Yin meets yang
Blog Authors: Valerie Skinner 060000VKGS is part of the IBM developerWorks team, getting to know the real developers who make up the My developerWorks community and exploring the world of social networking. I'm enjoying learning what makes developers tick! I'm very interested in exploring online communities and social media and understanding real world application - how they can help people solve problems and work together.
vskinner 060000VKGS Tags:  mydw developerworks my_developerworks rational interview web_applications 18 Comments 5,644 Visits
This week I'm happy to interview David Salinas, the project and technical lead at developerWorks. Get to know him better in this interview and visit his profile to invite him to be your colleague in My developerWorks.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you're currently working on?
Well, I am a long time reader and first time interviewee of your blog. I have been working at developerWorks for 5 years. I joined developerWorks from a small group called Toolbox that was shutdown a few years ago. Since being with developerWorks, I have been a web application engineer that has worked on a variety of topics including search, metrics, usability, UI and numerous web applications. Lately, I have taken more of a project lead role to help drive fulfillment of our requirements from a technical perspective.
What specifically drew your interest to the IT field?
To be honest, I was drawn to the IT field by my interest in technology and communication. I was a political science guy who fell into technology due a curiosity of getting people to connect and improve our collective governance. Once I got into the classes, it completely satisfied my intellect curiosity to understand the details of how these complex systems worked and my innate desire to solve puzzles. In fact, the best in the IT industry tend to have strong desires to solve problems and pull all the pieces together. Interestingly, there is more and more convergence between political science and computer science as the IT industry has evolved. In fact, in many ways, the internet is the culmination of the tenants first laid out by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty.
What advice would you give to IT students just starting out in the IT industry?
Well, I would strongly advise individuals to study relational databases and understand them very well. This was one area that my academic background did not fully prepare me. In working with others, I have found that this skill is essential in the enterprise space. Just to be clear, I would say that studying relational databases is beyond just understanding SQL though knowing SQL is a must too. You should know how to use a database, how to create one and how to update it as well. Its especially useful to be able to know how to start with a list of requirements and build a database that satisfies those requirements while being an optimal technological solution that can be easily extended and improved for future needs. To that end, you should understand database normalization.
The other advice I would offer is to invest in your future by putting aside money. When I started off, I worked for small companies. Based on those experiences, I can tell you that having a savings for immediate emergency and long term retirement needs is a good thing. So, be wise, put aside 10% post taxed income for your future especially if your employer offers matching contributions.
Finally, I would strongly encourage individuals to increase their competency on communication for the mediums of visual, oral and written. Strong leaders require the ability to clearly communicate a vision and direction to the team and for the project. Good communication is not strictly limited to being informative but also being concise, precise and persuasive.
What project are you most proud of ?
Well, I am most proud of two projects at developerWorks. First, I am very proud of the success and achievements for our Rational RFE Community. I was involved in this project from the ground breaking and have seen it blossom to a successful offering which went public in April 2008. If you are not familiar with it, the RFE Community allows users to submit feature enhancement requests for Rational products. Once submitted, Rational commits to providing a response within 90 days to that request. More importantly, users can search, comment and vote on feature requests that are in the community. Effectively, Rational is fostering a community to build a collaborative relationship for improving and influencing their products. Second, I am proud of the My developerWorks project. We have learned quite a bit about our users and the ourselves in deploying an integrated and fully featured community offering platform built on Lotus Connections. The adventure continues since we are continuously dropping fixes and features on a regular basis. More importantly, we are in process using the latest product release of Lotus Connections. As such, we are feverishly ramping up to make this a reality for all My developerWorks users.
If you were stuck on a technology deprived island, what single technology could you not live without?
Telephone (or VoIP). I know... sounds pathetic that I did not mention email or text messaging, etc. I have found that most of the complicated technical and business issues of our day really require for people to talk to each other. Quite frankly, email and instant messaging are just not the ideal mediums for most of those situations. As such, I would need to have phone capabilities Besides, with a phone, I could call 911 since my three hour tour went awry to get me stuck on this technology challenged island. Who has time for being on a hand woven hammock that resides between two lush palm trees and cast a cooling shade while looking onto a view of pristine beaches with the soothing melody of gentling lapping crystal clear water anyway?
Besides what you do at work, what other interests or passions keep you going?
Oh man, I do not think I want to bore your readers. : ) I am a big SciFi guy, RTS gamer and avid reader. On the SciFi front, I am waiting for the next season of Dr. Who. I just recently learned about the Firefly series thanks to a friend. On the gaming side, I have been playing Supreme Commander for a while. I have a Nintendo Wii for which I spend hours playing Metroid, Mario Galaxy and Mario cart. The latter of which my friends and I have fun beating each other up on weekends. As far as reading, I currently have 3 books going.... Death by Black Hole (Neil deGrasse Tyson), Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) and Robot Dreams (Issac Asimov). I just finished Negotiate to Win (Jim Thomas) for which I would recommend if you want to increase your negotiating skills.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
No contest.... Star Trek. Its equivalent to the modernity of Aesop's fables in a future setting. It illuminates our ideals of a better tomorrow where we do not self destruct due to our tendencies for conflict, malice and division. Instead, we collectively grow to understand each other, uphold the categorical imperatives of equality, justice and leverage the opportunities that our diversity offers to conquer problems that limit a better future for us and our progeny.