How long have you been working in technology for and what is your technical background?
I’ve been working in tech for 15+ years across various industries including education, retail, sports, ad-tech and consulting among others. I have a bachelors and masters in Computer Sciences. I completed my masters from St. Cloud State University.
My career has consisted of various roles in engineering, product management, and solution engineering. This diversity of interdisciplinary experiences has been one of the most powerful assets in my career, allowing me to evaluate a business’ objectives from various unique perspectives.
What are you focused on right now?
As CTO of Hoonuit, I’m responsible for product management, content development, engineering and IT operations. Hoonuit is a cloud-based platform that provides educational institutions analytics and professional development solutions to positively impact students’ outcomes. With the recent acquisition of our analytics business, I’m focused on rationalizing our disparate platforms, tech stacks, resources and teams to develop a cohesive product strategy and help the organization execute on that strategy at scale.
What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?
For our analytics business, we run our own data centers and are in the process of migrating to Azure as a result of a business partnership with Microsoft. We use Java and Angular for application development and R for our machine learning predictive modeling. For our professional development business, we are fully hosted in AWS. We use python and Angular for application development and Selenium for automated web testing. Our microservices architecture renders itself nicely to our culture of continuous deployment. We use Jenkins for continuous integration, kubernetes for automating deployment, scaling and management of our applications leveraging docker containers.
How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?
At Hoonuit, I’m responsible for overseeing both engineering and product management functions. This single accountability structure, by definition, demands close alignment to business outcomes as the role requires maniacal discipline around prioritization of business objectives as well as core infrastructure needs such as scaling, automation, security, efficiency and eliminating risk.
What is the size of your department (headcount) and how is it organized/managed?
I lead our product management, content development, engineering and IT operations teams, a total of 45 team members today and growing. We are primarily organized as product teams,which consist of a product manager, product designer, engineers and QA. Product Owners act as scrum masters as well.
How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions in an increasingly competitive market?
We have a pretty mature remote culture at Hoonuit which has worked well for recruiting and retention. Historically with our offices in Little Falls, MN and Appleton, WI respectively, we took advantage of strong, local talent. We are in the process of ramping up our HQ in Minneapolis. I’m excited to get the word out about our company and the opportunity for folks to work on meaningful problems that has a significant impact on our next generation.
How do you personally keep up with the ever changing technology landscape?
We live in such an exciting time – with so much innovation happening and the speed at which technology is evolving. Literally speaking, not sure I could ever keep up. That said, learning about new tech and its applications – whether through personal experience or through the community (blogs, networking events, conferences) – is a part and parcel of my existence. I spend about 10-20 hours/week reading about and/or working on new technology.
I love building things. I spend my nights and weekends tinkering with new technology. If I see myself doing the same thing 3 times, I make a note of it and try to automate it. A few things I’ve worked on this past year: powerpoint presentations, voice commands using NLP to run reports, research a topic or analyze a data set and render visual projections of ideas using AR.
What excites you about where technology is heading?
The magnitude of possibilities. Living in a time where anything you dream of is possible – is beyond exciting. It is also exciting to see how accessibility of technology has changed over the last few decades making it even more easier and affordable for folks to acquire, learn and become productive.
What concerns you about where technology is heading?
With great power, comes even greater responsibility. With all the advantages of where tech is headed, it’s also worrisome to think about the negative implications of misuse and vulnerability including security and privacy among others.
What are you into outside of technology?
I love the ocean and the exploration of a whole new world that exists underneath it. I try to grab every opportunity I get to go snorkeling. I also enjoy unique culinary experiences – another way of saying I’m a big foodie! I love spending time with my family – and am lucky that they share some of the same interests which allows us to have family vacations at wonderful unique destinations.
What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry?
I think MN has a strong, tight-knit tech community. I’ve been a part of the tech community here for 10+ years. It is exciting to see how much it has evolved over the years. There are so many awesome events, meetups and groups to take advantage of. There is always more we could be doing. That said, it’s the responsibility of each one of us who is part of the community to make sure we’re helping nurture it to become what we would like it to be.
Is there anything else you would like to add?