DataRobot Discusses the Role of a Developer Evangelist, the Central Ohio IT Community and Machine Learning

Guy Royse - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree

Guy Royse

Developer Evangelist




Steve Gruetter

Director of Market Strategy - Central Ohio



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SG: Here we are today with Guy Royse, the Developer Evangelist with DataRobot, an organization based in Boston. My name is Steve Gruetter – I'm with Expedient and I am your guest moderator today. Royse, let's get started. So, a developer evangelist, give me a little bit of a job description around that outstanding title. 


GR: It is an outstanding title, isn't it? I have so much fun saying I'm a developer evangelist. Everyone looks at you like, “What's the developer evangelist do?” Which is exactly what you asked. And so, um, the job of a developer evangelist is, um, is, well, it's to go out and spread the good news about the product, right? And so, the idea there is that you go to conferences and do presentations and get the brand recognition and highlight the company's product where you can, and uh, go out into developer communities and help serve in, in that area. And in our case, we're a machine learning company and so there's, you know, go into machine learning communities and say, “Here's a product you can use and here's other products that are comparable.” It's, it's a part, that's sort of the evangelist part of it, but there's also the developer aspect of it, which is, you have to be a software developer to do this. Someone who is…developers can smell marketing. 


SG: Absolutely. 


GR: Yeah. And so you, you have to be sincere and say, “I'm just going to, you know, I'm just, I'm one of you guys, I'm telling you the truth. This is this product and what it does, this is what it's good at, this is what it's a little weak at.” And it's just that sort of, go out there and help and be honest. 


SG: As a, as a marketing guy, I can tell you that I've walked into a couple of meetup groups and I was immediately sniffed out and basically, we were there just to look for people to hire. 


GR: Yeah. Yeah. 


SG: So, um, now, when it comes to the meetup groups here in Central Ohio, we have an exceptionally robust community. We have a meetup group for just about every aspect of software development, uh, some of the infrastructure groups. I know John Prophet is starting up one, and then there's other things that we layer on top of that with Ben Blanquera’s groups and such. You are exceptionally involved in the Central Ohio IT community with both the JavaScript users group, as well as the Columbus machine learners group. Why do you do it, Guy?


GR: Um, you know, um, it's, it's actually kind of a complex question. It's, I think it's kind of like an instinct. 


SG: Sure. 


GR: Um, there's this, um, you know, how, like, sheepdogs are sort of intrinsically wired to like, group things together, so that, you know, everything is better? I feel like I have that sort of instinct where I just want to go out. And I was like, “Let's have a group for this! And we’ll bring everyone together, and then we'll talk about JavaScript or we'll talk about machine learning. It'll be great. It'll be fun.” And so it, it's just, it's intrinsically fun for me to put these groups together now. And it's work too, of course, right? But, um, a lot of it is just this sort of instinctive drive to, uh, to bring people together. And I like to teach. And so, you know, when you run a user group, you know, it's like, if you want to speak with them and it's easy to schedule.


SG: I, uh, I fully agree with what you're saying. I’ve been a part of the VM users group since inception back in 2008. Um, we've been part of Tech Strategy. And to your point about wanting to create a user group because it's good just to get things together? 


GR: Yeah. 


SG: We, um, I moved up to Marysville two years ago, so now we have a union county IT professionals networking group, which is basically an excuse to drink beer and talk work. 


GR: And there's always pizza too. 


SG: And there’s pizza, right. So, I uh, understand that. So, as a developer, you are engaged in a newer technologies, disruptive technologies. In your opinion, what is the most exciting disruptive technology that you're working on? 


GR: Uh, so, um, I'm gonna say the obvious thing – it’s totally machine learning and artificial intelligence. I mean, obviously I'm a developer evangelist for a company that has a machine learning product. 


SG: And that’s why we're interviewing you, Guys! 


GR: And so, that's, um, you know, that's uh, certainly, I think the most, um, probably the most, if not number two…I mean, I'm inclined to say maybe blockchain might be a little bit more. But I don't know, machine learning – I feel like they’re racing. Uh, they're both going to be interesting. Blockchain, it feels like such an obvious thing to say that it's almost cliché. But machine learning is building things that, um, that we just haven't been able to build before, and everyone's still coming up with new uses and applications for machine learning. And it's not, it's not really that it's brand new, it's that it's becoming more and more accessible to a typical developer. Uh, I uh, I like this idea where, once the technology gets to a certain threshold where it's, um, you can do frivolous things with it, that's when it really starts exploding. 


SG: Do you think the talent base has increased substantially in that space? 


GR: Um, I think there's a lot of people scrambling to learn it. 


SG: Okay. 


GR: Um, I mean, I'm one of them. Um, I, I started with DataRobot – well, it was an Nexosis at the time – but I started about a year ago, and up to that point I had invested very little into machine learning. In the last year and a half I've, you know, I've been getting up to speed and I find that there's a lot of other people that are trying to get up to speed just like I am. Um, and so I go out and share what I know, so I gotta go figure out about a bunch of stuff and then to go share it with everyone. Um, but uh, as far as, I think there is growth, there is knowledge growth in that space. 


SG: And talent growth along with the knowledge growth? 


