FutureStack Speaker Spotlight: Jack Lawson (Airbnb), Nick Quinlan (SendGrid), and Jim Dalrymple (The Loop)


FutureStack is coming up in only two days now, and the closer we get to the conference the more excited we are to see all of you jammed into our stellar sessions.

To give you a closer glimpse at the people you’ll be hearing from, we sat down with some of our speakers to talk about what excites them most about the future of technology. Here’s what they had to say:

Jack Lawson, Software Engineer at Airbnb

Jack Lawson
Jack Lawson runs the San Francisco Lua meetup group, and enjoys open-source development, building games, writing Mustache templates, and coffee connoisseurism (these interests often coincide.) Jack lives in San Francisco with his wife and two daughters.

Q. What first got you excited about technology?

I’ve always been excited about and around computers — there’s an old picture of a very young Jack with a bowl cut and tacky sweater playing DOS games at my uncle’s house. My stepfather was a software engineer, so from a fairly young age I had access to a computer. Having computers around, coupled with liking to play games, led my friend and me to imagine becoming “video game programmers when we grew up”. One fateful day, I came home from school with a Scholastic book newsletter, and in the back was Learn to Program BASIC for Windows 95. After begging my mother, she finally caved, and I started programming — thinking I was going to write the next Tomb Raider sequel in BASIC — and I’ve been hacking away at a keyboard ever since.

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

We’re seeing the effects of easier languages and frameworks making it tremendously easy to prototype and rapidly iterate on ideas, which has led to an explosion of low-cost software to test the market. This itself has led to more money being thrown into software development, and, very importantly, tools like GitHub make it easy to write and share open-source software. This kind of democratization of software development and the widening of the software audience is massively changing the face of how we write software. Open-sourcing and prototyping are old, old ideas, but this is the first time they’ve been so widely available to so many people, and they grow every second.

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

The biggest challenge I face is finding the right balance between pragmatism and idealism: short-term and long-term gains. It’s the same dilemma that every software engineer faces; how does one make the argument for the ethereal goal of architectural and engineering purity against the very concrete goal of shipping? In the age of the silicon valley gold rush, it’s often the case that the former is disregarded for the latter, in order to achieve the short-term gains to keep the business running. On the other hand, I’ve been at companies that work on a data model for a year and a half, only to change 10% of it every week because it didn’t fit the business needs by the time it was finished. This is a very tough problem to solve.

Keep up with Jack and follow him on Twitter here.

Nick Quinlan, Developer Evangelist at SendGrid

Nick Quinlan
Nick Quinlan works to make developers lives easier by providing them with the help they need to grow their ideas. Passionate about solving problems, Nick has been coding since age eleven. He previously worked in internet marketing where he helped some of the worlds largest companies better connect with their customers.

Q. What first got you excited about technology?

I think the thing that first got me excited about technology was watching my parents. My dad was a programmer for the Joint Seismic Program and I always saw him on the computer. Eventually, I got ahold of my parents’ computer and promptly started breaking it, which taught me a lot. Among other things, I learned to never give out your personal user administrative permissions.

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

This is by no means a recent advancement, but it’s one of the things I’m most excited about: the use of client machines’ computing power. Today, we have millions and millions of people using their high-powered devices as little more than internet machines, which means much of their potential computing power is being wasted. However, when someone is on your website (or in your app), you have the ability to access that power.

People are just starting to explore the potential here, with projects like peerCDN and AdFree. Spotify also took advantage of this concept in its mobile apps, treating each user as what amounts to a BitTorrent Peer, allowing them to outsource nearly 40% of their traffic. This concept has enormous potential and many possible social and legal implications as people explore what they expect a website or app to be able to do, and what they don’t. I’m very excited to see this evolve.

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

There are so many cool things to do and not enough time to do them all. Picking is by far the biggest challenge I face in my work today.

You can follow Nick on Twitter here.

Jim Dalrymple, Founder of The Loop

Jim Dalrymple

Jim Dalrymple founded The Loop in 2009 to share his expertise and perspective about Apple. Jim has been following and reporting on Apple and its products for almost 20 years, first as one of the original members of MacCentral, then at Macworld. Before he puts anything down in text, he walks around with the story in his head for days, until he’s ready to unload it in one rush of thoughts.

Q. What first got  you excited about technology?

This is silly, but the Mac OS Garbage Can. The first time I saw the can bulge and then empty was amazing. How did they do that? I ended up with a Windows machine after that and it just didn’t have the same appeal. Then I got a Mac and my life was dedicated to digging deeper into technology.

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

One of the biggest hindrances in tech these days that needs to be solved is patents. They are great things and companies should have the right to protect their property, but patent trolls need to be stopped.

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

Time. It’s always my enemy. That’s why I’m also looking for more efficient ways to get things done.

You can follow Jim on Twitter here.

The future is at our heels right now. If you’re one of the lucky one’s joining us at FutureStack, follow our conference announcements with #FS13, and we look forward to seeing you there!

Thea is New Relic's Online Community and Developer Relations Manager View posts by .

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