Flash dies at the end of 2020. Catalyte engineers made sure one company's software didn't go down with it - Technical.ly Baltimore

Software Development

Dec. 21, 2020 9:48 am

Flash dies at the end of 2020. Catalyte engineers made sure one company’s software didn’t go down with it

Catalyte finds and retrains software developers from diverse backgrounds. Here's a look at how it put this talent to work on a time-sensitive project with health technology company Casenet.
Sorftware development training at Catalyte.

Sorftware development training at Catalyte.

(Photo courtesy of Catalyte)

As the calendar days tick down, we’re bidding farewell to 2020. Among those things won’t be coming with us into 2021: Adobe Flash.

The web content software was behind a lot of multimedia capabilities when they were first introduced to the internet, playing a huge role in bringing the videos and games that created interactive experience to websites. But as of Dec. 31, Adobe will no longer be supporting it, and browsers like Google Chrome are cutting off access to content in Flash.

But it wasn’t just about bidding old games farewell. In the run-up to the deadline, software product teams had to make moves ahead of time to keep content active. For some still using Flash, the key was shifting all of the content running on Flash to the programming language HTML5.

“They had to actually rewrite their core applications in order to be supported by HTML5,” said Tom Iler, chief product officer at Baltimore software engineering development and services firm Catalyte.

As one might imagine, that’s not something that companies with established platforms can just do overnight. Among the companies making the switch was Casenet, a population health management company. It makes a platform, called TruCare, that offers health plans and providers a way to manage their members’ health by providing a full look at their health and life factors that could affect it. This can help to coordinate care, and improve it. According to the company, it’s used to manage about 12% of the U.S. population.

Adobe’s announcement of the sunset date for Flash in early 2018 put in motion a project that brought changes to the platform, which were officially released in May of this year. TruCare had a front end, which is the code that brings the data that a user sees, written in Flex. That’s the software tool allowing for content to appear on Flash. To convert, it required work on both the front end and back end, which is the server-side.

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As Casenet VP of Program Management Kathleen McManus put it, “There’s a time bomb and it’s going to go off, and the front end is not going to run.”

For this work, Casenet had worked with several different teams. But the group that got it across the finish line in 2019 and into 2020 was a team that included over 100 engineers people from Catalyte, which itself included 34 engineers from Baltimore. It mixed senior engineers and junior talent who were recent grads of the company’s training program.

The company employs many developers who made career switches into tech, Iler said. Instead of looking at resumes and going through networks, it uses technology to identify folks with the natural talent to become an engineer, then trains them through its own program.

Junior developers work with senior-level agile trainers and scrum masters, allowing the Catalyte team to be fairly autonomous from Casenet's team as both worked toward a tight deadline.

It’s a model growing out of Baltimore that has lots of implications for extending the opportunity presented by tech careers to more people, and working against the bias that so often excludes women and people of color during the hiring process. But this work offered a chance to look at other sides of the business, as well.

Along with its workforce development efforts, Catalyte is also a software services firm, with clients that need work done inside their systems. So it needs to get results. And that’s part of the model, too, said Iler.

“We can find people who have an amazing, off-the-charts, innate ability to work with technology,” he said, “and then these individuals are very productive and it comes very naturally to them, even though they’re early on in experience as software developers. They’re a really good fit and their acceleration is really high.”

The company’s work with Casenet points at how the client-facing side of its work can also bring a shift in the software space away from offshoring. By building teams in specific U.S. cities, it allows clients to look domestic when they might’ve previously worked with a team in another country. So their software work is made in the U.S., and the junior-level talent means the cost is competitive with offshore firms. Plus, it’s in the same timezone —  Casenet’s offices are in Boston — which helps for communication.

Casenet had previously worked with senior developers from Catalyte’s other software shop, Surge. But bringing in junior talent to scale up was a model that McManus was initially unsure of, especially as teams were made up of junior developers who were recently retrained.

“Certainly I will say at the beginning, we were definitely skeptical, especially our engineering managers that had traditionally worked with more senior- level [talent],” McManus said. “Fairly quickly, we understood that Catalyte had the backend support to support these newer team members through their journey.”

And it’s not just talent shining through. It’s also the training that sets up the developers to work in scrum teams.

“Instead of tech people who think they know it all or don’t want to engage with the client or understand what the true needs are,” Iler said, “our folks have been going through a program where really ask the right questions, and really find where you can add value.”

Since the junior developers work with senior-level folks who are agile trainers and scrum masters, McManus said it allowed the Catalyte team to be fairly autonomous from Casenet’s team as both worked toward a tight deadline.

By early May, a new platform written in HTML5 was released. So as Flash support ends, the only thing that will be exploding on New Year’s Eve will be fireworks on TV.

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