What is your current professional role and how did you get here?
I am currently Apple Team Lead at AgileBits, working on 1Password. As with many other developers I’ve always had a passion for tinkering with computers, something that really ignited when my parents bought me my first computer – a Macintosh Quadra 610 – back in 1994. Interestingly enough when I headed off to college in 1999 I started out in the aeronautical engineering department, hoping to jump off into a career designing aircraft. It wasn’t until my best friend finally convinced me that this thing I enjoy as hobby is what I should be doing with my life that I switched to the Computer Science department. I’d like to say that programming was something that clicked for me right away, but the fact of the matter is that it was near on incomprehensible to me until the latter half of my junior year. The first class that finally rewired my brain in the right way was a Prolog class. There was just something about that language that made so much sense to me and I loved it.
After college I got a job in government contracting. Everything was written in Java and being a big Apple fanboy I was lucky to get to use a Mac in my job every day. In the evenings me and one of my friends at work started playing around with Xcode and learning to code in Objective-C. In many ways I felt like I was starting back at square one with my programming education. I spent many hours working through Aaron Hillegass’s Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X until one day everything snapped into focus and all the square brackets and colons became second nature.
Try as I might I could never wrestle those government contracts away from Java and into native Mac development and so I eventually moved on. I attended my first WWDC in 2009 and it was an amazing experience. Twitter was just getting started back then and the Mac and iOS development community had a wonderful presence there. Many of the people I met online around that time I still count among my friends today. It was amazing to walk down the streets in San Francisco, run into folks you had only chatted with online previously, and pick up as if no time had been lost since the last time you’d seen them. The only difference here was that there had been no “last time”.
Shortly thereafter I began working with my good friend, Kevin Hoctor, on his product MoneyWell. Kevin was in need of someone to work on MoneyWell for iPhone and that was where I first cut my teeth on a large scale iOS project. It was wonderful to work directly with a designer to create a brand new product from scratch. I also was able to hit the ground running because Kevin had created such a mature product in MoneyWell for Mac, and much of the model code was able to be reused directly on iOS. After we shipped MoneyWell for iPhone I moved on to MoneyWell 2.0 for Mac, followed by MoneyWell for iPad. We were a small team and as such I had a large degree of freedom and responsibility. Much of what I learned and the future success I would have were a direct result of working for and learning from Kevin.
After the work on MoneyWell wound down I was incredibly fortunate to begin working for AgileBits. I actually started here right where I left off with MoneyWell: working on the iPad app. The team was right in the middle of the iOS 7 redesign and I helped finish up that work and ship 1Password 4.5 for iOS early in 2014. I started as a developer on the team but added a bit of a leadership role to that over time. Today my responsibilities range from customer support, feature design, implementation, marketing, and more for both 1Password for Mac and iOS.
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?
My wife likes to say that I have an enthusiastic personality and I think that describes me pretty well. I tend to get very excited about new things and dive into them with both feet. Most recently it’s been carpentry work and home improvement. I’ve almost completed a bathroom remodel in which I’ve done the entire thing myself, including the electrical work, plumbing, and some custom carpentry for the vanity top. It’s been very rewarding to work with my hands and make something from raw materials. I also love photography and have really been enjoying shooting with the fantastic new cameras on iPhone X. Beyond that I fill my free time with books, movies, video games, and playing with my two awesome kiddos.
Why do you support the goals of App Camp?
App Camp is something I want to stick around for my daughter to experience. She’s 7 right now and already we’ve been toying around with Swift Playgrounds and learning the basics. Diversity breeds success and App Camp is keeping that idea of diversity at the forefront our minds in the tech community. In short: I support App Camp because it’s necessary.
What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?
Beyond donating your time, talents, and funds to organizations like App Camp, look for ways you can champion diversity in your own town or city. Also, if you happen to be the parent of a young girl make sure you let them know what’s available to them. Expose them to different facets of the tech world and share your passions with them. Maybe it won’t be for them, but if it is you can give them an incredible amount of confidence and a huge step ahead, right out of the gate.
How can technology be a force for good?
There are so many ways in which technology can be a force for good, but the one that sticks out the most to me is its ability solve problems in ways that weren’t possible in years past. From the use of 3D printing to create artificial limbs to wearable technology that helps a parent monitor the blood sugar levels of a diabetic child we are seeing amazing advances every day. With nothing more than a computer and internet connection people can create campaigns that deliver fresh drinking water to villages halfway across the globe. We live in an amazing time and it’s only going to get better from here.
You can find Michael on Twitter.
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