by Jess on March 10, 2014
We recently published the latest issue of our InspiringBusiness newsletter, where we discussed how we optimized server-app data sync for the iPad, our work with the N-FORS project and introduced the education plan for ePCR for iPad, one of our products.
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by Jess on February 21, 2014
Aaron has been a member of the InspiringApps team for six years. He grew up on a farm in Iowa, and he goes back every autumn to help his family with the harvest. Aaron attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota, earning a degree in psychology with a minor in computer science.
During and after his time in college, Aaron worked in desktop support. However, he didn’t feel fulfilled in his work or school: “I was successful in what I did, but I wasn’t satisfied,” He explained. “I was going with the flow – I went to college, because that’s just what you do. I got good grades, not because I was particularly interested in what I was studying, but because that’s just what people do.”
So, Aaron did the only thing that made sense: he joined the Peace Corps. “I was ready for an adventure and really wanted something new,” he said. In his time with the Peace Corps, Aaron spent two years in Niger. He originally went as an agriculture volunteer, but the varied needs of his community and the Peace Corps structure gave him the independence to develop and implement his own projects. Aaron helped his community with things like education, setting up a micro loan system with women, building a grain bank with the men in his community and creating a veterinary clinic. Since coming back to the United States, Aaron has been an active member in the Peace Corps returnee community.
Aaron came to Boulder roughly a year after returning from the Peace Corps. He had spent some time working for InspiringApps remotely, having never met Brad in real life. It was a brave career move, and fortunately he had supportive friends here as well as a handle on what Colorado had to offer. “Growing up, my family would take vacations – usually west from Iowa – as the crops were left to grow in the late summer,” he said. “I’d also come out to Boulder a couple of times to visit friends. After the Peace Corps, I didn’t have a stake anywhere, and I knew Boulder would be a fun place to live, thanks to all the outdoor activities.”
At InspiringApps, Aaron is a software engineer with a focus on backend web development – essentially, he makes stuff work behind the scenes. His favorite thing about being a software engineer is that he gets to solve problems. He said, “I like building things, but I could build things as a carpenter or in a ton of other trades. Software provides a variety of problems that are flexible in nature.”
Since the basic technology required from project-to-project is the same, Aaron said projects can blend from time to time. “But there’s still some variety with projects,” he said. “They can be big or small, have a range of iterations and the people that you work with change.” The variety is enough of a challenge to keep things interesting for Aaron, providing new problems for him to solve. He also appreciates the chances he gets to collaborate. “I really enjoy our team, personally and professionally,” he said. Aaron’s amount of experience, coupled with a trust-based environment helps him thrive here: “I’ve been around long enough to have a handle on our systems, so when a challenge arises I know what to do.”
Aaron loves how Boulder supports his active lifestyle. “My favorite thing about living in Boulder is being able to bike everywhere,” he said. And he truly does bike everywhere – no matter the weather: “Uncomfortable weather makes you pay attention to the world around you. When it’s nice out, you sort of just go with the flow.” Aaron has grown in the local active communities and enjoys making friends while running or cycling in his spare time.
by Jess on February 19, 2014
Our InspiringPeople series continues with Alicia Benjamin of RUNspiration and RIZE. Benjamin will share her story and discuss how her “social media project” RUNspiration became a fitness media company… and how she, as a non-technical founder, used agile principles to launch her business in Boulder. Join us at this brown bag lunch event to learn about fitness, media, startups and more.
Learn more about this event and RSVP on its Eventbrite page. We look forward to seeing you next week!
by Jess on January 29, 2014
Stacy has been with InspiringApps for almost four years. She grew up in Salina, Kansas, and moved to Colorado six years ago after living all over the country, including Chicago, San Francisco and New York.
To Stacy, project management is about maintaining relationships. “A lot of it is customer relationship management,” she said. “I also do some problem definition and resource planning. The bottom line is making the clients and the development team happy and ensuring everyone has what they need.” In addition to client projects, Stacy enjoys the work she does with our own products, like ePCR for iPad. “Client work is great because we can take their vision and make it a reality, and products are fun because the scope is something we define,” she said.
Stacy enjoys having the chance to play various roles here at InspiringApps. “I like the autonomy everyone’s given and the level of respect we have for each other,” she explained. “It’s a fun environment. InspiringApps is a small company, so we get the opportunity to wear a lot of hats and do different things.”
