In the first installment of our employee spotlight, we chat with Evan, one of our engineers at Accellion. Evan is not only a savvy engineer who has worked on a few open source projects (most prominently JRuby and Cshellsynth), but is also a critic and a writer.
1) What do you do at Accellion?
I’m an engineer. I create new features, build products, fix bugs; everything an engineer usually does. But mainly, I suppose, I think about things from the standpoint of an engineer.
2) How did you get into engineering? Is this something you always wanted to do? Was there someone in particular that influenced your choice of career?
Well, my first programming experience was in a Montessori school – I was in second grade. I learned to program on the Apple II there. Then, my grandmother, who is also a programmer and is very much the good scientist—she was always getting me those educational toys, like electronics kits and such—she sent me an old radio shack PC-2 along with a book on how to program it. I suppose that’s really where I started to get into it. After that, I picked up the usual hobbyist stuff for the time, Hypercard and Visual Basic and such, but I didn’t really start properly understanding code until I installed Linux in 2000 via the Linux From Scratch method.
3) What do you do when you’re not building products?
I’m currently finishing up my Master’s degree in English, so that takes up a lot of time. Other than that, I keep up with fields that I’m interested in such as critical code studies. Critical code studies is a pretty new discipline where people look at computer code with the perspectives of the humanities in mind. You look at a line of code and ask stuff like: what political assumptions are in this code? what cultural biases are in this code?
4) Tell us more about your interest in writing. What are you focusing on? What do you write about today?
In my master’s thesis I’m focusing on the history of promises and promising, as seen through their expression in finance. Specifically, I’m looking at the development of negotiability in the 16th century and its relationship to the development of algebraic notation. Negotiable instruments, or commercial paper, are documents that give some right to someone, where the right can be transferred by transferring the document. For example, when you sign the back of a check and then give it to your bank, you’re giving the right to the money contained therein to your bank. The bank then can demand payment from the issuing bank on your behalf. So with negotiability, the paper itself holds the value of the promise; it’s somehow in the paper. Prior to the 16th century negotiability didn’t exist. With its development, we get this concept of writing as constitutive of meaning, instead of simply referencing meaning. And from that, we get algebraic notation, and ultimately, code.
Thanks Evan for sharing your background with us and giving us all something to think about. There is a lot of thought that goes into all Accellion’s products.
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