FutureStack Speaker Spotlight: Chris Martin (Pandora), Jonathan Karon (New Relic) and Kevin McGuire (New Relic)

FutureStack is a short three weeks away; the t-shirts have arrived fresh from the printer, the high-tech badges are in a shipping container on their way to San Francisco, CAKE has been practicing their hit songs for the kickoff party, and we’re so giddy with excitement that we can barely sleep.

To take our minds off planning the conference we sat down with Pandora’s Chris Martin along with New Relic’s Jonathan Karon and Kevin McGuire to hear what excites them most about the future of technology. Here’s what they had to say:

Chris Martin_NEWChris Martin, VP of Engineering at Pandora

Q. What first got you excited about technology?

My first and most important introduction to technology was Pong.  I’m not a “gamer” by any stretch of the imagination but growing up we had our Atari Pong hooked up to our 13″ Sony Trinitron.  As kids we were amazed that we could connect a device to the back of the TV, and control objects on the screen.  We played for hours. That felt like the first and most impactful advancement that I was exposed to. The idea that advances in technology could be brought into the home and made generally available.  It was also around this time that my mother’s college roommate gave my brother and I a tour of a computer lab at Cal where she spent most of her time.  She taught statistics and showed us around the computer lab she had access to. She described how the punch cards were used and talked at length about how the systems greatly enhanced their ability to process the medical research data that she’s was assisting the health department with. Those two experiences, in my formative years,  gave me an awesome and very different window into the impact of technology.

 Q. What recent advancement do you think will transform the future of software?

Present company included, as a profession we have made small advances in the area of recommendations. I believe in the next 10 years product decisions, entertainment decisions, decisions around taste will all be greatly eased by technological advances around recommendations systems.  Most of the apps you interact with on your phone, with the exception of games, have a critical element of discovery (Pandora), some lead you into the discovery (Yelp), some hope you engage in discovery (Twitter). In the future, discovery will play a crucial role to each of them and it’ll be the recommendations systems and the machine learning technology supporting those systems that will greatly change the way we interact with our surroundings.

Q. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work today?

The most obvious answer to that question and one most technology leaders are confronted with today is around staffing our engineering, product and design organizations. That’s only part of the answer though, it’s also really important that we grow those hires into productive contributors to our varied engineering efforts. I think a lot of teams miss on that important step, they hire incredibly quickly and focus solely on the hiring efforts. This isn’t about programs and tools and classes. It’s about preparing effective leaders, productive developers, indoctrination and  putting systems in place to make these individuals successful in their new organization.

Keep up with Chris’s wise words and follow him on Twitter here.

Jonathan Karon- Engineering Manager, Mobile at New Relic


Q. What first got you excited about technology?

A wire-wrapped RTL (resistor-transistor logic) rally computer wired into my dad’s AMX that he used to compute optimal speed for auto races. Also, a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

Q. What open question in tech are you dying to see solved?

How can we build cyborg tech that preserves existing social relationships, personal privacy, and the non-marginal cost of duplicating information? (or how can we keep smart glasses off of this old fogey’s lawn?)

Q.  What is the biggest challenge you face in your work today?

People: Building a multi-disciplinary team that can invent a new category of software.

Technically: Rigorously testing software that is tightly coupled to hardware and frameworks without mocking an entire operating system.

You can follow Jonathan on Twitter here.

Kevin McGuire

Kevin McGuire, Director of Engineering, Platform at New Relic

Q. What first got  you excited about technology?

The day I bought a Commodore 64 to see what all the fuss was about with computers – I was hooked! The speed at being able to build something that worked was amazing.

Q. What open question in tech are you dying to see solved? 

Computers that understand what we mean, not what we say.

Q. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work today?

Understanding what doesn’t need to be built so you can build more of what’s needed.

Stay up to day with Kevin’s short, yet powerful, statements on Twitter here.

The future is coming sooner than you think, so don’t forget to register for your own spot at FutureStack. Follow our conference posts on the blog and at #FS13 to hear from our speakers and get sneak peaks of the what we’ve got planned.

Jana is one of the happiest people you will ever meet. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that she loves what she does. She started at New Relic as their Offline Community Manager and now she manages all of New Relic’s internally organized conferences. View posts by .

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