Thank you Tarmac for underwriting our Meet a Minnesota Tech CTO series, where we get up close and personal with Minnesota’s chief techies.
How long have you been working in tech for and what is your technical background?
I’ve been working in tech since graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2013. Even though I got a degree in Electrical Engineering, founding VidGrid was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Before that, I’ve been coding since I took an introductory programming class in my freshman year of high school.
What are you focused on right now?
I’m currently the CTO at VidGrid, a software startup based in Saint Paul. We’re building an interactive video platform that can be used for Education, Training, Sales, and many other markets. One of my current focuses within VidGrid is working on a new version of our API that will let other companies integrate a fully featured video platform into their own platform with minimal effort.
What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?
We make use of cloud hosting on AWS in order to maintain reliability and scale our application. Our tech stack is built on PHP and MySQL using the Laravel framework, which makes it seamless to develop new features and onboard developers. We have native applications for the desktop written in C# .Net and Swift.
How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?
We have weekly product planning meetings where the Engineering and Product teams meet to ensure that we’re working on the right projects. Feedback from Customer Support and Sales is helps prioritize projects and set our roadmap. Our Engineering team focuses on being able to quickly adjust to changing business needs while maintaining a high-quality product free of bugs and issues.
What is the size of your department and how is it organized/managed?
Our Engineering team currently consists of 6 people. I help choose which technologies we use to build product while our VP of Engineering handles the product alignment to select which new features to implement or improve. We have a pretty small team, so we don’t need hierarchy, and each developer has their own area of expertise. We’re trying to expose our whole team to more parts of the product, but sometimes when something needs to be done quickly, it falls to the developer with the most knowledge in that area.
How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions?
Recruiting has generally been done via network reach outs. When we find a potential candidate, we like to have them in the office for a day or two to get to know the team, learn the product and just get a general feel on if they’d be a good fit. Retention is achieved in a few different ways. We try to assign projects to the people who are most excited about them and every developer gets an options grant so they get to own a part of what they do. Finally, we like to keep things fun in the office, and will sometimes take short breaks to play video games such as Overwatch or Super Smash Bros.
How do you personally keep up with the ever changing technology landscape?
The best way to keep up with new technologies is to constantly try them out. Along with that, I keep an eye out on what the major tech companies are doing and read a few different tech news sites.
Why do you do it, what inspires you?
I’ve always been passionate about building things. Working in software, I get the opportunity to make something that many other people will use and benefit from. It’s always great to hear feedback from happy customers, as it really gives a sense of accomplishment.
What excites you about where technology is heading?
Technology is constantly getting easier to use and is making our lives better. Every day, more of the world is getting connected and I think video is going to be a big part of that. Outside of my own area of tech, I’m excited about more efficient renewable energy technologies. Also, self driving cars will be pretty cool.
What concerns you about where technology is heading?
One of my concerns with social media is its potential to have harmful effects on society. We’ve already seen a lot of fake news being spread and manipulation used to affect the outcome of democratic elections. Another concern is that while computers have become so easy to use, there is a potential downside of kids growing up not learning how to do advanced tasks on them, or learning anything beyond their smartphone touch screen. Hopefully there will be enough people with the passion to learn more about computers, so that we won’t have a shortage of people who know how to program them.
What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry – how could it be better?
Minnesota has many large companies, especially in the medical technology field, and that’s great. The startup scene isn’t that large, but it is growing, especially with some new accelerators in town like Techstars (which VidGrid went through back in 2015!). Finding local funding as a software startup can sometimes be a little difficult, so that could be a little better.
What are you into outside of technology?
I like running, biking, and playing video games.
Is there anything else you would like to add?