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Before Alley, Noah Schoenholtz led development at web startups Irrive, a travel-focused social scrapbooking aggregation and sharing web site, and ProdThink, a product management feedback tool. Today, he works on The Kaiser Family Foundation for Alley Interactive.
Tell me about yourself. Who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I traveled around for a few years (following my wife’s graduate degrees), but we came back to Philadelphia a few years ago when our son was born. I became interested in computers when I was pretty young, and basically had my sights set on programming through grade school. Then I studied it in college, and of course, it’s been my job in one form or another since.
What are three words that sum you up?
Calm, interested, imaginative.
Where do you see web development in ten years?
We’ve seen web development expand radically in definition and I think that will continue. The web has evolved from basic data sharing to include commerce, work, play — virtually any category of computer usage probably has at least one representative as a web application. I think the architecture, standardization and openness of the web have been powerful drivers of that growth. It’s good for developers because you get access to a huge platform with comparatively low barriers to entry. It’s good for consumers because you get access to a huge platform with a relatively standardized base of requirements and user experience.
Mobile seems like the current front for web development — while the principles that drive the web are no less relevant, the technology doesn’t support it as well. Projecting ten years, I think web development will be as comfortable on mobile as it is on the desktop, and the next front will likely be augmented and/or virtual reality!
Why Alley Interactive?
Alley Interactive is full of smart and engaged coders who take pride in development. Every aspect of a developer’s job is given respect here: research and learning, communication and organization, and of course code and process. Each of us is treated as an expert who can and will rise to the occasion, and is capable of handling what’s thrown at us. We get an organization behind us so that we’re supported, and have additional resources. We don’t feel like we must handle everything alone.
Putting together a group of people like this absolutely results in a whole greater than the sum of its parts, which I think is demonstrated in our portfolio! And hey, it’s a likable and diverse group of people who I enjoy working with every day, too.
What industry sites and blogs do you read regularly?
I actually don’t read industry news on a regular basis — instead, I generally allow myself some time each week to go down the rabbit hole in research. So sometimes that’ll end up being an in-depth look at one thing (like details on WordPress VIP caching functions) or a broader look at a topic with some varying opinions and research (like browser performance on mobile devices).
What is web development to you?
If you tried to draw a Venn diagram of the types of development, it would probably look a lot more like the soap bubbles in my son’s bath than the MasterCard symbol. Development involves sets of standards and technologies. Depending on the scope of the project you’re involved in, you might be working with any of them.
What were your top three dream jobs when you five?
Industrial designer, programmer, Shigeru Miyamoto.
If you had a theme song for every time you walked into a room, what would it be?
The obvious answer would be, “I’m quite comfortable with my silent entrances, thanks much.”
But if I had to have one: “Lazy Afternoon” by The Roots.
What’s your soundtrack for an intense coding session?
Intense silence! I love music but prefer to listen as a distinct activity.
Tell me your best (web developer) joke?
Get it?? It’s not a language feature.
What’s one quirky thing about yourself that you’re willing to admit?
I was a vegetarian for more than 10 years until one day I felt like I was hungry for fish. So now, for something like 8 years, I’ve been a vegetarian who eats fish…
If there was a clone of you, what job would they be doing?
Are other kinds of development out of bounds? Heh. Maybe I/he’d be a stay at home dad!
What’s the one question you wished you were asked?
“What do you find satisfying about web development?”
My favorite thing about being a developer is that you can come up with an idea and create a prototype or a minimal product with an incredibly small amount of time and resources, relative to other creative activities.
Being a web developer adds in a few perks on top of that, in that you’re working with a massive medium with easy distribution, as well. Whether the motivation is to solve a problem you’re having, or solve one for a client, or create something new and interesting — you can generate some happiness in a way that almost feels magical.