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Developer Diaries


A Taste for the Grandiose

Cristian Vlasceanu

Employer: aQuantive

Job: Senior Software Engineer

DDJ: Where do you work?

CV: I have been working in online advertising for the last three and a half years. I have a daytime position with aQuantive (which has recently been acquired and merged into Microsoft). I also moonlight for my own gig, Zero Systems LLC. I wear a senior software engineer hat during the day, and a colorful (if not extravagant) assortment of hats at night.

DDJ: What do you like about your job?

CV: I like being on the grandiose side of things, large-scale systems, many hundreds of machines working in parallel. It is a taste I picked up a while back at Amazon.com.

DDJ: What do you find challenging about your job?

CV: Working for a large company has its benefits, but it is a challenge to be able to put your finger on a given product and say, "I've done that, all of it, just by myself." That's where Zero Systems comes into play. My C++ debugger product is all me, I can showcase my skills, and I do not have anyone to blame for the bugs.

DDJ: What's your hobby?

CV: I collect jazz vinyls.


Searching for Meaning

Huy Nguyen

Employer: Endeavors Technologies Inc.

Job: Senior Software Architect

DDJ: What do you like about your job?

HN: This is one of the most high-tech, fast-growing companies in the industry where we do application streaming and virtualization, with a team of 5 (that's it!).

We have a very strong engineering team, very bright, working so well together that everyone's looking forward to go to work every day. Personally, as Senior Architect, I have a chance to breakdown requirements, to analyze architecture concerns, and to explore available design patterns to ensure that our product is sound, robust, and maintainable.

DDJ: What do you find challenging about your job?

HN: There are countless ways for getting from abstract requirements to concrete architecture designs—how to ensure that the design is sound is challenging. We don't have the luxury to do so many iterations to recover from early errors.

DDJ: What have you found that makes your job easier?

HN: Learning from so many technical reports, teaching, and training, I have developed a method for systematically converting requirements to architecture design. It's not a silver bullet, but it forces the architect to focus on as many design aspects as possible. Of course, there are prerequisites to use this method, including knowledge of architecture trade-off, design patterns, and development styles (domain-driven, test-driven, feedback-driven, etc). The method is called IDEFC (Interface-Data-Event-Function and Control) analysis. The entities interact with each other in endless cycles to become the foundations for building larger software systems. For instance, one unique concept is that all things are data, including Interface, Event, Function, and Control. With Data, there is creation and destruction and everything in between.

DDJ: What's your hobby?

HN: I like to play basketball, poker with my friends, hiking, swimming, Chinese chess, etc. But one of my more unique hobbies would be practicing Zen/Tai chi and searching for the meaning of life. Life is not worth living without a meaning.


Integrating Java with Python

Bil Lewis

Employer: The Broad Genomics Institute of MIT

Job: Computer Scientist

DDJ: What's your job at MIT?

BL: I write programs to analyze DNA, figure out how to assemble little bits into a whole genome, align genomes of different organisms to see how similar they might be, etc. At the moment it's the 16S ribosomal small subunit that we're looking at. Because it's so well conserved across different species, it's possible to use just a few primers and we can figure out what kind of little critters are in a sample (say, your bug).

DDJ: What do you like about your job?

BL: It's intellectually stimulating and I think of it as a "good" thing to be doing. (I get to take classes for free!)

DDJ: What do you find challenging about your job?

BL: The computing infrastructure at MIT is not what it should be and that's the primary source of difficulty. (I have high expectations. I used to work at Sun. Everything always worked.) [But] MIT is way better than most companies.

DDJ: What have you found that makes your job easier?

BL: Extreme clarity. To the point of near-absurdity. Because we're integrating Java with Python, and Python doesn't do type discrimination on arguments, we keep finding strings where files were expected, etc.

DDJ: What's your hobby?

BL: I gave up hang gliding a few years ago. (I actually started crying when I sold my kite.) Now, it's Swedish and Norwegian dancing. I perform some.


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