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Hire Me

I'm always interested in hearing from people and organizations that I can help, whether that means coming in for a few days to talk about end-to-end testing or joining your organization full-time to help turn an idea into reality.

I live in and around Toronto, ON. I am more than happy to work remotely, and I can probably help your organization learn to integrate remote work if it doesn't already know how.

You can see more about me as a person on HireMyFriend or LinkedIn. You can also get a sense of the code I write by looking at this blog, as well as my Bitbucket or Github sites: I recommend starting with Refreshbooks or Sparkplug.

For Fun

I regularly revisit problems from old jobs, interesting ideas from the internet, and whatever else catches my fancy as a way to build up skills with specific technologies. Right now, I'm tinkering with AngularJS and Jersey 2 as a way of building lightweight, highly-responsive web front ends. Ask me about it and I'll be more than happy to talk your ear off. I've also run similar projects to explore Node, Django, Flask, Rails, and other platforms for web development, as well as numerous tools and frameworks for other platforms.

I also mentor people new to programming, teaching them how to craft working systems. This is less about teaching people to write code and more about teaching them why we care about source control, how to think about configuration, how to and why to automate testing, and how to think about software systems and data flow at a higher level. I strongly believe that software development needs a formal apprenticeship program, and mentoring has done a lot to validate that belief.

FreshBooks (2009-2014)

During the five years I was with the company, it grew from a 20-person one-room organization to a healthy, growing two-hundred-person technology company. As an early employee, I had my hand in many, many projects and helped the development team absorb the massive cultural changes that come with growth, while also building a SaaS product that let others realize their dreams. Some highlights:

  • As the lead MySQL database administrator-slash-developer, I worked with the entire development team to balance concerns about reliability and availability with ensuring new ideas and incremental improvements could be executed without massive bureaucracy and at low risk. This extended into diverse parts of the company: alongside the operations team, I handled capacity planning, reliability, outage planning, and performance monitoring, while with the development team, I was responsible for designing processes and deploying tools to ease testing of database changes and ensuring smooth, predictable, and low-effort deployment to production and for training developers to make the best use of MySQL for their projects.

  • As a tools developer, I built the Sparkplug framework to standardize the tools and processes for building message-driven applications, allowing the team to move away from monolithic web applications towards a more event-driven suite of interal systems. Providing a standard framework paid off well; building and deploying completely novel event handlers for FreshBooks’ core systems could be completed in as little as a week, including testing and production provisioning.

  • As an ops-ish toolsmith, I worked extensively on configuration management for both applications and the underlying servers. I lead a number of projects to reduce the risk around deployments: creating a standard development VM to ensure developers had an environment consistent with reality, automating packaging and rollout to testing servers, automating the creation of testing servers, and more. As part of this work, I built training materials and ran sessions to teach other developers how to think like a sysadmin, covering Linux, Puppet, virtualization, and other topics.

Riptown Media (2006-2009)

Riptown Media was an software development company tasked with building and maintaining a suite of gambling systems for a single client. I was brought on board as a Java developer, and rapidly expanded my role to encompass other fields.

  • As the primary developer for poker-room back office and anti-fraud tools, I worked with the customer support and business intelligence teams to better understand their daily needs and frustrations, so that I could turn those into meaningful improvements to their tools and processes. These improvements, in turn, lead to measurable changes in the frequency and length of customer support calls, in fraud rates, and in the percieved value of internal customer intelligence.

  • As a lead developer, my team put together the server half of an in-house casino gaming platform. We worked in tight collaboration with the client team, in-house and third-party testers, and interaction designers, and delivered our first game in under six months. Our platform was meant to reduce our reliance on third-party “white label” games vendors; internally, it was a success. Our game received zero customer-reported defects during its initial run.

OSI Geospatial (2004-2006)

At OSI Geospatial, I lead the development of a target-tracking and battlespace awareness overlay as part of a suite of operational theatre tools. In 2004, the state of the art for web-based geomatics software was not up to the task; this ended up being a custom server written in C++ and making heavy use of PostgreSQL and PostGIS for its inner workings.

Contact Me

Sound good? Curious? Want to discuss any of this some more? You can get ahold of me at owen.jacobson@grimoire.ca or on Twitter.