What is your current professional role and how did you get here?
I am an independent designer and developer. I make products for sale in the App Store in partnership with my friends at Bombing Brain Interactive, as well as on my own. I also do contracting work in design and development
I started my career as a high school English teacher. I taught grades 9-12. Literature, poetry, grammar, etc. After about five years of teaching, I decided to pursue my passion for graphic design. I had been playing with graphics programs ever since the MacPaint days in the 1980s. Once I began working in the design field, I also started learning basic HTML/CSS/JavaScript code.
Eventually, after the iPhone was released, I began working on designing iPhone apps. Eventually, I began to code in Objective-C and Swift as well.
What was the first app you worked on and what did it do?
After a long time working various jobs, I partnered with some old friends at Bombing Brain Interactive to help them with some icons and other graphics. Our first “real” app together was Teleprompt+, a teleprompter for the iPad, which was released the first day the iPad went on sale in 2010.
What went well? What could have gone better?
To our surprise, the app sold well. It started out a bit slow, but it grew over time. We had found a use for the iPad that a lot of people needed. Over time, it became very popular.
Our customers told us how we could improve the app, and we did what they asked.
Perhaps, though, we added some things we shouldn’t have. The app is so large and complicated now that it has become difficult to maintain. People run into problems more often. We have more support requests. If I could go back and do something different, I’d probably be more careful about releasing features until we were 100% sure they could be done well. Sometimes, you want to make your customers happy so bad that you end up making the app worse instead of better.
What is your favorite among the apps you’ve worked on?
Setlists is another app from Bombing Brain Interactive. It’s a lyric prompter for singers. I really love using that app myself when I play music.
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?
Music has always been my biggest passion. I love to play music, write music, record music, listen to music. I also enjoy writing and traveling.
I agree that getting away from the computer is important every now and then. I try to take regular breaks every day, even if it’s just to take a walk.
Why do you support what App Camp does?
This world of developing and designing apps has given me so much joy. I want everyone to feel what it’s like to make an app and watch it actually come alive on the screen. Not everyone wants to be an app developer, but everyone who does want to should feel like they are welcome in our community. Historically, our community hasn’t been as welcoming as it should, and I’d like to see that change.
I love that App Camp teaches the entire ecosystem of the software business. Not just the code, but also the marketing, the quality assurance, the design, the user experience, the sales. I wish more of the adults in the tech world spent more time learning about the various tasks that go into making a product successful, beyond the small part that they do in their specific job. It would help foster better inclusivity and ultimately make for better technology.
What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?
Open your ears. I’ve found that there are lots of people with good ideas and solutions. But as developers, our mindset is usually tuned for solving problems ourselves. So we always want to make suggestions and experiment immediately. We want to have the answer.
The intention may be good, but often there are other people who have already come up with great ideas, and we’re not hearing them. And meanwhile, we turn people off and they walk away. That’s a huge loss.
Being willing to listen first, and letting others discover things for themselves would go a long way to making others feel more welcome in the community. It would also improve our solutions, as “two heads are better than one.” More ideas coming from more diverse people = more effective solutions and ultimately better technology.
How can technology be a force for good?
Technology is neither good nor bad on its own. It’s what you do with it that counts. I believe that everyone creating new technologies has an obligation to consider how that technology will be used and how it will effect people’s lives. Too often we build things because we can. We don’t stop to think if we should.
Ethics courses should be required for all technology students. Too many of us are chasing after money in order to survive in business. We lose sight of the good things tech can do for us. And we leave our tech open to being used in malicious ways.
It’s not all about sharing pictures with our friends (although that’s fun, too.) Technology can expand human potential. It can help us do things we otherwise couldn’t. Like traveling to the moon. Curing illnesses. Saving lives.
You can find Joe on Twitter, on micro.blog, at joecieplinski.com and at releasenotes.tv.
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.
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