Spiceworks CTO Francis Sullivan on what powers their huge IT platform

March 15, 2017

Spiceworks' platform makes the lives of millions of IT professionals easier, and behind the scenes is a team dedicated to ensuring it remains just that — easy. That team is led by co-founder and CTO Francis Sullivan, who launched Spiceworks in 2006 after learning from IT pros throughout Austin that common products used across the industry were complicated and even painful to use.

Sullivan shared with us what’s next for Spiceworks as they continue to simplify the work for IT individuals.  

What technologies power your business?

We started with Ruby and Ruby on Rails. Of course, we have plenty of JavaScript and Ember is our latest focus here. Other technologies include Elixir, Go, Scala and several big data-related technologies. On the production side of things, we are pushing forward containerization and orchestration with Kubernetes.

What technologies are playing the biggest roles at your company this year?

Of all of the ones listed above that are important to the business, the biggest role is still played by Ruby on Rails.

What are the biggest tech projects your team is working on?

We are building out a real-time data platform to improve site experience for our users. Containerization and the concept of micro-services are also changing the way we build, test and deploy products.

We are focused on both building new tools for our IT users as well as improving our existing offerings to handle the scale of our millions of users.

What are the biggest technology challenges you’ve faced in the past? How did you overcome them?

Probably our biggest initial challenge was to get Ruby on Rails to work well on Windows. This took some low level debugging and code fixes that we contributed back to the mother ship. Ironically, we develop most of our code on Unix type computers.

What are lessons you’ve learned about working in Austin that other local entrepreneurs can learn from?

If you wait until you have all the data needed to make a decision, you won’t make progress fast enough. Making an educated guess with some of the data, even if that proves to be wrong, at least helps you find out what really matters. In the end, it is all about making progress, and it turns out that making mistakes that you learn from can help you make progress quicker. Of course, this isn’t a reason to check your brain at the door.

Austin is known for having a large talent pool of thirsty, young workers. What are the top characteristics you look for in a potential hire? 

We look for people who want to make a difference with their work, and we provide an environment for them to do so. Our cultural cornerstones: ownership, creativity and passion provide the blueprint

How would your team describe working with you? 

People would say that I’m interested in trying new approaches, solving hard problems, learning and generally getting things done in a fast-paced but low process yet fun way. I can’t stand being micro-managed, so I make sure to not do this to the folks around me. Being part of the team and having a purpose for everyone to thrive plus grow is our goal, and I spend many cycles trying to find better ways to make progress.


Photos via Spiceworks. Some answers have been edited for clarity and length.

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