technical talent. We are all competing for a finite set of resources. Reputation is a huge factor in attracting new talent, and culture is just as important in retaining individuals. Our number one asset is our employees. We hire smart motivated individuals, empower them to do their job, and provide guidance and support. We also try to be very involved in the tech community through event participation and sponsorships, speaking opportunities and networking events. This allows our employees to participate in the broader technical community and also helps us network with local tech talent.
How do you personally keep up with the ever changing technology landscape?
I am a big fan of attending conferences and reaching out to others. It is important to step out of your echo chamber to get a different perspective. Of course we learn from our mistakes but isn’t it even better to learn from other’s mistakes? I am always energized after attending the various Twin Cities events such as MinneDemo, MobCon, Beta.MN, MinneBar etc. and while I find a lot of value in the presentations, there is equal value in the networking aspect.
What excites you about where technology is heading?
While today’s technology is not yet smart enough to know what I want and when I want it, through Big Data, AI and IoT, I finally believe we are positioned to get there. Technology is starting to truly live up to its promise of making life easier by existing almost everywhere but unobtrusively hiding in the background. Ultimately I believe these technological advancements will simplify our daily lives allowing us to spend more time on the important things.
What concerns you about where technology is heading?
First, there is an imbalance between the continued growth in tech related fields and the work force we are producing. I grew up in a very small town in the 80’s and had more Computer Science options than many of our kids today. We need to be intentional in our efforts to introduce technology to a more diverse set of children at an earlier age and provide them the tools to learn.
What are you into outside of technology?
I love the outdoors no matter what season it is. It’s typically a quick transition for me from snow skis to water skis and from snowmobiling to hiking; when I’m unable to be outside you can find me doing my best trying to keep up with the 20 somethings at my local CrossFit gym.
What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry?
Minnesota has a really solid roster of tech businesses, from startups to tech giants. Beyond that, I believe we have a strong infrastructure in place to help those businesses succeed from their early days: as an example, MN Cup, Beta.MN, COCO, MinneDemo, and MHTA are all organizations that are staunch supporters of the startup tech community and that makes Minnesota a really great place to launch, scale and grow a tech business.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I encourage organizations to support their local communities and schools in providing training opportunities for our youth to get them hooked at an early age on the promise of technology.