While Austin tech accelerates forward, we wanted to tap the brakes, sit down and learn what four fast-moving companies are up to. And who better to ask than the folks at the helm of their tech teams?
The CTOs from Digital Pharmacist, uShip, Spiceworks and CognitiveScale filled us in on what their companies have in store for 2017, who they like to bring on their teams and some valuable lessons they've learned from working in Austin tech.
On his biggest tech challenges:
"I have always argued that technology by itself is not hard. Anytime someone asks 'if' we can do something, I always say 'It's just 1s and 0s.' The hard part is prioritizing and focusing. It's about balancing what the immediate need is with the effort it takes to accomplish that task (and the technical debt you incur along the way). Communication and transparency have been critical to successfully navigating business needs. Most of the times I've gotten myself in trouble, I track back to times when I didn't communicate fast or clearly enough."
On how Austin has influenced uShip's tech culture:
"Austin’s quirky nature made its way into our uShip culture from the very beginning. For example, First Thursdays on South Congress lead to uShip’s First Friday tradition, where we take the whole company out for an afternoon to get to know each other. Austin is pretty easy to navigate, and we’ve grown close with several other startups in town, even to the point of banding together to launch the Austin Startup Games, which brings startups together to compete in office games like ping pong and darts to raise money for local charities."
On the importance of strategic, data-driven decisions:
"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."
On what technologies are playing the biggest roles at CognitiveScale this year:
"We have filed over 100 patents related to cognitive computing over the past three years. This year we continue to focus on novel machine learning and natural language processing technologies that solve some of the most challenging problems in financial services, healthcare, and commerce. We are also expanding our leverage of core infrastructure like Apache Spark and Apache Kafka to scale up."
Photos via participating companies and Shutterstock. Some answers have been edited for clarity and length.
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