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Dev Spotlight: Kevin Grossnicklaus

Carson Gibbons's avatar

Carson Gibbons

January 24, 2018

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In this Cosmic Developer Spotlight, we sat down with Kevin Grossnicklaus, Principal of ArchitectNow, a St. Louis-based software development firm that specializes in helping customers design, build, and launch rich web and mobile applications across a variety of industries.  Kevin and his team recently launched a new client project called VendorSurf built using Cosmic. Check them out on Twitter or LinkedIn, and enjoy the Q/A.

How long have you been building software?
I got my start as a 12-year-old in central Nebraska back in the mid-80’s.  My parents got me an Apple IIgs that came with no software and a book called “A Touch of Applesoft Basic”.  If I wanted the computer to do anything I was forced to tell it what and how.  To be fair, I did start buying packaged software, but I also dove headfirst into teaching myself to code (back before it was “cool”).  Oddly enough I just recently purchased another Apple IIgs as I had sold my original when I was 19 so that I could buy a guitar. I also dug up all my old floppy disks (which I had kept in storage) and was able to get access to all my original programs. With everything we do today it was a fascinating process to be able to see the original programs I had ever written. I wrote a blog post about the process which you may find interesting.  You can find it here.

What is your preferred development stack?
At ArchitectNow our tech stack and areas of focus have changed dramatically over the course of the last 10 years.   The industry drives a lot of that and the capabilities of our team drives some of it. Right now, we are heavily into Angular, TypeScript, ASP.NET Core/C#, Xamarin, MongoDB, all things Azure.  The great thing about a smaller development shop like ours is that we get the opportunity to work with a ton of languages and platforms.  We also get to utilize 3rd party components and APIs (such as Cosmic) in a number of scenarios.  This gives us the ability to pick and choose the best platform and tools for a given project.  We’ve hit a lot of homeruns in our choice of technologies and 3rd party tools but we’ve also used some we wouldn’t recommend.  A key benefit we bring to our customers is the knowledge of what we’ve found that “works” and what doesn’t.

What past projects are you most proud of and why?
We have been very fortunate to work for a large number of great customers on some very cutting-edge projects.   Our customers range from Fortune 500 enterprise customers (where our apps may be used either internally or as part of their external facing offerings) to startups launching either consumer facing or business-to-business applications. 

The projects I personally enjoy the most are those that leverage new technology in a creative and clever way that isn’t simply data-in/data-out.   It’s also great fun when we get the opportunity to take full advantage of mobile devices and integrate with 3rd party devices or leverage device specific functionality such as scanning or GPS in a creative way.

Talk a little bit more about your process for building apps - who’s using them? What purpose do they serve?
As mentioned above we are very flexible when it comes to the platforms we utilize to build great software.   Customers do not come to us for the “cookie-cutter” WordPress site or standard marketing website.   We are engaged when people need a highly scalable and robust architecture and a rich user experience.   Sometimes that’s for internal enterprise apps and, in other scenarios, that is for rich consumer facing apps or websites.   Our team is very hands on with customers in terms of managing the Agile development process, recommending alternative solutions to complex problems, and assisting them in identifying creative ways to leverage technologies we may be aware of to better build or grow their products.  

What are some technologies you are excited about that you are using today, or want to learn more about?
I have focused on building a team of individuals who love to learn new technologies.   You would be amazed at how much time some of the individual ArchitectNow team members spend in their off-hours simply focused on learning.  I have developers who spend nearly every night and weekend focused on getting through online courses on new technologies just to get better at what they do.   These are people passionate about what they do and who are excited about what technologies are available today.

In terms of the things we are growing into at ArchitectNow that lean towards the cutting edge of technology I would say that the Internet of Things (IoT) is very exciting.  We have some customers really looking at creative ways to leverage hardware, software, and the ubiquitous computing power and scale of the Cloud to grow their capabilities.  Those are really fun things to think about and work on.  

That said, for me personally, I’m excited about a lot of the things I see in the game space.  I’m a big fan of Unity lately and am working with some of my friends and coworkers to get a few Unity/C# games out in the app stores.   When I was younger I wanted to be a game developer.  I even went to college to achieve that goal.   Nowadays it’s more of a hobby but one that I’m focused pretty heavily on recently.   There isn’t much difference between the process of designing and building a large Angular/MongoDB application for a startup and the design and implementation of a game in Unity.   It’s the same skills with a slightly different audience.  

Learn more about ArchitectNow and its VendorSurf project by reading the Case Study:

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