Problem Solving Through Continual Learning

Problem Solving Through Continual Learning

Ryan Comingdeer, Chief Technology Officer

My introduction to computer science was a 7th grade programming class where I learned BASIC. The class opened up a new world to explore that had me immediately hooked. By the time I started high school I knew I was going to follow a career in technology. Some people have a more circuitous path to their vocation, but I was fortunate to discover mine early on and seize the opportunity to build a really fulfilling career doing what I love.

In my opinion, the most important skill in this field is the ability to solve problems through continual learning. Technology is always changing, and the pace of innovation demands constant attention in order to stay ahead of new tools, services, and solutions. That is why 40% of my job every single day is dedicated to learning-and why it is a such a huge part of our company culture.

Technology is always changing, and the pace of innovation demands constant attention in order to stay ahead of new tools, services, and solutions.

Learning and curiosity are values that also extend to my role as a father to five daughters, age 8 to 14 years. By teaching them computer science, I am trying to give them the confidence to learn about technology and apply it to real world situations and challenges. This is one of the ways I stay involved with their personal lives and hopefully prepare them for the future. It also helps me stay relevant because I have to do my research to understand what their world is going to look like when they become adults.

Teaching my own kids about technology has led to other opportunities to inspire the next generation of innovators. To support students in the Bend community, I teach a 5th grade technology-focused STEM program at my children’s school, host local Hour of Code events, and work with the Oregon Department of Education to integrate computer science into the K-12 curriculum. At work, I mentor recent computer science college grads starting their tech careers as part of the Apprenti internship program.

For myself, continual learning includes going after new AWS certifications, training in other cloud platforms, understanding the pros and cons of multiple stacks, testing new services, and keeping current on industry trends. However, the best opportunities for ongoing learning is working with our really talented developers on a broad portfolio of diverse projects.

Our professional services team typically has 40+ projects underway at any given time (IoT, mobile apps, web apps, big data, system integrations) that use 10-12 languages and multiple cloud providers. Even if I am not working directly on a project, I meet with my technical leadership team every week to review what we did, what worked, what did not, and to figure out what we can do better. This gives me a chance to learn alongside them and gather lessons learned as reference points for when I am talking to customers or recommending a new architecture.

For in-depth analysis, I like to pick a topic such as AI and do as much research as I can to understand what the top 5 vendors offer, the benefits of their solutions, the use cases, and the lessons learned thus far. I also follow a dozen blogs that cover new design patterns so I can compare technology stacks and spend at least an hour a night researching how to stay forward thinking on cloud native architecture.

If you want to deliver a relevant, valuable technology solution, you have to start by understanding the problem you are helping your customer solve.

Still, it is not enough to be a technical expert. As professional services providers, our job is enabling business outcomes with measurable results. If you want to deliver a relevant, valuable technology solution, you have to start by understanding the problem you are helping your customer solve. This includes pain points, opportunities, target audiences, business requirements, the competitive landscape, and more. That is why our solutions architects and developers are skilled technologists as well as big picture thinkers interested in how businesses and market dynamics work. I encourage us to ask WHY we are building something as much as HOW.

After spending the last 15 years focused on professional services, I am excited to embark on the next chapter of my career. Working with Effectual’s Modernization EngineersTM is giving me a whole new understanding of the life cycle of a technology solution. I am gaining a more comprehensive view of how to properly manage and monitor the solutions we build in a cloud environment for the long term. The collaboration is making me a better architect and a better technologist, with more learning ahead.