Unusual Journeys and Great Software

Episode 5: The People at Skiplist and our unusual journeys to build great software.

Hosts: Fahad Shoukat and Andrew Wolfe from Skiplist.

Today's guests: Charles Esau, Senior Software Engineer, and Scott Stahl, Software Engineering, at Skiplist.

In this episode, Charles Esau and Scott Stahl, software engineers at Skiplist join us to discuss our unusual journeys and atypical backgrounds and how it helps us build great software.

If you ever wanted to learn more about how to build great software and learn about the people at Skiplist, this is the episode for you.

The twists and turns in our journeys have made a big impact on how we practically approach software development.

It has resulted in a high success rate in the projects we work on. We also are fortunate enough to have built lasting relationships along our journey. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

- Fahad

Outline

Software Needs a Strong Foundation

  • Skiplist builds software on the foundation of these core values.

  • Useable, incredible, and thoughtful software.

  • Fahad has an electrical engineering background. Has a personal perspective on software.

  • Charles has a manfuacturing and IT background in addition to being a military veteran.

  • Scott came out of the building material and construction industry in a family lumber business. Moved into software via a bootcamp.

  • Andrew came from a rough growing up, blue collar family.

  • Skiplist's unique look at software comes largely from our diverse, non-traditional backgrounds.

Geographic Differences (9:46)

9:46- How do our approaches differ just based on regional cultures and norms?

  • Overengineering and an early tool adoption in Silicon Valley

  • Simply approaches to software in the midwest. It-just-works approach. Slower adoption cycle.

  • Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey A. Moore. Great work on slow vs fast adoption.

  • Practical approach to software. Identify and solve the problem.

  • Money is a much more finite resource.

The Pitfall of Tech-first (11:44)

11:44- AI by any other name wouldn't smell as sweet

  • An "AI" startup is just statistics, many times.

  • Too easy to get caught up in the sexiness of "new tech" trends.

  • Need to focus on the basics - clean, structured data, for instance.

  • The user needs to be first in mind when building software.

  • Need to earn complexity

  • Start with exploring the problem and the area around the problem.

  • Too much new-tech hype causes too many projects to fail; trendiness is bad.

One Language to Rule Them All? (16:19)

16:19- Pick the best tool for the job - forcing every problem into a single tool is bad.

  • For instance, there's real zealotry behind Ruby, for instance. But it's not the tool for all jobs.

  • No need to argue about the tech itself. Pick what works.

  • Hype-adoption has a huge cost. E.g. MD Andersons failed adoption of Watson

How Do Executives Navigate, Then? (20:59)

20:59- Especially non-technical executives who are making technology investments

  • Don't give entitlement funding to teams/projects.

  • Treat internal proof-of-concept teams as startups. Limited funding. Forcing more to be done with less.

  • Give the least amount of money possible to prove out an idea or new tech.

  • Iterate.

  • Star simple, see if it works, tweak it, and expand. Earn your complexity.

  • Need to understand where certain technologies fit in best.

Big Tech Shrugs at Uni Degrees (27:07)

27:07- Apple, Google, and more are removing 4-year-degree requirements

  • Will power and determination should be the differentiators for people.

  • Get hungry people.

  • Need to tear more ceilings down.

  • Learning what people can do and seeing how they solve problems are the most valuable components of tech pros.

  • The future of the workforce is evolving.

  • Need to get better at evaluating people - college degrees have made us soft.

  • Identifying people who can think through problems in real time is critical.

  • Evaluating a candidate's ability to problem solve is the most important factor.

Additional core value: Empowerment over management.