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John Gwinner is a Chief Technology Officer with a huge interest in VR. He developed a VR interface for CompuServe during the last wave of VR. He helped develop Web3D and VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language) with a focus toward PC’s, and put early versions of XML on the web. He was a returning speaker at the Game Developer Convention on 3D toolkits and VR. He was an early Kickstarter of a new VR Headset in 2014. Now that VR is definitely taking off again, John is once again at the forefront, developing VR interfaces to data, architectural visualization, and a bowling game that pits you against garden gnomes.
John has been working with Oracle ERP systems, including the EBUsiness Suite, and JD Edwards, for over 15 years. He has implemented over 400 clients, supervised the creation of an offshore office, created a private hosting cloud (and over 15 years experience with private clouds), performed upgrades, platform conversions for Solaris/HPUX to Linux, and established coding methodology and source control.
John has been working with C++ nearly since the beginning. He’s ridden the crest of various programming waves from “Structured Programming” through “Object oriented programming” to Agile/Scrum development. He’s built from large, Windows server based industrial “Smart control panel” to small embedded Arduino systems. An early proponent of open source, he also works on closed source systems.
Programming is part art and part science. Managing programmers is only herding cats if you don’t understand programming – John can be hands on if needed, and understands executive management.
What song best describes your work ethic?
Carry on Wayward Son by Kansas; it was on a loop when I was first flying to college – and Cornell was a lot of hard work. That song reminds me of my career – sometimes, you have to put in hours to get something done. For example, one month we were de-hosting somebody from one cloud and moving them to our cloud, and I worked 440 hours in one month. Sometimes there are urgent projects and you need to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I am a captain in the Martine Corps and I’m 9th award expert in rifle and pistol.
What did you want to do when you were a kid?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. I never made it to space and at this point I’m not sure I ever will, but you never know. My defense is that PCs weren’t around when I was a kid; as soon as they were, I just took to them. I really enjoy what I’m doing now with technology; not just with VR (virtual reality) but other IT projects as well. When you step back and think about what you’re really doing, you are enabling people to work better, increase productivity and help them do their job, so I look at technology that way – helpful.
What is your experience with hiring millennials and how is it different?
At my past company, they didn’t train people so we didn’t want to hire professionals without experience. The result of this was we rarely had any millennials because they simply did not have the skills needed. My other company was the complete opposite so I had some experience with younger professionals there. The one thing that surprised me was they tend to work 8 hours and are upset about working longer hours, and seem to have less of a concern about the company success. Part of this depends on the compensation structure of the company, but most of it is just an attitude shift among young hires.
Is IT a revenue driver?
IT is often viewed as a cost center because getting budgets approved for new servers or upgrades for servers can be very difficult. For a CTO or an IT Director, it can be hard to adequately describe things in terms of what business people need and justify replacing servers. Leadership needs to explain the cost in a strategic way so the business executives understand that the investment will reduce other costs and result in a revenue driver. A lot of that is on the IT guy. Being able to explain and show that technology issues aren’t always the computers fault and could be the fault of the architects who programmed them is where having effective communication skills with rest of the business is key.
Take on public cloud?
Security is definitely an issue with public cloud. I’ve talked to banks that would never go to public cloud because they are worried about a hosting company having their passwords and the possible hacks associated with public cloud. I think the best use of public cloud is if a company isn’t comfortable putting their data in the public cloud, you can use the cloud as an extension of your IT service. Both Oracle and Microsoft have shown ways to successfully do this.
Where do you think IT is pointing to in the next 5 years?
Security will be a major focus – devices and languages have to be made more secure. Even though I was complaining about public cloud, I do think in time programming will be made simpler through the abstraction of the Cloud. An advantage of public cloud is that it makes it so easy to spin up a new server but a lot of people misunderstand support costs, even with the cloud. One of the trends that will continue is HTML programming and specialty programming skills. Average IT guys will not have all of these specialties so as time goes on, outsourcing will continue to grow for companies like us. It will also make hiring more difficult as job openings will continue to specify very narrowly constrained skills, which take longer to fill. This is slowing cloud options because of the lack of customizations. With VR/AR, Machine Learning, and the rise of AI, IT will allow us to focus more on analysis, in addition to automation.
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