GR: Um, I don't know – talent growth in Columbus or talent growth like, in the whole marketplace? 


SG: I was more thinking Central Ohio. 


GR: Probably? Uh, I mean, just look at the population numbers for Columbus, housing prices. People are coming here. And a lot of them are tech people. Uh, I was in San Francisco a few months ago and I was leaving, checking my bag, and uh, the uh, the guy that took my bag said, “Oh, you're going to Columbus! Everyone's been talking about Columbus!” 


SG: Well, that’s nice to hear!


GR: It is nice to hear it is nice to hear, isn't it? And it's, uh, a lot of people are coming here and they're just, they're doing the math and saying, you know, uh, “Yeah, I won't make as much money as they would in the bay area, but my house doesn't cost as much either, and I can afford to live there and actually, my standard of living goes up.” And so, we're drawing a lot of tech talent from those areas. And then, we've had some successful startups here, you know, with CoverMyMeds and, uh, Root Insurance recently. 


SG: Oh, absolutely. 


GR: That doesn't, that doesn't hurt. Um, I'd like to think that Nexosis was kind of, one of those successes. You know, we didn't get very big, but we were purchased. And that's a, that's a happy exit. 


SG: There you go. I was in a conversation with somebody who, uh, said his friend had just moved to take a job in the valley and it took them a 40 percent bump and I thought, “Wow, why would you take a pay cut?” 


GR: Yeah, exactly. 


SG: So, as a developer, you're also seeing how you have to adjust to what the business needs are and, and keep along a balance between quality and timelines for you and your organization. How do you do that? 


GR: So, um, uh, before I was a developer evangelist, I was a consultant in a, in an agile focused, uh, Pillar Technology.


SG: A great organization. 


GR: Yeah, fantastic. Who was just also acquired! It’s something in the water. Um, it's something, something in Columbus is what it is. I think there's a lot of talent that's been concentrated here for a long time that people are noticing. But um, and, you know, I think a quality, to answer the question is, kind of, there's like two axes of quality. There's, um, there's the one which is sort of the feature functionality, like the quality of the product presented to the user. And then there's the quality of the actual internals of that product. And um, I think cutting either, either of them is dangerous, and scope is usually the thing that has to be cut. Cutting the quality of the code can get you short-term games, uh, short term gains, but it ultimately slows down your ability to deliver in the future. So, you're, you're borrowing against the future when you do that. 


SG: Which is dangerous


GR: Which is very dangerous. And now, you know, sometimes it's existential and you're just like, “Well, we're going to borrow against the future because, otherwise, there won't be a company.” 


SG: Which is fair. 


GR: Then you do that. And that's, uh, you know, but you should do it knowingly. Uh, and I think that's where, really the balance comes out, is knowingly saying, “I'm going to sacrifice this kind of quality, either from a code quality or from the quality to the customer, because the timeline is actually more important than that quality.” Uh, trying to say we have to have the quality andwe have to have the date is…I mean, we can say it, but it's not going to happen. Saying it don't make it so. 


SG: True. True. So, we've talked about the disruption, we've talked about the development and we’ve talked about your recent, you know, being a part of a Boston company. Now, professionally, what makes you most happy? Is it the users group experience? 


GR: It's the, um…so, I like to do two things. No, I'll say I like to do three things. 


SG: Alright. 


GR: Uh, I like to make things, just in general. I think that's, I think that's a good, intrinsically human quality. Like, everyone gets satisfaction out of making something. I mean, there's a reason there's a DIY channel, right?


SG: That’s right! Which I watch every weekend.


GR: Exactly. And uh, the Food Network kind of taps into that same thing. 


SG: Sure. 

GR: The whole maker movement and all that is kind of, people want to make things. And building software is, is making a thing, and it's intrinsically satisfying. Uh, so there's that aspect. I like to learn things. Uh, something that has always motivated me is trying to understand how things work and why things are the way they are. So, how do we get to the point where it's at, you know, how does a telephone work? Okay, well then, how does electricity get across those wires? Sort of trying to understand, understand the universe, understand, uh, people, understand history, understand technology, what's underneath all that, so that I can understand. I like to learn all that stuff. I want to know how things came to be the way they are. And then, I like to teach. So, you know, that learning and teaching thing is very complimentary. So, I can go out and learn something. Then I get excited about it, and then I go teach everyone. And that's immensely satisfying. 

And as a developer evangelist, it's like, as just a developer, I'm extroverted, I want to teach, I want to learn. But you know, you've got to deliver. And so, sometimes you got to be heads down. But as an evangelist, I have to go out and talk, and I kind of get to do both in my job. So I get to be heads down and learn and understand and build something as a teaching tool. But at the same time, I get to go out and teach. And so I get to be extroverted and introverted, both. It just pushes all my buttons. It's fantastic. 


SG: I think that you are uniquely qualified for your role. 


GR: I hear that a lot. 


SG:I very much, Guy, appreciate you coming in today. Uh, this is Steve Greeter and Guy Royse. To learn more about, uh, how Guy likes to build things and teach it, please visit us at the comSpark event called Tech Power Players. Goodbye, until next time. 


GR: Thanks.


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