How long have you been working in technology for and what is your technical background?
About 10 years now, professionally. Before that, I did a bunch of stuff, retail mostly. But I’ve been doing tech stuff my whole life, ever since I was a kid. My dad worked in tech; he was always bringing home computers and things, so I was pretty fortunate to have had access to that stuff since I was young. I started writing code for little games for myself in BASIC when I was about 8 or 9.
What are you focused on right now?
Right now, aside from the usual maintenance stuff—bug fixes—our primary focus is we are re-architecting a huge part of the app that has outgrown the “monolith” that it was born from. We’re splitting out different parts of the system into more distributed services so that they scale better. We just finished “containerizing” the app.
What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?
We’re an AWS, our app is mostly PHP, though we’ve branched into using different languages where they’re suited. We’ve got some node.js, Go, Python and Ruby. We use Chef a lot. Whatever is best suited to the task. Some of the main tools we use are Docker, GitLab, and MySQL.
How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?
We’ve always been development-focused as a company, so generally our focus is on making the product as good as it can be at all times and always trying to improve that. It has been a pretty successful strategy so far in that our customers are always happy with our product.
We approach development organically—there’s a good balance of adding new features and functions and continually improving the current product.
What is the size of your department and how is it organized?
We have 6 devs, 3 support/QA. The devs are pretty much split between development and DevOps. If development doesn’t understand how their code runs in production, then they write code that doesn’t run well in production. So we don’t really strictly divide it, we all wear a bunch of different hats. We rely heavily on continuous integration and having a really strong set of technology processes that make sure things are always done correctly—code styling, formatting, tests—we are a pretty flat organization, really, in that we try to make sure that there is no one human gateway that prevents things from getting done. That’s a large part of what I do, making sure that all those processes and policies are streamlined and functioning well.
How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions in an increasingly competitive market?
We take the approach that we are always in hiring mode; that is, in a market like Minneapolis, any time you get a stellar applicant, you’re going to have them in for an interview, even if there isn’t necessarily a need, because they’ll likely get snapped up.
As far as retention, a strong sense of autonomy increases devs’ drive and ownership in the product. Generally, we make sure devs have challenging, interesting tasks, and not just menial grunt work. Although, we still do have to do grunt work! We empower them to solve things in interesting ways with tools that interest them.
How do you personally keep up with the ever changing technology landscape?
I’m always writing code and always reading about technology. I find it fun and interesting, so it’s not really work. I always like to have side projects going on, where I can try out new technologies. I read Hacker News, TECHdotMN, and Twitter a lot.
What excites you about where technology is heading?
I’m super excited by automation improving people’s daily lives, especially making it safer. I like the fact that my son might never drive a car. [laughs] As a father, that makes me feel better. I also just like the idea that someday the place where people live might be less of a factor in their quality of life.
What concerns you about where technology is heading?
The thing I think about the most is the intersection of privacy and security vulnerabilities. We’ve had so many big hacks in the news, and I think this problem is going to get worse and worse as software gets more complicated and ubiquitous. The surface area for tech just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I don’t see any advances in technology that are making this problem any smaller.
What are you into outside of technology?
My family and traveling. I think my other big hobby is audio recording. I like to play guitar and record songs; I’m getting really into fingerstyle guitar lately.
What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry?
The talent base is growing all the time. It seems like every year the tech community is growing. Minnedemo and Minnebar are exciting. There are some pretty cool coworking spaces. I’d love to see more diversity in the tech community.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
There are awesome maker spaces that are popping up in Minneapolis. If you’re into tech, you should check them out. The Hack Factory is pretty cool. Everybody should try their hand at building stuff.