Tech: The Final Frontier

If you’re my age, meaning you’re floating somewhere in between the first and last millennials, you probably remember a childhood with much simpler technology. The early years comprised tinker toys, VCRs, cassette tapes, and your parents’ polaroid camera. Your mom showed you Windows Paint on Microsoft Windows 95, and your dad still held on to a typewriter. In 2000, your mom took a web development class where Cascading Style Sheets was the cutting edge technology.

It’s probably safe to assume most of us (baby boomers, gen Xers, and millennials alike) have seen those posts floating around the internet that say “Only 90s kids will remember…” followed by a list similar to the one above. Although millennials are often regarded as being too attached to technology, those of us that are old enough seem to have a fondness and nostalgia for the simpler things.

On the Crest of a Big Change

Matthew Woodings, VP of Cloud Operations at HotSchedules, was nine years old when War Games hit theatres. “It looked so cool and I wanted to be a part of that.” he said. 

Woodings and tech have been good friends for a while. After completing his Ph.D in 1999, Woodings was a software developer for a startup, Viviance New Education. Frankly, I assumed he would share my enthusiasm for the old days.

“Most old school tech got me out of bed at 3 am for one reason or another,”  Woodings said.

“I do have fond memories of early technology but I’m not sure I miss any of it.”

Woodings was CTO at HotSchedules from 2003 to 2013, and played a large part in rebuilding their software. In 2018, the company has 33,000 customers and is just short of 2 million managed users.

As far as changes go, Woodings said standardization (such as browser standards and programming language standards) has made life a lot easier. Coding libraries and frameworks can help with rapid development, but he also believes there can be a downside.

“A lot of these development tools have meant fewer people actually know what’s going on ‘under the hood’,” he said. “So when things don’t scale or have issues there are few people with skills to resolve them.”

As far as tech’s future goes, Woodings said he doesn’t think we’re in a bubble, but we are “on the crest of a big change.” Things like Big Data and AI will soon change the way we think and interact.

When asked what aspects of tech could still be improved, Woodings said all of it. “If we think we’re done, we’re not looking hard enough,” he said. “As we carve our way into the future and drag everyone with us, we need to be able to save people from themselves.”

Woodings said he has survived on very little sleep throughout his career, but the excitement of paving the way to the future keeps him going. It is also what keeps him from smashing a keyboard into the wall. He said frustration is a part of it, but he always believes there is a solution or a reason as to why something may have gone wrong.

As more and more companies build a larger digital presence, developers are in demand more now than ever. There seem to be endless options available for novices to acquire the skills to start a new career, whether it’s through a coding bootcamp or an online course.

“If you’re doing this to make money, you will fail,” Woodings said. “Do this because you get a kick out of doing it. I have only ever seen passionate people succeed in this field.”

A Passion for Problem Solving

When Rachel Hammond was four years old, she fell in love with the NES she received for Christmas.

“When playing Super Mario Bros with my older sister I knew I wanted to make games when I grew up,” Hammond said. “That never really went away.”

Hammond recalls teaching herself how to program as early as middle school, begging her father to buy her a compiler which was incredibly expensive at the time.

“I used to have to go to bookstores and thumb through books that cost upwards of $100, hoping I could spot something about what I was having trouble with and hoping I could remember it when I got home,” she said. “I just couldn’t afford to take the knowledge home with me.”

Hammond has been working in game development professionally for the past 15 years. She believes the internet is both great and terrible, but it has been the most useful innovation when it comes to her work.

“When I have a question about how something works, when I get an obscure error, when I’m needing to figure out how to solve a complicated 3D math issue, I can just look on the internet and find advice and tutorials and videos with animation explaining everything.” She said.

Although Woodings and Hammond work in vastly different areas of tech, their views on the future of the industry are quite similar. Hammond agrees that potential developers need to have a passion for problem-solving, and not just a paycheck.

She also has similar views on the side effects that come with rapid growth and development. That is, a lot of bad code can come with it.

But another issue is security, which she believes is too often overlooked even at big tech companies.

“As an industry, our rush to develop so much so fast has frequently seen card castles built on foundations of sand,” Hammond said. “Security breaches like LinkedIn, Sony, and Gawker are only the beginning.”

Simple Solutions to Difficult Problems

Senior Software Engineer at Enola Labs, Marty Burolla, shares Hammond’s enthusiasm for the internet, and how it allows communities of developers to come together.

Burolla started his career before the internet was popular. He is an avid cloud technology fan, and likes how the cloud “has provided simple solutions to hard problems.”

Although technologies such as file sharing and large scale databases have been around for some time, Burolla said the innovation is in how these technologies are being packaged, designed to scale, and offered to the public.

“I had no idea there would be a sense of community with respect to software development,” Burolla said. “No problem is too difficult to solve when everyone contributes to a solution.”

As for where technology goes next, Burolla said he has enjoyed watching companies compete over the cloud, but a more recent interest of his has been quantum computing.

“It’s exciting to think that I might see the benefits of quantum computing in my lifetime,” Burolla said. “It’s quite possible that quantum computing could take off faster than anybody can anticipate, especially now that early prototypes are connected to the internet for people to explore.”

Over the past two decades, technology has evolved faster than most people ever thought possible. But for those making a living in the field, it’s only the beginning. As development progresses, users will need to continue weighing its risks and benefits to determine where it takes us.

Guest article written by: Brigeda Hernandez is the Marketing Assistant at Enola Labs Software, a software development company based in Austin, TX. Brigeda enjoys writing about technology and its impact on business processes and everyday life.

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