Matt has been on the Topcoder team for almost 4 years and has worked on some pretty amazing projects as a platform architect.
Tell me a little bit about your background and how did your Topcoder story begin?
The majority of my career has been in ISP and Telecom startups, in a variety of tech and management roles. It was at one of these companies – Focal Communications – that I met Kyle Bowerman. This was over 15 years ago now, and that friendship endured. After several conversations with Kyle, across several years, I came to know Appirio, Cloudspokes, and Topcoder. An opportunity opened up which I pursued – and here I am!
What is the tech stack you like to work with the most and why?
Do I have to pick just one? I like NodeJS / Postgres / React. I also like Angular. I also like to code in assembler and C on micro controllers. Oh yeah, and I’ve been playing a bit w/Rust. Scala too, I love Scala… Perl? I guess I can let that one go now 🙂
What’s the most challenging thing you have to do as a Software Architect? How do you deal with it and also with everyday problems that come your way, in your role as an Architect ?
For me, the most challenging thing is achieving a clear, jointly-held vision of exactly what’s desired by the client or stakeholders. Often people know when something is “wrong” and when software might be the solution – but it may be unclear how that solution should look or function. Working through these ideas and really getting things sorted out can often be very challenging. Once you’ve got that done, the technical stuff is often a cakewalk (by comparison).
What do you like the most about the Topcoder community?
The international nature of the community has changed my thinking (both inside and outside of work) to no longer always “default” to the US. I like that, because it makes me feel more like a citizen of the world instead of just my home country. On a day to day basis, I like how often I’m surprised with clever solutions to problems or ideas from the community that no one has thought of before. (I guess I should stop being surprised already 🙂 )
What are your interests besides being a part of Topcoder? (hobbies or maybe other things you’re working at)
I like to play board games (I play every Thursday night), I’m learning the guitar (and play the piano also). I also tinker with micro controllers and small electronics projects. When outdoors, I like to kayak and snowboard and do a bit of RC flying as well.
Describe the optimal client type you like to engage with?
For me, the optimal client is one who is passionate about their project. I always want to talk to the people that will actually benefit from the work – they are the most invested, best at working through the vision, and provide the best feedback.
Cryptocurrency seems to be a disruptive element in the digital exchange market nowadays. How do you envision the future for Topcoder and Cryptocurrency?
Hmmm – do members want to get paid with bitcoin? We have a lot of interest in our client base around cryptocurrency and blockchain as well, so I’m sure work in this area will continue to grow.
What is it like working with copilots and solving problems together? What are the best qualities you expect a copilot to have?
We have a lot of great copilots and it’s awesome working with them. No one can know everything – so I rely on them to be the experts. The best copilots I work with care about the overall project (beyond just the current challenge) and also work hard to develop their own relationships within the community. This gives them power and influence they can use to really make results shine.
Which of the emerging technologies (Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, The Internet of Things, Virtual Reality, Other) will cause the most disruption to businesses in the near future and how do you see them affecting Topcoder?
AI and IOT. I think these two go together (each will advance the other). As we’ve seen with cloud and IOT, a lot of work may shift “upwards” toward more creative, “finding new ways to solve problems” sort of work. I think AI will become more and more a part of that.
Assuming you would have to pick a different role within the community, which of these would you choose and why? A: Competitor; B: Copilot; C: Reviewer.
A: Competitor (no question about it). I would lose. I would lose over and over at first, but I’d get better – and I’d learn a TON. This cycle of improvement is why I’d choose it.
If you could travel to visit 2 Topcoder members in their respective countries, who would they be and where?
Gondzo in Sarajevo and Birdofpreyru in Spain. There are really many folks I’d like to visit – but these two jump out as folks I’ve personally done a lot of work with and also places I’d love to visit!