Team Member Profile: Ralph Dosser, Software Engineer

Ralph was born and raised in northeastern Tennessee in a town called Johnson City as the fifth of six kids. He spent his childhood enjoying comic books and running his paper route. His love of the outdoors started early, when he frequently hiked the Appalachians with his scout master dad. When Ralph was 17, he embarked on his first trip west with the Boy Scouts to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. After seeing the vistas for the first time, he instantly fell in love and knew he would eventually head west permanently. After 15 years, the dream became reality.

But first Ralph studied journalism, then spent the next several years working for small newspapers in East Tennessee. He left journalism to study computer science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville after his sister – who worked in the computer science department there – showed her boss Ralph’s GRE scores and got him a graduate assistantship. Ralph worked at the university for awhile, eventually moving to research administration. When writing technical documentation for the department of network engineering, his boss asked him to make it available via the internet. How? A new thing called “the world wide web.” Within months, Ralph was making websites for the school using this new revolutionary technology.

Using his expertise in building websites, Ralph moved to Atlanta to work for CNN, helping to get cnn.com up and running in 1995. He states that it was really exciting work because “we were making everything up as we went along.” The first really big story on the site was the OJ Simpson verdict in 1995, followed by the Clinton/Gore presidential election in 1996 which killed the servers because of the load. “We couldn’t throw hardware at it fast enough,” Ralph recalled. During his time at CNN, Ralph helped to build the CNN/Sports Illustrated site, the financial site, and the politics site for the brand. He moved on to work for Cox Interactive Media and then as a contractor for IBM interactive where he helped to build sites for the Grammys, the NHL, the NFL, and the Hermitage museum.

Around that time, Ralph planned a vacation to Boulder, CO and then spent the next year looking for a job here. He found one with XOR Network Engineering and moved west in 2000, making that childhood dream come true. The company started to unravel during the first internet bust and Ralph switched to contracting for a few years. He contracted with InspiringApps and soon became employee number three (after Brad and Aaron Gerber)!

Ralph enjoys working for InspiringApps because “the work varies a great deal.” Ralph states that since InspiringApps is small, there is not a lot of hyper-specialization, allowing him to write code, talk to a client, work on a server, and investigate a database…all in the same week. “Our small size keeps us nimble and we have a good culture and environment. The location and view are wonderful and I’m still very much in love with Boulder,” says Ralph. “The scenery, the mountainous beauty that is right there. The bike culture is great. I like the outdoorsy culture.”

In his spare time, Ralph likes to tinker with hobby electronics (“pretty blink-y lights”), do a little soldering, and program Arduinos. He’s built some cool stuff for his trips to Burning Man and gets a lot of inspiration from that event and the amazing engineering and art on display there. Ralph tries to bring that inspiration back and integrate it into his work and non-work life.

Team Member Profile: Michele Connors, Marketing Director

Michele recently joined InspiringApps as our Marketing Director. She comes with a wealth of experience in marketing, especially for the active and outdoor markets, due to her 15 plus years working for the GORE-TEX brand.

Michele grew up outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she spent her days running around the neighborhood, meeting friends at the pool, and playing kickball in the streets. Some of her favorite childhood memories stem from camping in the gorgeous hills of central Pennsylvania.

Although she attended a high school with a strong STEM emphasis, an interest in broadcast cable led Michele to begin her college years as a Communications student at Penn State University. She soon realized, though, that she missed being more technically focused.  She switched gears to engineering, and graduated with high honors in Mechanical Engineering in 1993, confident she’d still be able to use her communication skills along the way.

After college, Michele accepted a position at W.L. Gore & Associates, a company known for its unique corporate structure and innovative products. She worked in product and technology development for a number of years, then moved to product management, and finally landed in the marketing world. Michele jokes that joining the marketing group was likened to “going to the dark side” since she was no longer involved with product technology or development. But the dark side was kind to Michele. In a recent 3-year period, she achieved strong GORE-TEX® brand presence online and doubled the number of sites telling their brand story.

Michele has always loved the business side of things. She enjoys watching the lights go on as potential customers realize why a product is worth their money. At InspiringApps, she is excited for the opportunity to spread the word about what we do well, helping us to grow into new market areas. We are thankful for her dark-side experience!