Stacy spends most of time with her family; she has a son in first grade and a 4-year-old daughter. She also loves going to the mountains and is active outdoors, including hiking, biking, running and skiing. Stacy recently competed in the Frost Giant trail race in Estes Park, where she came in second among women and seventh overall. Boulder is the smallest town she’s lived in aside from Salina, but Stacy appreciates what the city has to offer: “It’s easy to get around, and there are a lot of great shops and restaurants. The people are open minded and have lived a lot of other places, so you get a lot of diversity of thought here. And it’s a great place to raise a family.”
by Jess on January 20, 2014
Last week, we held the latest installment of our InspiringPeople series with Paul Agostinelli of FindMyAudience. Paul told us about how he came to be involved in the tech world, as well as his path to becoming a teacher in Zen Buddhism.
Paul’s experiences allowed him to share with us “Zen and the art of starting up,” how mindfulness techniques can be applied to our lives and our experiences in the tech workplace.
In both our personal and professional lives, we are constantly answering “the call of two bells:” the bell of our responsibilities – whether that’s a phone ringing, the ping of a new email, or kids crying out in the other room – and the bell of our goal of a mindful presence. Paul broke down the differences between the bells’ various callings as such:
The first bell (that of our responsibilities) calls us to a problem-solving mindset, and rightfully so; much of tech is based on problem-solving. Solving a problem gives us a definite indication we’re doing the right thing, instead of accepting the discomfort that can come with not knowing what the solution is. But this mindset can go overboard and limit us to thinking exclusively about the solution instead of the problem itself… put simply, we get “fixated on fixing.”
The second bell – mindfulness – calls us to embody our problems. This can mean meditating on a problem, or looking at it as a riddle with multiple parts. Ultimately, in embodying our problems we don’t solve them; we resolve them. This allows us to switch our mindsets from a series of limited problems to a limitless process of being and opens up the possibilities our actions can take. Fixating on the solutions to our problems distorts the execution of those solutions, but putting ourselves in a constant mode of intention allows us to look collectively at our problems as an experience to embody.
In the startup world, we often find ourselves “wearing many hats” – working in a small company means people have multiple roles, which can change day-to-day. Paul said it’s okay to have multiple roles, but when you focus so much on figuring out which hat you’re wearing at any given moment, it can take up a lot of your time. Instead, it’s better just to do what needs to be done – thinking this way gives you the opportunity to be free from the limitations of having a defined role.
Paul questioned the adage of “knowledge is power” and the first bell’s call to information. The bell of mindfulness calls us to the opposite, not knowing. Without the preconceptions afforded by knowledge, Paul said, you’re more in touch with what’s going on. Our biases can blind us to the reality of a situation – whether it’s what we think the client wants, the ways teams should work together, or even our own skills and abilities. Being okay with not knowing allows us to see the nuances, examine the grey areas that put our accepted positions into question, and to truly question the assumptions we’ve made – whether we made them consciously or unconsciously.
Even though they seem to be disparate concepts, Paul used mindfulness to draw a connection between discipline and freedom. The discipline of training oneself to become mindful allows for freedom in action. He reminded us that a violinist is only free to let the music flow through him if he has the discipline to practice every day. Fixating on the dimensions of discipline, however, can be dangerous; it’s important to have a sense of where you’re headed, but fixating on it will drive you crazy. Paul pointed out there’s a difference between discipline and control.
When working on tech projects, we often find ourselves facing the time – cost – quality/scope equation, where we try to make sure all three elements play well with each other. Paul asked, “Is this equation realistic? What if it isn’t?” Often, these elements aren’t fixed – there are nuances, grey areas, and a lot of give-and-take involved in completing a project while staying within the parameters of the equation. Fear of failure is a common motivator in these situations, but discipline is what really gets the job done.
The call of the two bells can sometimes be overwhelming, but mindfulness can help with answering the bell of your responsibilities. So when your phone is ringing, or your email pings… take a deep breath and make yourself present before answering.
After Paul’s presentation we had a great group discussion that included some practical tips for applying mindfulness in everyday life:
• Having a bell or other physical reminders can bring you back to your awareness. Whenever you’re aware you’re distracted, you have a decision to make: either you can become mindful or you can continue to live in distraction. These reminders can help you make that choice.
• To promote mindfulness in a work or family environment, Paul suggested offering meditation in a space with a shared intention, sitting in silence. Even 10 minutes of meditation can help a group become more mindful. He also warned against fixating on roles in group dynamics and encouraged us to look beyond each other’s titles.
• Sometimes our to-do lists are overwhelming. Paul suggested we deal with what’s calling to us at the moment – which might primarily be the anxiety over what we have to do – and not to kick ourselves if our list changes.
