Who Are Your Tech Role Models

This is kind of a fan-boy post and I’m hoping I get some discussion or follow-up blogs from my colleagues. I would like to use this blog to talk about a few my role models in technology. I encourage anyone who comes across this blog to put their list out there for themselves. For my list, I’m going to cover four of the technologists I look up to for guidance and direction. I consider them my north star of technology. All have a background in software performance. Each are engineers at heart. They have built product, systems and architectures. 

Tech Role Model #1: Cary Millsap

My list is not in any particular order by the way. If I did order it, I would probably put Cary #1 anyway. I first read Cary’s book Optimizing Oracle Performance in the fall of 2003. I was about to leave my job as a Performance Engineer at Manugistics to take on a new job as the Director of Performance Engineering at Blackboard. I think I read Cary’s book cover to cover 3 times over the course of a 10 day period. His methodology, which he calls Method-R (also the name of a company he created) was the most pragmatic and practical approach to performance forensic analysis any other engineer had presented in last 10 years. I followed Cary’s career from Hotsos to Method-R to Enkitec to Accenture. 

I attended multiply Hotsos Symposiums and even hosted Cary for a week long consulting engagement with my team. If I had to sum up why Cary has influenced me in a sentence or less, well it really comes down to the paper Cary wrote called Thinking Clearly About Performance. In a little less than 15 pages, he’s able to distill my entire career of beliefs and practices about software performance. 

Tech Role Model #2: Steve Souders

I first met Steve Souders formerly of the Yahoo Exceptional Performance team in 2008 at the first Velocity Conference. He was the public face of YSlow and one of the first engineers that I had the experience with in the industry looking at performance from a cognitive experience. In my early years of performance engineering, I had been focused on the throughput and processing times of algorithms. When I moved to Blackboard, my attention shifted from server and database to a complete full-stack including the client. Steve and his team really distilled front-end performance first. He was a true pioneer.

I’ve met Steve many times at various conferences. We have exchanged a couple of emails over the years as well. Like Cary, he appreciates his community of followers and welcomes the attention. The good thing is that he doesn’t seek or crave the attention. He takes it in stride. These days, Steve is no longer with Yahoo or Google. He’s moved onto Fastly as their Chief Performance Officer. The fact that a company has a Chief Performance Officer is a testament to Steve. 

Tech Role Model #3: Adrian Cockcroft

Adrian Cockcroft was one of my earliest performance engineering heroes. He worked at Sun Microsystems back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s in various roles. Back in 2002, I worked on a competitive benchmark with him and the Performance Engineering team at Sun. I was a like a kid in a candy shop. Looking back I probably didn’t appreciate the opportunity I was granted and the access I had to him. Like Steve and Cary, what makes Adrian special is not some insane degree of intelligence. Though Adrian is ridiculously smart. Rather, it’s pragmatic and practical thinking. Performance Engineering is an engineering discipline based on decomposition of time, demand and inertia. Smart, critical thinkers succeed. 


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