Below, you’ll get to know our technical director of application development, Jay Hogan. Keep reading to learn what coding language he’s into right now, how he credits a book on Java for his stellar career, and how he encourages a routine of continuous learning for success. Oh, and a little Gestalt psychology’s in there too.
Jay Hogan, Technical Director, Application Development
How did your career in tech begin?
Well, I’m 100% self-taught. I have a degree in psychology and eventually went back to get a master’s in computer information systems. I didn’t have the easiest time finding a job when I graduated and ended up working in customer service answering phones for a lock manufacturing company.
The company had so many manual processes that were labor-intensive, so I started creating small data management and office automation apps using MS Access and Visual Basic (I was shadow IT). I did this for a few years, learning what I needed as I needed it, and eventually transitioned into a role in the IT group. But my career really took off when I decided to teach myself Java. My wife and I joke that I owe all of my success to “a 1200-page Java book.”
Does your background have any effect on your approach to work?
Yes, a bit of imposter syndrome was prevalent earlier in my career. I always felt I was behind my peers and that drove me to learn and tinker during off-hours. I always had a pet project (or 2 or 3) that captured my curiosity. Now, I know that in the technology field you must always be learning or risk irrelevance.
Would you say your passion for learning is what sets you apart?
I would say my superpower these days is the combination of my work ethic, my insatiable appetite for learning about technology, and my experience. I’ve made so many mistakes over the years and seen the mistakes others have made, that I can steer (or nudge) our clients and projects around the quicksand and quagmires.
What’s your all-time favorite coding language?
And what hot, new coding language are you into right now?
My new crush is Kotlin which I think could replace Java as the de-facto JVM language. I am also tinkering with Go and starting to see the appeal, but don’t tell Don Mills. He has been nudging me in that direction for a while now and I have been resistant to add something else to my learning plate. I can already hear him saying “I told you, dude!”
What SingleStone project has been the most memorable?
Kevin Tuskey and I share the same favorite project: the DevOps dashboard we built for a Fortune 100 financial services company. I remember it being a mad dash project—about 6 weeks—to take the initial concept and turn it into working software. I am particularly proud of the flexible architecture and patterns our team built in that first MVP, which has allowed the project to expand in scope as an open-source project. After thousands of commits, from hundreds of contributors, the same core designs/patterns we laid down in six weeks are still readily apparent today.
What’s a project challenge you’ve overcome in the past year?
Most challenges and problems on technology projects are not technology-related—they’re people or process challenges. We recently obtained approval to use AWS Lex to build a virtual assistant for one of our larger clients. Our client is very progressive for their industry and has shifted the vast majority of their IT infrastructure to AWS, but some services (like Lex) are not approved for use. It has taken many months of meetings, architecture/security discussions, and a successful POC to prove the business value of our use case, but we finally received an exception to use the service.
This is a case of understanding and pushing against constraints. Sometimes constraints are real (like you can’t use this software or service) and other times they’re barriers that can be moved if you push hard enough. It’s not easy to know the difference. In our case, the cost (in terms of lost business value) of the constraint drove us to continue pushing and it paid off.
What advice do you have for someone getting started in tech?
Develop a routine that promotes continuous learning outside of your normal day job. Get up early, stay up late, or use your lunch hour to read, toy with new tech, or work on pet projects.
This industry moves fast and it’s easy to be left behind. Also, be sure to spend as much time learning/honing the craft of development as you do learning about individual technologies, languages, or libraries. Writing quality code, refactoring, debugging, software patterns, and soft skills will serve you well long after the new hotness is the old jank.
Why do you love working at SingleStone?
It’s certainly cliche to say, “the people,” and that is a large part of the appeal of SingleStone for me. But let me wax philosophical for a bit. Gestalt psychology (or gestaltism) posits that the “whole is more than the sum of its parts.” Yes, we have great “parts” (the people) but the combination of those parts—working together to solve problems for our clients—has always felt magical to me. I think it must be a product of our vision, our values, our culture, and our people. In other words…the whole. That is what I love most about SingleStone.