Outside of work, Michele loves to help create community, often over a shared meal or a glass of wine!  She is grateful to live near world-class mountains, and getting to hike, camp and ski in them is a fabulous treat – especially if friends or family are involved too.  Michele and her husband are raising four kids, so many weekends involve sporting events, Girl Scout activities, or other kid-centric fun. “It’s a full life,” Michele states, “but I am very grateful for it.”

Team Member Profile: Andrea Tringo, QA Specialist

Andrea joined InspiringApps in the summer of 2014 as our QA Specialist. Her dedication to the job and her wit came through when she responded to the job opening. One of the requirements for the QA job was, “Confidence in your testing to approve a build before a release. You have the final say if an app is ready to ship.” To this requirement, Andrea replied, “Scary! Just kidding. Preventing defects from getting shipped is my job. I take the accountability for this very seriously.” Her dedication to finding and reporting bugs, as well as her sense of humor, make her a welcome addition to the InspiringApps team.

Andrea grew up in Virginia in the suburbs of Washington DC. She states that it was not very interesting, “but now, looking back, maybe some of my friends’ parents could have been spies.”

She moved to Colorado twenty years ago, after visiting a friend and deciding it would be a better place to live. She likes the weather and the lifestyle. As a former long-distance runner, she thrives in a running mecca. Andrea lived in Boulder until she bought a house in Lafayette. She moved to a new job at Sun Microsystems as a data analyst using SQL on databases. When the system moved to production, Andrea became part of the QA team. She continued her work with data analysis and QA over the next several years for various companies, and even ran her own technical services company.

At InspiringApps, Andrea reports that the QA position is “way different” than anything she’s done before. She says, “I tested Windows desktop applications for long enough! Being at InspiringApps, and looking at things from the app side is a whole new world and a new perspective and it keeps my brain sharp.”  And what about her co-workers? “I’m around some really sharp people: people with way more knowledge and different perspectives, people who are experienced with app development in a way that I have not been exposed to. And personally, I think they are all very interesting.”

Outside of work, Andrea loves that she can bike and walk almost anywhere. She just began riding her bike from home to the office, and enjoys biking with her husband and their 6-year-old son. Andrea also loves being in her vegetable garden or with the rescue horse and young pony she trains.

Team Member Profile: Kim Weber, Product Manager

Kim has been a member of the InspiringApps team since April 2010. She grew up in Littleton, Colorado, where she loved playing Cabbage Patch Dolls with her two sisters and practicing piano. After she graduated from the University of Notre Dame with degrees in Computer Science and English, Kim worked in systems consulting in Washington, D.C. and New York City. She also spent some time as a developer for the United Nations in New York. Kim loved all the unique experiences she had in one of her favorite cities: “Coming from Littleton and going to school in South Bend, I was enamored with the size of NYC, the opportunities there for fun and culture, and trying a sheep’s head as a delicacy with colleagues from the UN.”

While she was working with the UN, Kim was able to learn more about the development process as a whole: “They had us go through everything from concept to delivery, which gave me a little taste of training, since we had to show the customer how to use the product.” Even though she loved NYC, Kim wanted to move back to Colorado, where she took a job in training. “I really liked the experience of helping people learn how to use software,” she said. That passion led her to get her Master’s in Instructional Learning Technologies from the University of Colorado at Denver.

At InspiringApps, Kim primarily works with our product, ePCR for iPad. She appreciates the opportunity to provide a great experience for our customers: “Part of product management is working with our customers and helping them use our apps in the best way possible,” she said. “I also support our customers, work with them on their requests for enhancements and address their concerns.” Outside of product management, Kim recruits developers and other people to join our team. “It’s exciting to talk to talented people who want to work with us,” she said.

Being part of an excellent team is what Kim loves the most about working at InspiringApps. “I like that when you walk through the doors, you can feel the friendly atmosphere,” she said. “Our coworkers are happy to be here, respectful of each other and ready to laugh. I love that our team is always up for getting lunch, coffee, or a beer with one another. I also like that I feel like I’m working with smart people who take their job seriously and are committed to excellence in their work.”

Kim loves all that Boulder has to offer: “It seems so cliché but I really do love the outdoor opportunities and the awesome restaurants in town,” she said. (Her favorite Boulder restaurants are Carelli’s and Sushi Zanmai.) Kim also has two cousins who moved to Boulder from Chicago and NYC, which has made living and working in the area an even better experience. “Having family in Boulder makes it feel more like a hometown, even though it’s not where my family’s from,” she said. “Growing up, all of my relatives lived on the east coast, so I didn’t get to see them very often. Now that some of them – and especially the ones who are my age – live out here, it feels more like home.”