InspiringPeople is InspiringApps’ speaker series featuring people we think are, well… inspiring! These informal lunch gatherings allow members of the Boulder community to hear from their peers about their work, hobbies and passions. Interested in speaking or attending? Email email@example.com to be added to the list!
by Jess on December 20, 2013
From our team to you, we’d like to wish you an inspiring holiday season. We’re grateful for all of you and look forward to working with you in the New Year!
by Jess on December 2, 2013
Aaron joined the InspiringApps team earlier this year after moving to Colorado from Texas in 2010. Art runs in his blood: “We have a lot of artists in my family – one of my family members was even an animator on Pinocchio.”
Aaron grew up wanting to be a comic book artist. While he was working on improving his skills, he started using Photoshop and Illustrator. “A lot of people were making comics with them, so I learned how to use the software,” he said. His appreciation for UI and UX grew out of his experiences with bad design. “A lot of comic book artists were making great art, but the design didn’t flow with the story.” With most media transitioning from print to web, Aaron chose to embrace the change instead fighting it, and he learned the ins and outs of web design.
A huge movie buff, Aaron’s favorite project was the first film he worked on, Bubba Ho-Tep: “It was such a weird film, and I got to work with one of my favorite horror icons.” His experience doing viral marketing for the project led to an interest in the psychology of how people responded to various marketing and design strategies. This fed into his UI knowledge and helped him grow his web design skillset.
Here at InspiringApps, Aaron helps bring our apps to life. “I take the clients’ words and descriptions of how they’d like the app to look, and I visualize it on screen,” he said. Aaron pays special attention to a client’s brand and their intended audience, developing the workflow of how an app will be used and adding aesthetics. He has a unique method of creating wireframes. “My wireframes are ‘mid-fidelity,’” he explained. “That’s probably not a real word, but I try to give a better picture of what the art will look like than most low-fidelity wireframes.” After the developers have finished, Aaron then returns to the designs and fine-tunes the artwork.
Aaron’s favorite part of living in the Boulder area is the great beer, and his favorite kinds reveal the artist in him. “I love drinking beer out of a well-designed bottle,” he said. Aaron loves Left Hand Brewing Company’s Wake Up Dead, whose label was designed by local agency, Moxie Sozo.
In his spare time, Aaron likes to get creative. “I’m a very DIY person, so I’m always working on a new project,” he said. Right now, he’s building a screen press so he can print some of the art projects he’s done. Aaron is also a self-professed Instructables junkie and father to three “wonderful little boys.”
by Jess on November 27, 2013
(Drawing courtesy of Cora Weber)
As we make our way into the Thanksgiving weekend, we would like to give thanks for our excellent team, clients, families and friends. We’re grateful for the opportunity to work with you and create incredible apps! Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday.
by Jess on October 4, 2013
This month we are profiling Christy Brouker, one of our project managers. Christy joined InspiringApps in April of 2012. She was born in Saudi Arabia and lived in New Jersey and Wisconsin before moving to Oregon with her family when she was seven. Christy studied sociology and Spanish in Oregon before coming to Colorado in 2006 for an internship with Women’s Adventure Magazine.
Christy hasn’t had trouble finding things to love about Boulder. “I really like all the outdoor pursuits and activities – it’s nice to be in a place where everyone’s doing everything,” she explained. “I like that it’s a college town so it feels worldly, but it’s not too big. And it’s close to Denver, so if you need anything you can go there quickly.”
After her internship with Women’s Adventure Magazine, Christy did more internships thinking she wanted to go into the editorial world. However, working for a publication called Home and Abroad allowed her to blend writing and software, and Christy realized how much she enjoyed technology – which eventually led to her role as a project manager.
At InspiringApps, Christy revels in the balance between working with clients and developers. “Here, we combine project and account management,” she said. “I spend a lot of time working with clients and making sure their vision is carried out throughout the project. I also work with the developers here to give them clear directives on the project and allow them to have some input about how the project turns out.”
Christy said the variety of tasks she does on a daily basis helps her succeed as a project manager: “I like working with different people and having a diverse group of clients. We build apps for so many kinds of companies and organizations… I especially enjoy working on mobile project management – it’s on the cutting edge; people are really excited about apps and the emerging technologies that come with it.”
Outside the office, Christy enjoys spending time with her husband, Matthew, and their golden retriever, Winston. She also likes to bake. “I end up doing a lot of fancy desserts for people’s birthdays – cakes or pies or tarts,” she said. “I have a couple of really great cookbooks but otherwise I just search online.” Christy has been a lifelong runner and enjoys getting outside: “I used to run competitively, so I’ll enter races, but I have no intention of winning or anything. I like to beat my times if I can.”