What is your current professional role and how did you get here?

I’m currently Principal Consultant at an IT Consulting company, with a focus on iOS development. My day to day responsibilities are pretty broad, but mainly involve architecting and developing apps, helping our clients shape requirements, create estimates for contract bids, and mentor colleagues.

 

I went to uni to major in computer science but actually dropped out at the end of the first semester for personal reasons. After that I picked up PHP and worked my way up as a backend engineer. About 5 years ago, my boss  at the time needed someone to learn iOS development because we were in a tight spot with the company’s app. I jumped at the opportunity to learn something new, especially since they were willing to pay for me to attend a boot camp (like Jean MacDonald, I went to Big Nerd Ranch). I was very successful with that project, but the company’s priorities shifted and I ended up doing mostly backend development again.

 

Rather than let my new skills flounder, I decided to become a consultant so I could work on broader range of projects.

What was the first app you worked on and what did it do?

The first app I worked on was the newsreader app for bizjournals.com. It started out as your basic hybrid app (a version of the mobile website in a web view, plus some native features). Because the company has over 40 individual, local publications, it needed to be very flexible. The hybrid approach was a good fit here.

 

We later moved to a version that loaded content from a REST API and then rendered the HTML on the device using the Mustache templating engine.

What went well? What could have gone better?

The hybrid model had some shortcomings: UIWebView is not very well supported by Apple. The performance is not that great, it crashes more than it should, and hardly if ever get updates or bug fixes. We worked around some of the problems in the later version by rendering HTML on device. That allowed us to preload articles and assets, and add more native features.

 

Overall, we were happy to deal with the downsides of this approach, as we had previously tried to build a completely native app and failed spectacularly.

At App Camp, we emphasize that it’s important to have interests outside of tech and to take breaks from looking at screens. What are some of your interests outside of tech? What do you do when you need to take a break from work?

I do have some tech/screen hobbies and my family shares some of them. But I agree it’s good to have some other pursuits.

 

If I’m working from home, I can take breaks to play with my kids.

 

After work, I try to go to the gym a few days a week.

 

On the weekends, I’ll sometimes do a home improvement project. It’s important for me that my family feels comfortable at home, and I enjoy making it better.

 

My wife and I also enjoy cooking together or for each other.

Why do you support the goals of App Camp?

I believe that an equitable society requires equal participation from everyone. The tech industry has an outsized influence over our daily lives already, and that influence is only growing.

 

I’m not confident that diversity initiatives aimed at established companies will change much. They benefit from the status quo, so why give up power? Instead, I want marginalized people to get the skills and connections to build their own companies and technologies.

What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?

Lobby for accountability: If your company pays lip service to diversity, push to set up hiring quotas and make them part of performance reviews for hiring managers.

 

Lobby for equal paid parental leave, and more parental leave in general: Help break down gender stereotypes by demanding than men be able to take just as much paid leave as mothers.

 

Believe women and other marginalized people.

How can technology be a force for good?

Take the money out. Seriously.

 

I don’t mean work for free and starve. You deserve to get paid. Your deserve to start a company and sell your actual product for actual money.

 

What I mean is that once a company catches the money bug, good intentions go out the window. The money bug can come in many forms:

 

1. A company accepts outside funding (angel, VCs, private equity, etc), and even though the investors double-pinky swear to just be there to advise and mentor, it’s more like they creepily hover over the CEO’s shoulder with every decision they make. More than likely, they’ll want a board position in exchange for that cash infusion. Either way, suddenly the CEO is accountable to someone who’s neither customer nor employee. Even if the company is profitable, all that stock is so much worthless paper unless they start looking for an exit of some sort (sale or IPO).

 

2. Even if they’re entirely self funded, and intentions have remained pure, once the company becomes large enough, it’s incredibly hard to keep everyone on track. Things are going well, but they could be going *better*. Bigger profits mean bigger bonuses. Suddenly, “don’t be evil” becomes “eh, evil is hard to define”.

 

3. The company goes public. It’s a lot like 1 and 2 except a lot worse.

 

I guess what it boils down to is that it’s hard to do good and make much profit. It’s nigh impossible when you owe someone else money. Whenever possible, try to stay small and focus on the local community. Make an impact where you can feel it directly.

You can find Robin on Twitter, GitHub, and at recoursive.com.

Help more girls learn software development. Contribute to the App Camp For Girls Indiegogo fundraiser, get a cool perk, and enjoy the feeling of having helped the next generation of software developers.

Johann Garces, Facebook
Amandine Coget, Independent Programmer