In her free time, Kim enjoys hanging out with her family. She especially likes riding bikes around Broomfield open space with 5-year-old Cora in her Trail-A-Bike and cooking, usually trying new brownie recipes with Marlo, 10.

Team Member Profile: Aaron Gerber, Software Engineer

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.

Team Member Profile: Stacy Griffin, Project Manager

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.”

Team Member Profile: Aaron Lea, Senior UX/UI Designer

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.”

Team Member Profile: Christy Brouker, Project Manager

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.”

Team Member Profile: Brad Weber, President/CEO

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the birth of InspiringApps. To celebrate, we’re profiling Brad Weber, our President, CEO and founder.

Brad grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, before heading to USC to study mechanical engineering and business. His experiences with family as a kid led him to CU-Boulder for his MBA. “When I was younger we took family vacations around the country, but our most frequent destination was Colorado,” Brad explained. “When I was ready to be a grown-up, I wanted to settle in Colorado.”

Brad started his career at Andersen Consulting, which is now Accenture. The company tackled very large software development projects –- Brad worked on relatively small pieces. “I wanted to work with smaller organizations on smaller projects where I could have a significant impact and contribute a bigger portion of the final product,” he said. So he started his own custom software development company and a second startup called MyRaceDay.com, a digital race photography company.

Brad’s decision to start InspiringApps came from his desire to build a strong team and take on bigger challenges than he could on his own. “I enjoyed the experience of working independently for over a decade, but I always felt that I wanted to grow a team,” he explained. “I thought about it for years. It took a long time to evolve from one person to two people; that first step is a really important one.”

Thanks to its dynamic environment and supportive startup community, Boulder is the perfect place for InspiringApps to call home. “I love the energy of Pearl Street,” Brad said. “It’s a fun place to be, and it’s often the first impression of the town for a lot of visitors.” What does he enjoy about the startup scene? Brad said, “It’s not necessarily unique to Boulder, but I like the cooperative attitude among small businesses in Colorado. In Colorado, people recognize there’s greater gain to be had if we work together.”

Brad enjoys working on our internal products and with the wide variety of clients we’ve supported over the years. “I’m grateful that we’ve had so many clients for such a long time,” he said. “We’ve enjoyed long relationships with many of them — some over a decade, even before I started InspiringApps. I like seeing how they’ve grown, and I like being able to introduce them to new technology that helps them overcome business challenges.

Brad is looking forward to the company’s seventh year: “I’m excited that our products continue to be more-and-more mature, grow, and become a larger part of what we do,” he said. “Our clients, including new enterprise customers, keep us sharp as they bring new challenges and opportunities. With a terrific mix of talented people on our team, we’re doing the things I hoped we’d be doing when I founded the company. It is really gratifying.”

Outside of his work at InspiringApps, Brad enjoys swimming and playing water polo, in addition to spending time with his family -– his wife, Kim, and daughters Marlo and Cora.

Team Member Profile: Jessica Ryan, Community Manager

Hi, I’m Jess! I joined the InspiringApps team at the beginning of June. I was born and raised in Loveland, Colorado, just a bit north of Boulder. In May of this year I graduated from CU-Boulder with a degree in media studies and a minor in technology, arts and media. I was a committee member of and student marketing coordinator for CU’s Conference on World Affairs, and I made incredible friends through my participation in Phi Sigma Pi, a co-ed honor fraternity. I’ve also written for the Colorado Daily since August of 2011; first, a column about study abroad while I spent a semester in Paris and more recently, a column about nerd and tech culture.

I love Boulder and all it has to offer, from stunning views to amazing restaurants, to the incredible startup community that hosts events like Boulder Startup Week (InspiringApps even hosted a couple of events) and Boulder Open Coffee Club. More than anything, I love meeting new people and learning about their stories!

As InspiringApps’ community manager, I wear many hats: social media manager, public relations professional, blogger, and more. However, everything I do centers around one goal: build community around InspiringApps, our customers, and the products we create. InspiringApps’ products – ePCR for iPad, Work Crews, and Reps – are all built to make professional communities stronger. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share our products with those communities and to learn more about the people and organizations we serve!

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