(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
The endpoint of creating a tech product is often oriented toward solving big problems, but there is plenty to learn in the small steps along the way.
When it comes to building new tools and career paths, lessons came through during the Baltimore Innovation Week 2018 Dev Conference. Presented by Technical.ly on October 10 at the Creative Alliance, the afternoon started with a pair of technical talks, then turned toward career tracks with a panel discussion featuring four local leaders. The day closed with a keynote from inventor James West.
Here are seven key quotes that we’re reflecting on:
James West, inventor of the electret microphone used in 90 percent of devices and a research professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering, on his latest work:
- “We set out to re-engineer the stethoscope.”
West, a prominent inventor with 250 patents to his name who had a long career at Bell Labs, looked to bring noise cancelling technology to the stethoscope for purposes of detecting pneumonia. The system powering the smart stethoscope includes electret microphones and algorithms to detect abnormalities in lung sounds. It’s designed to be low-cost, and speed up work for doctors and nurses. He is working with Pigtown-based Harbor Designs and Manufacturing. “We’re using the same methods that the brain uses to process signals,” he said.
Johnny Boursiquot, principal cloud engineer at Achievement Network, on serverless computing:
- “Serverless doesn’t actually mean there are no servers.”
Boursiquot offered an intro to serverless, as well as a code demo. “Serverless doesn’t absolve you from having to think in systems…It’s just that now somebody else is running the servers for you,” he said. He created an integration for Slack that creates a way to give shoutouts to teammates. “The idea is you’re building very small things, but in building small things you have a way of stitching them together,” he said.
Boris Vishnevsky, principal in the technology enablement practice at Slalom, on leveraging data:
- “Data is the next great natural resource.”
Vishnevsky discussed the cybersecurity implications from the constantly growing volumes of data that’s available, whether in public or private formats. That presents implications when it comes to risk and compliance, and cyber review must be a continuous part of the process of working with new tools. Vishnevsky was joined by Brandon Young a consultant on Slalom’s information management and analytics team.
Angel Johnson, Director of Technology Delivery – Infrastructure PMO at Marriott, on working cross-functionally in teams:
- “We are getting to a point where people should be able to work everywhere and anywhere, so we have to make sure that the tools are in place to support that.”
During a panel discussion highlighting career paths and tips in software development, the human side of making software came through. Face-to-face communication is important, even when team members are remote, said ICX Media’s Elena Hearty. At Fearless, tools like Slack are important to keeping communication lines open, said President Delali Dzirasa. Building redundancy into the process so that communications remains constant is also important for Enveil’s Ryan Carr.
Delali Dzirasa, president of Baltimore-based dev shop Fearless, on standing out during the hiring process:
- “You are more than your GitHub handle.”
Dzirasa talked about the importance of being yourself, and how that resonates with a company. “My advice is to bring your whole self to the equation. We build better products when we have a diversity of thought, backgrounds and perspectives.”
Elena Hearty, of D.C.-based ICX Media, on moving into leadership roles:
- “Leadership is assumed and not granted.”
For those who are looking to move into a leadership role, Hearty encouraged showing initiative and galvanizing team members to solve problems, no matter the title. “Volunteer for the stuff that no one else wants do,” she said. Dzirasa added that there are plenty of problems worth solving.
Ryan Carr, director of engineering at Fulton-based Enveil, on career lessons:
- “Make it about the journey as much as you can.”
Carr said work you take on represents an investment, so make sure there’s something to take away beyond the invoice, whether it’s a new skill or even a new project. “As you’re working, make sure that you’re growing as a person,” Carr said. For her part, Johnson experienced a shift in the market while working in real estate that led her back to a career in tech at Marriott. She learned the reality that markets shift. It’s not personal, she said, but a plan is needed to move forward. “You owe it to yourself to live the life that you want to live,” she said.-30-
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